The Navy of the future is already here. It only took one recent visit to a ship to drive the point home. As I walked along the pier, a second-class petty officer was busy handling lines. Drawing on my earlier experiences in the Navy, I quickly made the assumption this sailor was serving as a boatswain's mate in deck division. Later, as the ship was under way and the command master chief and I toured the ship, I encountered the same sailor on the bridge. Again, my assumption was that she was the boatswain"s mate of the watch. As I peered over the sailor's shoulder to examine the gauges and screens she was monitoring, I didn't recognize a single one as belonging on the bridge.
Finally, I just had to ask, "Exactly what watch are you standing?"
She looked up and replied, "Engineering officer of the watch."
Now, I was really puzzled, so I followed up, "If you're on the bridge, standing this watch, who is in engineering?" I asked.
"Nobody," was her answer.
She then proceeded to describe the remote-control mechanisms, remote-sensing equipment, and remote damage-control capability at her disposal. At this point I thought she must be from an engineering rate-a machinist's mate, engineman, or maybe a gas turbine tech. In continuing the conversation, I was astounded to discover that she was an electronics technician-standing engineering officer of the watch!
This sailor's primary duties were to maintain and repair the computers and the communications and navigation equipment on board this vessel. But she also worked in the galley once she was relieved of watch and frequently assisted in a number of other duties around the ship at sea and in port. The job description didn't matter.