Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Submarine Quartermasters -- My Take

Last weekend, I briefly discussed an article by Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) giving his further opinions on the San Francisco grounding. (I discussed a couple of his earlier articles on this subject here and here.) In my first post on this article, I talked a little about Perry's contention that the Joint Duty requirement imposed by the Goldwater-Nichols Act has caused submarine COs to be less proficient submariners. I was going to expand on this by referencing a really dumb GAO report I remember reading that basically said the Navy wouldn't need as many submarine officers if they only did shore duty that related to submarining, but I couldn't find this report at the GAO website, which makes me think it was classified; therefore, I won't discuss it in detail. (It was really idiotic, though -- you'll have to trust me on this.) I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally needed shore duty time to recharge my batteries (even the "shore duty" I spent doing a six-month deployment on an aircraft carrier was necessary from the point of view of my sanity).
Another point Perry brings up seems to have a lot of support within the submarine community, and even more within the "no longer active duty" segment. Excerpts:

"There is a second potential contributing element to the San Francisco collision. The Navy several years ago merged the Quartermaster rating with the Electronics Technician rating as a means of saving money during a period of personnel cutbacks. What did the Submarine Force lose in eliminating this professional set of sailors, and was it worth it?...

"...Updating charts to ensure all applicable Notices to Mariners have been entered is a mundane and never ending but truly vital task. To a Quartermaster, it is a key element of his professional performance. To an Electronics Technician, it might be, at best, another administrative task...

"...A third factor revealed in the probe is the common and expected practice of employing dead-reckoning to show if a ship is standing into danger. The practice is to lay out the ship’s present course and speed for the next few position fix intervals or four hours in the open ocean (See Chapter 7 of “The American Practical Navigator”). This practice presents a visual display of potential danger immediately available to those navigating the ship, if its course and speed are not changed. Quartermasters do this in their sleep as second nature and a core element of their profession. To an Electronics Technician this too would be another administrative task among many.

"Quartermasters know charts and the potential inaccuracies inherent in a chart based on information predating satellite mapping of the world (see
“The Navigator’s Paradox,” DefenseWatch, Feb. 1, 2005). When a Quartermaster sees a series of soundings indicating a shoaling bottom not shown on the chart, it should, and does, set off loud warning bells.
Electronics Technicians are professionals too. They work hard in their chosen field. But each professional field within the Navy operates to different sets of priorities. When the Submarine Force did away with its Quartermaster rating and rolled its responsibilities into another rating, some things that were done instinctively disappeared."

Perry is right in that the Submarine Force merged the QM rate into the Sub ET rate. A lot of submariners, including myself, opposed this move, but not for the reasons Perry states. Many believe that this move eliminated Quartermasters from submarines; nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, it was simply an administrative change; the new Quartermasters were those ETs who carried the 14QM Navy Enlisted Classification. They have basically the same schooling that the old quartermasters had, do the same job, and have to complete the same qual cards as before. (Actually, the qual card is more extensive now.) The rating conversion was more of an administrative paper chase than an attempt to save money, although I'm sure that's how the Navy sold it to Congress. The same merger made Navy Interior Communications Specialist and Radionmen into ETs with their own NEC. About the same time, they turned all submariner Torpedomen's Mates into Machinists Mates.

Granted, these new ETs have to have more in-rate knowledge than the old QMs did, but from this submariners point of view, that's a good thing. The 14QMs still do the same things the old QMs did; they still aren't allowed to go out on liberty until their QM work is done; they still plot hand DRs, prepare charts, and put their dicks on the chart table when the ship is going to PD at night (OK, maybe not all of them do that, but at least one of them on my first boat did.)

Here's what I didn't like about the ET rating conversion and QMs: while the junior QMs were not really any different, the senior QM onboard, called the Assistant Navigator (ANAV for short) didn't have to be a 14QM. All sub ET could qualify as ANAV, even if they were a radioman, ICman, or Nav ET guy as their primary job in their earlier tours. Since each boat will only have one senior Sailor on board assigned as ANAV, the quality of this person was probably the most important factor in how good the boat was in the navigation area. Since qualification as ANAV looked really good on any Sub ETs record, I worried that boats might qualify a guy just as he was leaving (the "good-bye kiss") and he'd show up at the next boat as ANAV without that much real-world quartermastering experience.

So is this what happened to the San Francisco? No -- her ANAV was one of the best in the fleet, and had always been a quartermaster. This is another reason why I think the 711 grounding was such a bad roll of the dice; if one of the best QMs in the fleet could have it happen on his watch, the boats with old Radiomen as their ANAV would seemingly be more susceptible to any problems. Bottom line: The ET conversion might not have been a very good idea, but blaming the San Francisco grounding on it is really stretching a point.

