NAVAL BASE KITSAP-BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) — They hold one of the oldest ratings in the U.S. Navy. Their job entails some of the most dangerous and imperative evolutions required on a warship. Known as tough, hardworking Sailors, they're usually the first ones awake and the last asleep. You may have heard them referred to around the ship as their colloquial Navy term, "Boats."
They are U.S. Navy boatswain's mates (BM).
Originating in 1775, BMs are one of five Navy rates still in use today of the nine original ratings. Today, they perform underway replenishments (UNREP), small boat operations, and preservation and overhaul of the ship's hull and spaces.
Typical qualifications a BM can earn aboard a ship are coxswain, boatswain's mate of the watch, safety officer, UNREP rigger, rig captain, quality assurance inspector, rigger weight tester, and helmsman. These qualifications make them a vital part of a warship's operations out to sea. Their skills range from taking on millions of gallons of fuel and thousands of pallets of food and supplies, to dropping the anchor, mooring the ship in port, and launching small boats to recover personnel in man overboard situations. Deck department plays a large and important role in the Navy's mission.
"BM is one of the hardest working rates in the Navy, and we are required to maintain operational readiness and continued support out at sea," said Chief Boatswain's Mate John Parkowski, from North Baltimore, Ohio.
BMs' duties and responsibilities are essential to the Navy for abundant reasons. They continually prove their worth in commands both at sea and ashore.
"We're the backbone of the Navy," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Kenneth Burger, of Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. "Without us, the ship doesn't sail. We're pretty much a jack of all trades because we can get qualifications in almost all departments and positions aboard."
But just what can a BM do with their acquired skill outside of the Navy?
"You can do a lot more than most people think," said Burger. "In terms of civilian jobs, you're really only as limited as your imagination."
Former BMs can find themselves in positions within the civilian world such as a ferry/tug pilot officer, border patrol security guard, private security firm positions, shipyard crane service rigger, driving security boats for port operations, and various positions aboard Military Sealift Command ships, such as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd mate, rig captain, or master helmsman.
"Safety is a number one priority, and when you combine work ethic with safety vigilance, we are capable of doing anything, which is why hiring experienced personnel from the military brings a lot of advantages," said Brian Fazio, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility's Nimitz project superintendent. "Two jobs jump out at me when you talk about BMs. Lifting and handling riggers, and painting and preservation specialist take direct attributes from BMs in the Navy and apply them to shipyard specialties."
The qualities that transfer from the Navy to the shipyard also directly correlate to suitability with jobs in the civilian sector.
"A key aspect of being a boatswain's mate is making rank and becoming a manager and supervisor, which could transfer to most, if not all aspects of the civilian world," said Parkowski. "Every company, store or department, needs managers and supervisors, and that is vital experience that you acquire as a BM."
Since the U.S. Navy's inception, BM's have been working diligently, and their rating withstands the test of time. Many have proven to be vital assets in all aspects of the military and civilian workforce. So, whether they look for positions related to the skills they use in the Navy, or they want to enter a completely unrelated field, there is a myriad of positions available in the civilian world for these Sailors to transition to.
Nimitz is currently preparing for a docking-planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility where the ship will receive scheduled maintenance and upgrades.