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Sea Stories: Collateral Duties


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Sea Stories:  #37 - Collateral Duties

 

One of the banes of existence for a junior US Navy line officer is the concept of “Collateral Duties.”  These are additional responsibilities given to an officer, to perform in his so-called (often mythical) “spare time.”  Often, these jobs consume far more of an officer’s attention than might be expected.

What exactly does a Navy junior officer (JO)  do, anyway?   Each young officer assigned to a ship is expected to perform several functions.  First and foremost, he is assigned as a Division Officer, the first-line officer supervisor of a functional grouping of enlisted sailors. (A Division is analogous to a Platoon in Army/Marine parlance.)   His division will be part of a larger Department of sailors; on a typical combatant ship these departments comprise Operations, Weapons (now called Combat Systems), Engineering and Supply (although line officers do not work in the Supply department, Supply Corps officers do.)  To help him in leading his division (and in fact to teach him his trade and the basics of leadership,) he is “assisted” by a senior enlisted man, usually a Chief Petty Officer (E-7) or above.  Depending upon the size of his division, he may have more than one CPO, but one of them will be designated as the Leading CPO, his primary enlisted advisor.  The young officer is responsible for the welfare, training, performance and discipline of his men.  He writes their performance evaluations and keeps the chain of command informed of all matters pertaining to his Division’s responsibilities.    A Division has a well-defined mission function.  Communications Division, for example, would be comprised of Radiomen, and part of the Operations Department. 

In addition  to this formal job assignment, the JO is also assigned numerous additional, or “Collateral” duties.  Some of these don’t take much effort.  Others are very time consuming.  For example:

 CMS Custodian:  responsible for inventory, issuance, control and destruction of all shipboard communications and other cryptographic material.  This may include Nuclear Weapons Control materials, for ships equipped to carry them, whether or not such weapons are actually aboard or not.  This is a big one, and a ZERO DEFECTS job.  One screwup can get you cashiered.

Intelligence Officer:  maintains custody of classified publications, gives the Commanding Officer daily intel briefs when deployed.  Conducts intelligence reporting when something of interest happens by.

Laundry Officer.  Yes, I’m not joking.

Morale, Welfare and Recreation Officer.  Tries to think of things to improve morale.  Plans sporting events, movie nights, special tours and events when in a liberty port, holiday celebrations.  Maintains inventory of baseball bats and gloves, soccer balls, boxing gloves, etc. 

Wardroom Mess Caterer.  Develops and proposes the menus and decorations and special events for the officers’ wardroom mess.  This walks a fine line between food quality and cost.  (Officers personally pay for their food in the USN; enlisted men’s meals are paid for as part of their enlistment contract.)  The Wardroom can have steak and lobster every night, but the bill will be enormous and no one will be happy.  Ditto franks and beans every night: cheap, but a mutiny maker for sure.  Bottom line is, the Mess Caterer can’t please everyone and is usually being criticized by somebody.  It’s a thankless task.

Wardroom Mess Treasurer:  Actually bills officers and collects their monthly mess payments, transferring funds to the supply department to cover the costs incurred.  This includes visiting officers and certain civilians who are temporarily assigned to the ship and welcomed to the wardroom mess commensurate with their status.  A relentless pursuer of mess bill scofflaws.  Must maintain careful records and ledgers, undergo periodic audits.  Another thankless task.

The Bull Ensign:  The most senior of the most junior officers on the ship.  This Ensign usually wears a set of oversize gold bar rank insignia, engraved “BULL” to indicate his “seniority”.  He is expected to ride herd over the other Ensigns in the wardroom, keeping their decorum and humility within due bounds.  He is happy to pass these rank insignia off to the next-most-senior Ensign when he makes Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG).

The “George” Ensign:  The most junior Ensign aboard, the newest, greenest officer in the Wardroom.  Traditionally called “George” to his face, he is the recipient of much verbal and practical abuse (all in good fun, of course.)  Something not very pleasant, menial, or humiliating needs to be done by an officer?  Call “George!”  He is EXCEPTIONALLY happy when a more junior Ensign reports aboard and assumes the title.

