DURING my several years' association with the Naval Communication Reserve in the Eleventh Naval District I have come in contact with quite a number of regular naval officers who were not aware of our branch of the service, or if they were aware of it, it was in a very vague and indefinite way. In all probability many others in the service would like to know more about us. I am sure that the more the regular service and the Reserve know about one another the closer will be the co-operation between the two organizations. This article is being written with the express idea of acquainting those of the regular service with our organization and some of our problems.
Prior to the World War there was no regularly organized or recognized Naval Reserve. At the outbreak of the war several states had organized State Naval Militias which were drafted into the regular service.
During the period of the war it was found necessary to expand the Naval Communication Service fourfold between the entrance into war and the signing of the Armistice. Having no organized reserve for communication duties it was found necessary to enlist anyone and everyone who knew anything about communication. Most of these men came from the ranks of the amateur radio operators and from commercial radio operators who could be spared from their regular jobs at ship or commercial shore stations.
Many of these men were excellent communicators and needed very little training. Some of the most promising were sent to Harvard or to other colleges to take intensive courses in communication. Radio schools were established at other vantage points throughout the United States where an intensive course in radio communication was given those less qualified for their duties. Necessarily the instruction courses were very compact and the period of instruction short, resulting in some only partially qualified men being detailed to important communication ·duties. The results obtained were surprisingly good but would have been much better had there been a completely or even partially trained reserve ready for duty at the beginning of the war. Fortunately, radio communication at that time was in an elementary stage. It is largely due to this one fact that our lack of preparation resulted less seriously than it would during the present time when radio communication is well past the elementary stage, yes, a necessity.
At the end of the war those men who had been enlisted in the Naval Reserve for the duration of the war were returned to civilian life, taking with them a renewed interest in communication and a lasting interest in naval affairs. Due to its experiences during the war the regular service realized the need of an organized reserve for communication duties but as there were no funds available, or any laws providing any such expansion, nothing could be done to organize any such auxiliary service.
Following the war there grew up an organization composed of amateur radio operators who were interested in naval communication. These men operated together as the Naval Amateur Net. It was learned in 1923 and 1924 that if an organization, trained in peace time for communication duties in times of national emergency, was desired it would be necessary to form some sort of an organization which would be composed of trained officers and men and provide a reserve activity in order to maintain interest and secure continued willingness to study naval communication procedure and methods.
Experience also showed the further need for establishing headquarters for radio stations and meeting places for the instruction of personnel, not only in communications but in some of the general customs, courtesies, and requirements of the naval service.
It was February 28, 1925, however, before legislation could be passed favorable to such an organization. On this date the present Naval Reserve Act was passed and became effective as of July 1, 1925. This Act provided for the appointment of certain individuals, outstanding in their profession, as communication officers with ranks on a par with the knowledge, age, 2nd experience required for similar positions in the regular service. These officers are specialists in communication and consist mainly of engineers and executives employed in commercial telegraph, telephone, radiobroadcast, and sound corporations, their educational qualifications being of an exceptionally high standard and on a par with that of the Academy graduate. Many of these officers are graduates of such institutions as the California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other colleges of equally high standing. They are commissioned by the President of the United States through the Secretary of the Navy and rank with but following those in the regular service. The ranks are those of Ensign, Lieutenant (j.g.), Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Commander. The number of officers in each grade depends upon the ratio set by the Act.
The enlisted men consist almost entirely of petty officers of radioman, telegrapher, or yeoman ratings. These men are above the average in that practically all are high-school graduates and many are college graduates. They are not only operators when enlisted but are technicians as well, most of them being able to repair or completely rebuild any sort of radio or associated electrical apparatus. They are selected from a number of different sources, although mainly from the ranks of commercial radio-telegraphers, radiobroadcast station operators, commercial Morse telegraphers, sound technicians, and amateur radio operators. Many come from commercial cable companies, radio engineers and experts in traffic, operating personnel of airplane radio stations, operating personnel of ship radio stations, personnel of telephone companies, employees of electric power companies, telegraph and radio operators employed by press associations, employees of stock brokers (experts in telegraphy), ex-Navy radiomen, railroad telegraphers, college and high-school students interested in radio or wire communication, employees of radio manufacturing concerns, and a limited number of men inexperienced but having a desire to study radio and become proficient operators.