At this point I'd normally call Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) an asshat, but I've heard through the grapevine that he's in cordial E-mail contact with someone who is hopefully setting him straight, and who says he got an answer from Perry by being polite. So, Ray, if you're out there, I won't call you an asshat in this entry, and if you'd like to defend yourself and your conclusions on this page, just send it in and I'll post it. However, if it displays any asshattish properties, I reserve the right to point that out.

(Edited for spelling and clarity 1014 20 April)


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here is the scary part. They don't make 14QM's any more, they are all called 14NO's (navigation operator) and they basicly get introduced to the QM stuff in A school. Other than that it depends on the boat. Alot of boats still spit them all up. So if you get a new guy, they might only do IC work on the boat and never really do any QM stuff, although they are supposed to know it. "Jack of all trades, Master of nothing" is the phrase we use in the rate. I became a 14NO in 98 (joined in late 96, I'm nuke waste).
They do have a C school for the the rate to turn them into 14NM or 14XM (all the new fangled stuff for the electronic side of the house) and turn you into the super tech. You also get a seinor navigatior course in there somewhere with all of the advanced IC and ET training.
To make this mess even worse, the navy decided to make the ANAV qual the seinor in rate qualification for every NavET (due to the fact no body wants to be ANAV, the submarine force is in short supply of ANAVs). So you can have a former IC chief be anav and have less time on the plot than the 2nd class who stands Quartermaster.

I have a bad feeling that the navy will have to have another sub bounce off a sea mount before they decide to fix anything.

NavET stationed overseas

4/20/2005 11:14 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

NavET Overseas is right -- the Sub Force now has simply a 14NO NEC for the Navigation-type new accessions, but this is fairly recent; the guys in the fleet are still mostly 14QMs who do the chart preps and such.

4/20/2005 1:00 PM

Blogger submandave said...

One thing that stuck out at me in all of the good LTs quoted comments is what seems to be an assumption that submarine Nav ETs do the same job that skimmer ETs do (i.e. fixing RADARs and other component level electronics tinkering). The close relationship between the jobs Nav ETs and QMs did was what made the merger not only possible but not that far-fetched of an idea.

For my money, the MM/TM merger made less sense. Not only do I want to keep knuckle-draggin' A-gangers and their crescent hammers away from anything that can go BOOM, but letting those toe-pecker-men mess with my beloved Diesel gives me the willies.

4/21/2005 8:23 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

I know what you mean. I mean, have you ever seen a submarine NavET actually successfully repair the radar? Every time on my boat that the radar was broke, we had to call in the repair activity to fix it for us. (I know that wasn't your point, but it's funny nonetheless.)

4/22/2005 8:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one of the last "14QM's" (the term is really not used anymore) most of us who have not made the transition well or not at all, have gotten out. Here in SD I can count on one hand how many 14QMs are still on the waterfront. Most have gotten out or like myself continued on to 14NM, and have become LPO s and ANAV’s.
The schooling for QMs was always inadequate because you learned everything from the ANAV when you reached the ship. Now, between 14NO to 14NM and finally 14NV (ANAV NEC) there are 12 weeks of formal schools. Where as before there was only 8. Unfortunately you can only learn so much from formal schools. I have twelve 14NO’s working for me and they all do chart work, some more than others. Each 14NO before finishing their first sea tour are supposed to have six months standing QMOW. Even on my ship we have failed because frankly the command did not trust those individuals to stand the watch, though they still qualified them.
Many ships still suffer from the “its not my job” mentality and if you don’t have support from the CO, XO, and the Navigator it will continue.

And I have fixed the radar, RLGN and other equipment. However, it is now required to get outside help.


4/24/2005 5:22 PM

Anonymous The Armadillo (RMOW) said...

Aside from the discomforting rate mergers (I was a victim of the RM/ET), there is also the issue of officers serving in joint billets. Lt. Perry questions the adequacy of CDR Mooney's time on the pond, but never discusses the CDR's bio. Does anyone have a bio on CDR Mooney so that the connection between joint duty can be connected to the accident or that line of reasoning can be disspelled? Thanks.

4/25/2005 12:33 PM

Blogger QMOW said...

Whoever was the QMOW simply misread the red dot on the new DNC chart that represented a shoal. Had the scale on this new DNC been ZOOMED IN.....the 711 may have not grounded..It is the use of these E Charts that is the Bigger Problem the scale is disceptive

6/08/2012 7:18 AM

Blogger j said...

I was the charts and pubs po on a different boat at that time, and before you start saying, "the qmow misread...the DNC" please remember that we were still transitioning to DNCs at that time. For my boat's (and ANAV's) part, we focused so much more on paper charts than anything on the screen. Not absolving anyone or anything...just saying that I can't guarantee that the same thing wouldn't have happened if it had been my boat and my watch. I still wonder about that.

As for the qm/et/ic merger...I'd love to see what the effect on retention was. I'd still be in if I had been eligible for surface qm shore duty.

9/02/2013 6:30 PM


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