Movie Officer:  Selects what movie (nowadays a DVD, in my day, a reel-to-reel projector film, which he had to cue up and change reels during) is shown in the wardroom each night.  Is under constant pressure to select films everyone wants to watch (explosions and female nudity being a plus!) Another “can’t please everyone” thankless job.

Mess Sample Officer.  This one is rotated, not a permanent collateral duty.  By regulation, EVERY meal served on the mess deck to enlisted crew members must be sampled for quality, taste and appearance.  Some officer must sample a bit of each one, inspect the serving line and mess decks themselves to make sure the crew is being properly fed and cared for.

Small Arms Custodian:  maintains control and inventory of all the small arms (pistols, rifles, shotguns, perhaps light machine guns) assigned to the ship.  Another ZERO DEFECTS career killer if screwed up.

 Needless to say, the modern USN JO is a busy creature, with plenty to keep him occupied. 

The "Bull Ensign"

New Bull Ensign at NAVFAC Hawaii | Ensign Gilbert Barron bec… | Flickr

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We enlisted men have our collateral duties also.

Damage Control Petty Officer - Responsible for maintaining all damage control equipment in the division.

Training Petty Officer - Responsible for maintaining training records of division personnel. 

Supply Petty Officer - Responsible for ordering materials needed by the division while ensuring the OPTAR (allotted funds) are not exceeded.

Safety Petty Officer - Makes sure all division personnel follow proper safety regulations. 

These are the most common.  Many divisions have collateral duties specific to them. I was lucky to be assigned such a duty when I reported aboard my first ship as a GMTSN (Gunners Mate Technician Seaman (E-3)). My collateral duty was SWOP (Special Weapons Ordnance Publication) Petty Officer. My collateral duty was to maintain the publications, classified and unclassified, that were in custody of my division.  This included periodic page checks and entering any changes (and boy were there a lot of changes!), ensuring all publications were up to date and complete. 

I say I was lucky to get assigned this duty because when I took the exam for E-4 I passed with the highest score in my division.  When my Division Officer asked me how I got so high a score than my shipmates, I pointed to my collateral duty as SWOP Petty Officer.  A lot of my spare time was taken up by having my nose in the publications entering changes and performing page checks. A lot of that info stuck in my brain and I saw it in the exam.  So I owe my first promotion to my first collateral duty. 

Edited by aomagrat
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Our family pride is my Grand Daughter's husband.  He was in Logistics.

He's a Master Chief in the Navy.  He served on relief ships to Caribbean Nations after the Hurricanes, and while the Clinton Foundation was stealing money destined for relief, to give to the Clintons to improve their lives.

He served on the USS Comfort when it was sent to NYC supposedly to off load patients from hospitals to make room for Covid patients in those hospitals.  They had no patients transferred to the ship and it left port as it wasn't necessary.  In spite of NYC's claims to the contrary.

He is retiring shortly.

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Reminds me of my extra duty at my first duty station. I was the Fuels Officer at a Flying Training Wing; passing gas to about 200 aircraft flights a day and had over 100 people working for me. After a month, I was notified I was the Asst. Security Officer; a Captain was the main Sec. Officer and she and I worked in the same Group. Her ( our )  main duty was seeing that outdated classified info was burned every month.

There was a big expanded metal drum about 3 feet in diameter on a roller at the Base Fireground training pit. You would load up some  of  the classified - too much and it would not all burn , close the door, set it ablaze and turn the drum to mix it up. Once that load burned, it was repeated until it was all gone. This took about 4 hours to burn up a months load of material; a huge waste of time. After the first time I asked her if I could try a faster way and she said to go for it.

The next month before I was to meet her at the firepit first thing in the morning, I stopped by my QC lab and got some samples of JP-4 ( JP-5 to you Navy guys ) that had been tested and was going to be recycled. We loaded up the drum with ALL the material and I poured the JP all over it. We stood WAY back and I tossed a lighted flare in the general direction.

 

 

WHOOSH !

Once it went out we checked and everything was burned; took about 45 minutes.

