Navy Engineers, Who’s the Best?

U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Steven King (Released) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s time again to open up the email bag and answer one of your questions in such a way that you will actually be less knowledgeable when we’re done.

Today’s question comes from Patrick in San Diego.  He writes, “Who are your most and least favorite engineers onboard a ship and why?”

I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume that Patrick is an engineer, because, until something breaks, only engineers care about engineers.  This can be seen on the chart below:

This is a tough question to answer simply.  There are many different kinds of engineers and different platforms in which they work.  Before I answer this question, we must first look at the engineers as a whole.

I should make a clarification for any civilian or Air Force readers.  When I say engineer, I am not referring to scientific professionals who design and build equipment.  We have them in the Navy too, but they are called EDOs or engineering duty officers.  EDOs are a fun bunch, the type of people who would consider an evening solving equations as a wild night.  Engineers, in Navy parlance, are mechanics, electricians, and plumbers/fire fighters (yep we group these two together).

Typically called snipes, engineers can be divided into two camps:  pit snipes and fresh air snipes.  Pit snipes are the engine technicians (ENs, MMs, and GSMs).  Fresh air snipes are the electricians (EM, GSE) and repair types (DC, HT).

Pit snipes keep the engines running (you know, those things that move the ship) and spend most of their time in the engine room (the pit).  These guys are responsible for pretty much every piece of mechanical equipment aboard.  They are rarely seen topside, and never without a rag, ear plugs, and a generous coating of grease.  You don’t want to make the pit snipes angry.  They have the ability to turn off the a/c or water to your berthing compartment.

Fresh air snipes are a little different.  Their time in the engine room is limited to routine maintenance and catastrophic events (like an ATG visit).  They spend most of their time topside in the fresh air.  They’re like day-walker vampires.  They work in the daylight like topsiders (non-engineers) but make no mistake about it, given the chance they will suck out your blood and then cut your unauthorized electrical cable.

In addition to pit snipes and fresh air snipes there are a few unique engineers I should note.  Sailors who work in the nuclear field are also technically engineers.  They are normally found on submarines, aircraft carriers, and in comic book stores playing Dungeons and Dragons.  These are some of the smartest, if socially awkward, sailors you will ever meet.  Their generous enlistment bonuses also make them some of the best paid in the Navy.

The machinery repairmen are also a unique breed.  One of the smallest ratings, MRs are capable of fabricating anything required to repair any equipment.  In this role they are incredibly underutilized in the fleet, mostly engraving signs and placards or duplicating keys.  They are technically fresh air snipes, but they are the freshest of all the fresh air snipes, barely engineers.  I have always had a soft spot for them, since QMs (my rating) don’t really fit in anywhere either.

And let’s not forget the ICs.  Interior communication electricians are the ship’s telephone repairmen.  They are also engineers.  Except that they are not.  Or are they?  Nobody can keep these guys straight.  ICs started out as engineers since they work with electricity like the EMs, but as their gear got much more technologically advanced they began to morph into an electronics technician who fixes phones.  Several years back the Navy officially moved ICs from the engineering community to combat systems.  So that solved that problem, except that on older ships the ICs continued to work with and considered themselves engineers.  In the end I have no idea how they should be classified and am just going to move on.

So which engineer is my favorite, as Patrick asks?  That’s really a tough one.  Personally I have had many friends who are engineers.  On the subject of specific engineering ratings my affection level tends to be in relation to how much I need their skills at a particular moment.

Obviously this can vary quite a bit, depending on the day (or even the minute).  Thinking back the engineer I needed the most it would probably be the electricians.  On the rare occurrences that I had to tag out electrical equipment, they did it for me.  Also, they may have saved my life on several occasions when I was messing with equipment I shouldn’t have been touching.

But I can’t just say that electricians are my favorites.  Mostly because it might offend the other engineers who all have access to large hammers and wrenches and who also know how to hide a body.  So I’d just like to say that all engineering ratings are my favorite.

Unfortunately, Patrick also asked for my least favorite engineer.  Again, this is tough, because of the wrench and hammer thing.  So I’m going to have to go with the nuclear technicians.  I’ll just have to hope that none of their World of Warcraft talent can be used in the real world.  I’m sure that may break their hearts but their $140,000 bonus will console them.

