Many people are relatively familiar with the organization of smaller Army and Marine units, with companies being comprised of platoons and squads. Fewer have any familiarity with how we organize the crew on a warship, however. And of course, being the Navy, we have a stubborn adherence to tradition that can confuse things.
For instance, we don’t have an organizational unit officially designated as a “company”, though we often refer to the crew as the “ship’s company”. This practice originated in the very early days of Britain’s Royal Navy, when a warship was often nothing more than a merchant with company of soldiers embarked. The ship was run by a Master, and the soldiers were commanded by a captain with a commission from the sovereign.
Eventually, when the Crown formalized the navy as a service, and the crew officially became “the King’s Men”, the service merged the positions of Captain and Master into one commissioned office. Many of you may have wondered about the title of the novel and movie, Master and Commander, which was a rank in the Royal Navy that was a direct relic of the merger. This is also why the commanding officer of a warship is still called "captain" regardless of his or her actual rank.
To take us back to today and the U.S. Navy, the largest organizational unit on a ship is the department, lead by a department head. Old salts probably remember the old acronym, SNOWE, which was a tool to remember the departments that were common to all ships – Supply, Navigation, Operations, Weapons and Engineering. Due to the complexity of RUSSELL, we have an additional department, Combat Systems. “CS” typically is responsible for the electronics, while “Weps” is responsible for the launchers, guns and ordnance.
Within most departments are several divisions, each lead by a division officer. The naming of the divisions can be even more messy, again because those pesky traditions. As an example, we have 1st and OI Divisions in Operations, an E Division in Engineering, and an S-2 Division in Supply. Fear not, there’ll be more on all the divisions as time goes by.
[Update] Below are the divisions of the ship. New divisions are added as they get highlighted in the Division in the Spotlight series.
- MP Division
- CG Division