We retired to the O Club for an eye opener and hung around for lunch. She said we would use that method from now on.  :biggrin:

 

We still stay in touch. After the AF she worked for the CIA, but she would never tell me what she did for them.

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7 minutes ago, willie-pete said:

Reminds me of my extra duty at my first duty station. I was the Fuels Officer at a Flying Training Wing; passing gas to about 200 aircraft flights a day and had over 100 people working for me. After a month, I was notified I was the Asst. Security Officer; a Captain was the main Sec. Officer and she and I worked in the same Group. Her ( our )  main duty was seeing that outdated classified info was burned every month.

There was a big expanded metal drum about 3 feet in diameter on a roller at the Base Fireground training pit. You would load up some  of  the classified - too much and it would not all burn , close the door, set it ablaze and turn the drum to mix it up. Once that load burned, it was repeated until it was all gone. This took about 4 hours to burn up a months load of material; a huge waste of time. After the first time I asked her if I could try a faster way and she said to go for it.

The next month before I was to meet her at the firepit first thing in the morning, I stopped by my QC lab and got some samples of JP-4 ( JP-5 to you Navy guys ) that had been tested and was going to be recycled. We loaded up the drum with ALL the material and I poured the JP all over it. We stood WAY back and I tossed a lighted flare in the general direction.

 

 

WHOOSH !

Once it went out we checked and everything was burned; took about 45 minutes.

We retired to the O Club for an eye opener and hung around for lunch. She said we would use that method from now on.  :biggrin:

 

We still stay in touch. After the AF she worked for the CIA, but she would never tell me what she did for them.

Fun times.

One of my Grand sons works for a "Letter Agency" in the US government.  He got so disgusted that they didn't use what he was trained for ( Three years in "training") that he went to work for the State Department.

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I was in the the Army and as a E-5 then E-6 was a unit (company level) retention NCO as a additional duty. Also been a Battalion level ammo NCO.

When a Drill Sergeant (E-6/E-7) I was the unit Rifle Marksmanship main instructor, only one of 2 grunts and the other was the Senior Drill Sergeant.

Also the main instructor for individual Movement, Concealment and Camouflage and the one usually picked to lead PT most of the time.

Not as interesting as the above stories but life is what it is.

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9 hours ago, DWARREN123 said:

I was in the the Army and as a E-5 then E-6 was a unit (company level) retention NCO as a additional duty. Also been a Battalion level ammo NCO.

When a Drill Sergeant (E-6/E-7) I was the unit Rifle Marksmanship main instructor, only one of 2 grunts and the other was the Senior Drill Sergeant.

Also the main instructor for individual Movement, Concealment and Camouflage and the one usually picked to lead PT most of the time.

Not as interesting as the above stories but life is what it is.

Little seems interesting until you do it.  :599c64b15e0f8_thumbsup:

I was in the Navy and didn't make any difference.

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10 hours ago, DWARREN123 said:

Also the main instructor for individual Movement, Concealment and Camouflage and the one usually picked to lead PT most of the time.

Not as interesting as the above stories but life is what it is.

I was in the Air Force. what is this " PT " you speak of ?

:headscratch:

 

 

 

 

 

:whistling:

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When I enlisted in the Air Force, family members were aghast that I hadn't pt it off until afyer college and taken a commission.

 

My answer was that  commissioned officers were required to be "gentlemen."  and I intended to have some fun while serving.

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As alluded to above as an Enlisted sailor collateral duties were helpful to advancement and essentially mandatory for promoting into the Chief's ranks.

The smaller the ship the more available it seemed.

My most interesting was as CMS custodian right after making Chief. I, a Signalmam, and the Senior Chief Radioman were selected. The duties were strictly managed and had serious potential for ending a career. I was on a forward deployed AFS (supply ship) and had a blast riding our helo to various ships in the Battle Group.

The most fulfilling was as ESO educational services officer. Provided correspondence courses needed for advancement and education as well as ordering the bi annual Navy Advancement tests for E-4 to E-6 Personnel and the annual E-7 test.

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