06 April 2008

He's a GSE What?

You've probably noticed me throwing around combinations of letters and numbers before Sailors' names and wondered what it all meant. As with many other things, we designate our ranks differently than the other services. In fact, we complicate things further than you probably think, because in the Navy only officers have rank. A non-commissioned officer in the Navy has a "rate" that shows his seniority and the most junior members merely have a grade. So, for instance, if a Sailor has a “BM2” before his name, you can tell by the “2” that his rate is a second class petty officer. The “BM” part describes his “rating”, or what he does for the Navy. In this case he’s a Boatswain’s Mate.

And, of course, it gets even more complicated. The lowest three levels of enlisted may not have any rating at all, but only a grade based on the field they work in. Those in the deck and operations field get characterized as Seamen, those in engineering are Firemen and those in aviation are Airmen. As for seniority, the lowest level in the deck and operations field are Seamen Recruit (SR), the next grade up are Seamen Apprentice (SA) and the highest grade of non-rated Sailors are Seamen (SN). If one of these non-rated junior enlisted happens to have qualified for a rating, that would get added, too. So, for instance, a gas turbine systems technician (electrical) fireman recruit is a GSEFR. Say that ten times fast.

Once a seaman “makes rate” he will advanced to third class petty officer in whatever rating into which he “struck”, like BM3. After that, he can advance to second class petty officer and then first class petty officer.

The next step for a first class petty officer is to get selected for chief petty officer, which would earn him a “C” in place of the number in his rate. Following this rule, our lowly seaman recruit has now become a Chief Boatswain’s Mate, or BMC. One more advancement would make him a senior chief, or BMCS, and when he’s at the top of his rating, he’ll be a Master Chief, or BMCM.

So, there you have it in a nutshell, enlisted rates made clear as mud. It does have one thing going for it, though; it makes our brethren in the Army, Marines and Air Force have fits.

[Update] Wikipedia has a useful list of current navy ratings, and for ratings prior to 1970, see the Naval Historical Center's website.


Stickthulhu said...

Too easy, XC! Throw in the warfare qual alphabet soup in after it...then watch the "fits" they have!

You guys rock, keep showing 'em what we're about!

cat said...

Hey thanks XO.
I really needed that. It's relatively easy for the other branches, but even though I was born and raised with my Dad active duty Navy, I never did quite get it. :D

maxxdog said...

I think it makes perfect sense. Not like the silliness the Zoomies and Crunchies have. hehe