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Yay! The PRT is Back!

Soon the PRT will make an enthusiastic return. (Source: Wikimedia Commons. U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Bennett/Released)

Guess what, everybody?  The PRT is back, and it’s back with new and exciting changes.  Isn’t that great news?  I’m sure you all have lots of questions, which would be easily answered by reading NAVADMIN 304/20, but since you aren’t actually going to read the official guidance, I will answer them here.

It’s been so long; what, exactly, is the PRT?  Power Ranger Time?  Preventative Resilience Timetable?

The PRT is the Navy’s physical readiness test.  The twice annual assessment ensuring you’re still in shape.  Your success on the PRT is dependent on a number of variables:  how many push-ups and sit-ups you complete, how fast you run 1 ½ miles, and how much money you pay the person who is recording this information.  Your age also plays a factor.  For example, if you are 18 years old you have to be able to do two thousand push-ups and sit-ups, and complete the run in less than 3 minutes.  If you are 40 you must complete the run without dying.  I might be a little off on these numbers, because the Navy is always tweaking the PRT rules.

What new changes has the Navy introduced to the PRT?

The Navy has done away with the sit-up (curl-ups) portion of the PRT.  Instead of sit-ups, today’s sailors will be flogged by a cat-o-nine tails for 2 minutes.  No, just kidding, it’s actually much worse.  Sit-ups will be replaced by planks.

No more sit-ups in the PRT. (Source: Wikimedia Commons. U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Barnes/Released)

What are planks?  Are we going to have to walk the plank?  Is this even safe?

Another great question.  No, you will not have to walk the plank.  At least not as part of the PRT, but there is talk of making it a punishment as a result of captain’s mast.  In the case of the PRT, a plank is an exercise that involves an individual supporting themselves on their hands (or forearms) and feet.  Like you are about to do push-ups, but instead you just stay in that position… forever.

Well, not exactly forever, it just feels that way.  Time seems to slow down as you perform a plank, as is seen on this comparison chart:

Real TimePlank Time
1 Second1 Second
10 Seconds15 Seconds
30 Seconds457,298 Years

Are there any other exercises being introduced to the PRT?

Yes, as a matter of fact there is another activity being introduced this year.  This year the Navy will also incorporate rowing as an alternative to the run.  I, in particular, like this new nautical theme in the PRT.  If I could make just one change, it would be to add an outboard engine and maybe some fishing poles.

“Are there other changes are happening this year with the PRT?”

One big change is that there will actually be a PRT.    This is a bit different from last year when there was no PRT due to the COVID pandemic.  As a result some sailors may be a little out of shape.  If at all possible, it is highly recommended that all sailors travel back in time to about a year ago and stay in shape instead of sitting around the house watching Tiger King and eating raw cookie dough.  You’re going to need a DeLorean and some plutonium.  Of course that would also involve reliving the house-of-horror that was 2020, and nobody wants to do that.  This means that you need to burn off 12 months of junk food, and you need to do it now.  I say “you” because as a retiree I am free to keep my cookie dough body for as long as I want, or at least until my wife threatens to leave me.

While trying to get back in shape, you are going need to start eating better as well.  Don’t worry, I am going to help you.  Mainly what you want to do is eat less. What little you do eat, should be healthy and nutritious.

The good news is that these go hand-in-hand, because healthy food isn’t known for its flavor.  Try serving asparagus instead of cake at a birthday party and see what it does for your popularity.  So while you are eating healthy, you are going to be less inclined to eat.

 Go into your kitchen and throw out all your junk food.  Next, go to the health food store and buy nutritious food, like kale (kale is still healthy right?) and anything that is gluten free.  Now when you get hungry just go to the kitchen and eat whatever your roommate (who is not on a health food craze) has bought.  These calories, acquired by theft, do not count and are perfectly healthy to eat (until you are stabbed by your roommate).

So get to work exercising and eating healthy.  The PRT is just a few months away, unless the Navy changes the schedule again, but really, what are the chances of that?

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New Naval Uniforms, you’re going to love them!