Most of the radiomen are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and have passed rigid examinations before that body in the operation of equipment as well as in the actual transmission and reception of the code and in the technical knowledge required by law for commercial radio operators. These men are given a very rigid mental, physical, and professional examination before enlistment. Each is enlisted according to his ability as an operator and on his past experience. In the Eleventh Naval District, enlistments, however, are generally made in the lowest petty officer grade, until each man has taken certain courses of instruction from the Educational Center and has become qualified for advancement to higher ratings. Ratings held are from seaman second class to and including the ratings of chief radioman, chief telegrapher, or chief yeoman. No warrant ratings are given in the Communication Reserve.
Since the Communication Reserve has been perfected and has grown extensively, the naval amateur net has been discontinued entirely and is no longer in operation.
The mission of the Naval Communication Reserve is to procure, organize, and train the officers and men necessary for the expansion and operation of the Naval Communication Service in time of national emergency. Sufficient officers and enlisted men have been appointed and enlisted throughout the naval districts to accomplish this mission.
In each naval district, two radio stations equipped with transmitters, receivers, typewriters, and office requirements have been furnished by the Navy Department. Quarters have been obtained from the Treasury Department, wherever possible, in federal buildings; where no federal buildings are available or no vacancy exists, quarters are obtained in state or municipal buildings if possible. In addition to these two stations provided by the Navy Department there are generally several hundred additional stations in each naval district, the number depending upon the size of the district and the number of personnel. These stations are provided by personnel, out of personal funds, for the establishment of Section Control and Unit Control and individual stations throughout the district. The organization and operation of these will be explained a little later.
The administration of the Naval Communication Reserve in each district is carried on by the Commander, Naval Communication Reserve, who is a reserve officer, generally of lieutenant or lieutenant commander grade. This is ordinarily under the direction of the District Communication Officer, who is also appointed the Instructor, Naval Communication Reserve. In the Eleventh Naval District this is varied somewhat in that the District Communication Officer in turn designates the Assistant District Communication Officer to this post. The District Communication Officer usually takes a very keen interest in the Communication Reserve activities and assists materially in many ways, such as in the procurement of available material, or the assignment to desirable active duty billets. The co-operation between this reserve organization and the District Communication Officer is very close.
The Commander, Naval Communication Reserve, is assisted in the administration of the district by his staff which is composed of reserve officers. This staff is composed very much as follows: Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Material Officer, Personnel Officer, Recruiting Officer, Educational Officer, and District Medical Officer. These officers, while working more or less independently, are under the direct supervision of the commander. In our district conferences are held quarterly for the discussion of policies and the outline of work for the coming quarter.
The Naval District is subdivided into sections and the sections are further subdivided into what are called units. The unit is the basic organization. Each section is commanded by a Section Commander and his staff which is very similar to the staff of the District Commander, just described. The Section Commander is generally a lieutenant and his staff is ordinarily composed of lieutenants or lieutenants (j.g.). The section is made up of from one to ten standard units. The unit is composed of a Unit Commander, who is a commissioned officer, and 30 men of all ratings. The Bureau of Navigation has provided standard organization tables for the Commander .and his Staff, the sections, and the units and although it is impossible to follow these tables to the letter the complement is kept as near as possible to that outlined.
As explained previously the Navy Department provides two completely equipped radio stations for each district. These stations are used as a master and alternate control radio station operated under naval radio calls. Each section headquarters and each unit headquarters is also radio-equipped, generally from donations or from the personal funds of the individual members of that section or unit. Many of the individual members, both enlisted men and officers, own their own equipment at their homes.