Could these be new uniforms? Probably not. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been said that the only constant in life is change.  I’m not sure who said this, but he was probably involved in naval uniform development.  The modern Navy has over a dozen uniforms currently in use with numerous modifications in the works.

All these new uniforms and modifications started with Task Force Uniform (TFU), the first task force created by the U.S. Navy for the war on terror.   You might think it’s odd that in the middle of the largest military operation since the Vietnam War the Navy created a task force to design uniforms.  Well nobody asked you, and it’s a good thing too.  Don’t you know that the most important aspect to any tactical operation is a well-dressed navy?  This is not to say that the US Navy is better dressed as a result of TFU.

For years the Navy has struggled to develop durable uniforms with a traditional look that also serve a practical purpose.  The result has been uniforms lacking a traditional look and at the same time serve no practical purpose, and durable enough to survive up to two washings before falling apart.

The best example was the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I.  Not only was this a blue camouflage uniform providing camouflage only after falling into the ocean (literally the only time a shipboard sailor wants to be easily found) but also was likely to melt to your body if the ambient temperature was higher than the average cup of coffee.

Seabees wearing NWU Type III (left) and Type I (right).  U.S. Navy photograph by LS2 Darlene Kemble/Released. (Source Wikimedia Commons)

The NWU Type I was a failure.  Fortunately the Navy learned from it and issued the NWU Type III (the story of the Type II design is so ridiculous you wouldn’t believe it if I told you).  The Type IIIs are a real camouflage uniform, designed for the rigors of combat (as can be seen by the addition of Velcro).  The green woodland design is ideal for concealment in any forest (although I will admit there are very few of these on most warships).

This is a uniform so camouflaged that even your rank was hidden.  The rank insignia is worn inside the back pocket.  I’m just kidding, it’s worn in the center of the blouse (right behind any package you might be carrying).  This has resulted in comical situations as  sailors, passing on the street, study each other carefully (with sideways glances) to figure out if a salute is required.  It’s the Navy version of Where’s Waldo?

Now that I’m retired from the Navy, and would like to continue to eat, I’ve been wondering if the Navy’s uniform office is hiring.  Given the products recently introduced, there can’t be a very high bar to clear.  I’ve even started working on a couple new ideas, which we will now explore.

Working Uniforms

Working uniforms have been a huge challenge.  A uniform which is practical and sharp is ideal but merging both of these can be difficult.  Above all it has to provide for the safety of the wearer.  No more working uniforms that melt, from now on they will be made of leather (as we all know leather never goes out of style).

The new naval working uniform (NNWU) will also be camouflage, because in the modern Navy, for some reason, it is essential that we be camouflaged at all times.  The pattern will have to change though.  Digital camouflage is so 2005.  Now in the 20’s we need something new and edgy.  The new working uniform will utilize 3D patterns.  We could then sell 3D glasses to the enemy at a reasonable price.

Disciplinary Uniforms

If there is one group of sailors that have been left out of all the uniform developments, it’s the trouble makers.  With this uniform that is a thing of the past.  I present to you the Penitential Uniform (PU).  The PU would be made of blue burlap to provide a perpetual reminder to the wearer of their offence.  The PU would be issued following captain’s mast or court martial and worn for the duration of restricted duty or brig confinement.  Instead of ribbons or warfare devices the right breast pocket would be decorated with symbols of the offences.

Physical Training Uniforms

Physical training uniforms have been a difficult area since they were first introduced in 2006.  Durability, comfort, freedom of movement, and material that breathes are all areas that should be included in such a uniform.  We know this because these are the areas that were not included when developing the current uniform.  Which brings us to the new, improved, and highly modern PT Uniform version X (PTU-X).  The PTU-X will be made completely out of body paint.  Talk about freedom of movement and breathability.  What is more durable than the human skin?  Any wear or damage and the skin will heal and then can be touched up with official PTU-X touch up paint carried in the official PTU-X fanny pack adorned with a digital blue and gold pattern.

This is, of course, just the beginning.  I have a lot more ideas but I’m not giving those away for free.  I’ll save those for when the uniform office hires me (or until I need another idea for an article).

The challenges of the future are coming and we need new uniforms to meet those challenges.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to uniforms.  The Navy will buy anything.

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