The district master and alternate radio stations are drilled on schedule by NAA (Arlington) and NPG (San Francisco). The master and alternate control stations in turn drill the Section Control Stations. The section headquarters stations in turn drill the unit headquarters stations which in turn drill the individuals at their personal stations. These drills take place once each week, and while lack of space prevents a detailed explanation of these drills, they consist in most part of handling message traffic and the actual handling of naval radio procedure. These drills are very practical in that each station represents a vessel and each operator the operator on board that vessel. Since operations are carried on in Navy procedure and under actual conditions the experience is as near as can be produced to that of actually operating on board ship. Although the orders from the Bureau require that only one night each week be used for drill period it has been a requirement in the Eleventh Naval District that one other night each week be set aside for assembling at the various headquarters for class instruction in military subjects or for military drill exercises and other educational work. The courses of study are provided by the Naval Reserve Educational Center, which is commanded by the Educational Officer on the Staff of the Commander of the District.
The peace-time utilization of the Naval Communication Reserve is varied and for the most part interesting. Much valuable experience is gained by the reserve organization by providing shore connection for the Fleet where no regular naval facilities are available and by intercept watches on fleet problems for criticism of transmission from the Fleet. During such a fleet problem a few years ago one of the Communication Reserve personnel in the Eleventh Naval District located the Fleet due to certain procedure used by a fleet radioman. Please note that the fleet radioman did not make an error. He used regular and correct naval procedure, and that procedure gave away the location of the Fleet. An enemy could also have located the Fleet on this occasion and needless to say this procedure has been corrected so that the use of correct procedure would not repeat this disclosure.
Other activities consist of direction finding and tracking exercises which provide much interest and instruction. These exercises (by radio of course) also encourage the development of equipment suitable for this purpose. The Communication Reserve also provides for stations for special flights, and emergency radio communication is furnished the Red Cross and other organizations in time of major disaster. The Naval Communication Reserve furnishes communication personnel for week-end cruises, when these cruises are available. It participates in high frequency transmission tests with the Navy Department, and co-operates in many other ways in the furthering and development of radio communications. It trains radiomen of the Fleet Naval Reserve, co-operates in many other ways which space does not permit me to relate here.
The Communication Reserve is at present handicapped by almost complete stagnation in the grade of lieutenant. Although the grade of lieutenant commander is provided, the percentage attaining that grade is so small that the highest grade that can be anticipated by 98 per cent of the officers is that of lieutenant. This causes many officers to become completely inactive as soon as the grade of lieutenant is attained.
The Naval Communication Reserve is nearing another crisis similar to the one experienced in 1924 and 1925. It is completely a volunteer organization and the facts stand out that such progress as has been made has been due almost entirely to the time, effort, and personal funds given so freely by the personnel. Although they devote from one to two nights every week to drills or .classes these officers and men serve without pay or allowances of any kind except while on short periods of active duty. The Communication Reserve is also seriously handicapped in that only approximately one-fifth, or less, of the officers and men are permitted to take active duty each year. This causes much dissatisfaction and the loss of many valuable men who feel that when they spend approximately SO to 100 evenings of their time out of each year and their personal funds for transmitters and receivers, often amounting to several hundred dollars, the least they can expect is to obtain a two-week period of active duty on the annual training cruise. Without this small compensation for time and personal funds invested many feel that they can devote their evenings to a better advantage. This dissatisfaction is greatly increased by the fact that members of another class of the Reserve, the Fleet Naval Reserve, are paid for their efforts which are no greater than those of the Naval Communication Reserve. In addition the Fleet Naval Reservist has no investment in expensive communication equipment as does the Communication Reservist, and apparently active duty is provided for all who show an activity in reserve drills with the Fleet Naval Reserve while the Communication Reservist is limited to a very small percentage of the number of members, whether those members are active or not.
In summing up I would like to point out that the Naval Communication Reserve, as compared with the Fleet Naval Reserve, devotes as much or more time to its activities, and personal funds of individuals have been devoted to purchasing most of the equipment used. The Communication Reserve is seriously handicapped by lack of financial support and by congestion in the upper grades, which makes promotion of officers so slow that it is not conducive to good morale of the organization. If this very valuable organization is to continue to progress it is now evident that it will be necessary to pass legislation soon, granting to its officers and men the same drill pay allowances and training duty periods with pay as are now granted to the · Fleet Naval Reserve, and to relieve stagnation in the upper grades.
THE most important of strategic lines are those which concern the communications. Communications dominate war.-- MAHAN, Strategy.