Navy History Of Assignment

By Captain George Stewart, USN (RET)

LTJG George Stewart from the 1958 USS Halsey Powell Cruise Book

This is the second in a series of articles by Captain Stewart detailing the technical specifications, manning, and operations of the U.S. Navy’s Fletcher class destroyers.

My previous article (read Part 1 here) gave an overview of the U.S. Navy’s highly successful Fletcher class destroyer. In this article I will attempt to describe how a World War II Destroyer was manned and organized. Hopefully, it will provide some insight as to the duties performed by individual crew members during the war. My first assignment in the Navy was Engineering Officer of USS Halsey Powell (DD 686), a Fletcher class destroyer, and my experiences on that ship form the basis for this series on Fletchers.

This discussion is centered on the ship’s organization as I remember it between 1956 and 1959. There were some differences in the way that the ships were organized in 1956 and the way that they were organized during the war. A major reason for these differences was the greater reliance on radar that developed during the war and the establishment of the Combat Information Center (CIC). These differences will be described as we go along. Note that both the terms “is” and “was” are used interchangeably in this discussion because many of these practices still exist today.

The Fletcher class destroyers had a wartime complement of 329 personnel. That number was necessary to allow around the clock manning of gun mounts, repair parties, and other watch stations. The peacetime manning was 14 officers and 236 enlisted men. About 12 of the enlisted men were Chief Petty Officers. Naval philosophy in those days was to man the ships with a large number of personnel and little use was made of automatic controls or other labor saving devices. Much of this philosophy was a carry over from the days of sailing ships. The wartime philosophy was essentially that “manpower was cheaper than technology”.

The Commanding Officer (CO) of a destroyer under peacetime conditions is normally a Commander with 15 to 18 years of commissioned service. During World War II, the commanding officer was frequently a Lieutenant Commander with far less experience. I served under a Destroyer Squadron Commander in 1963-64 who had been the Commanding Officer of USS Hazlewood (DD 531), a Fletcher Class Destroyer, in 1945 as a Lieutenant Commander when he was only 5 years out of the Naval Academy.

Regardless of rank, the Commanding Officer was always referred to as “Captain.” He bears total responsibility for the ship and had commensurate authority over everyone on board. He was always on call when the ship was underway. He had non-judicial powers over all personnel under his command (Referred to as “Captain’s Mast”) or he could convene a summary or special court martial. His direct superior in the chain of command was his squadron or division commander who was normally a Captain with the honorary title of “Commodore”. If the ship was designated as a flagship, accommodations were provided on board for the Commodore and his staff.

The Executive Officer (XO) is the second in command on the ship. He functions as the administrator of the ship and has overall responsibility for all personnel on board. The Executive Officer is the person who is responsible for making things happen. He promulgates the plan of the day and oversees virtually every evolution. He does not normally stand watch underway. On many smaller ships, he usually doubles as the ship’s navigator. More about this later. The XO is often the resident “bad guy” in the wardroom because many COs like to play the “Good Cop/Bad Cop” game.

Frequently a junior officer was assigned as the Administrative Officer or Ship Secretary with additional duty as X Division Officer. Ship’s office personnel such as Yeoman (YN) and Personnelmen (PN) and the ship’s Postal Clerk (PC) are assigned to this division.

The ship’s Master at Arms force reports directly to the Executive Officer. These are senior petty officers who function as the ship’s police force. On a small ship, this is usually a collateral duty. Aboard Halsey Powell, the Chief Boatswain’s Mate also functioned as the Chief Master at Arms.

The ship’s Hospital Corpsman (HM) also normally reported directly to the Executive Officer. Aboard a destroyer, the Chief Hospital Corpsman (HMC, referred to as “Doc”) is the only medical person assigned, although there was a Squadron Doctor who rode the flagship and was available for advice. During World War II this rating was called “Pharmacists Mate”.

The Navigator is responsible for determining the ship’s position and making recommendations as to the appropriate course of action to the commanding officer. He is assisted by personnel of the Quartermaster (QM) rating. On some ships a junior officer is assigned as navigator. But on destroyers and smaller vessels the Executive Officer often doubles as the navigator. During both of my XO tours, I served as navigator. One reason for this was that it kept me involved in the operational picture. Also, since my primary experience was in engineering, it served as excellent preparation for command. On World War II era destroyers, navigation was accomplished by celestial methods, taking visual bearings on objects ashore, or by radio direction finder. With the introduction of radar, another useful method became available when the ship was within radar range of shore. Radio direction finders were eventually replaced by Loran A. Of course, ships today are fitted with Global Positioning (GPS), Electronic Chart Display (ECDIS) and other more advanced equipment.

Below this level, the ship was organized into departments. There were three major operational departments i.e., Operations, Gunnery and Engineering. Aboard destroyers, these were all Lieutenants’ billets. However in 1956 there was an acute shortage of Lieutenants in the Navy and therefore each ship was only provided with one, who was invariably assigned as the Operations Officer and Senior Watch Officer. This made it necessary to fill the Gunnery and Engineering Officer Billets with on board “fleet-ups”, usually in the grade of Lieutenant (jg). This was to have a great impact upon my own career in the navy. This practice no longer exists today. A fleet destroyer will normally have all three major department head billets filled by a Lieutenant Commander or fairly senior Lieutenant.

Department heads reported to XO for all administrative matters related to their departments. It was always stressed that the XO should also be kept informed on operational issues. However the department heads were directly answerable to the CO for all purely operational matters relating to their departments.

The Operations Officer billet did not specifically exist at the beginning of World War II. The need for a separate department responsible for the collection, display, and dissemination of combat information and intelligence became apparent as further use was made of radar and the establishment of a Combat Information Center (CIC) as the central nerve center on the ship. Therefore the functions of the Communications Officer, CIC Officer, and Electronic Material Officer (EMO) were all brought under the Operations Officer. Communications had previously been a “stand alone” department and electronics repair had belonged to the Chief Engineer.

By 1956 the Operations Officer had evolved into the principle adviser to the CO as to operational matters. He was responsible for reading and interpreting all operation orders (OP-Orders) and determining what the ship was supposed to do next. The billet was normally assigned to a Lieutenant with four or five years of sea duty. As Senior Watch Officer, he had the responsibility for the training and assignment of junior officers, and in some cases CPOs to underway and in port watch stations. On Halsey Powell, our Ops Officer was also assigned as navigator, although that was not universal practice aboard destroyers.

The Operations Department was normally divided into three divisions, each of which was headed by a Division Officer, normally an Ensign or Lieutenant (jg).

OC Division – Headed by the Communications Officer. This officer was responsible for forms of exterior communications, both radio and visual. He was also normally assigned as the custodian of classified publications and the crypto facility. All wardroom officers had to take their turn at crypto duty, which involved going into the crypto shack, setting up the crypto machine by inserting a set of rotors corresponding to the date and time, and typing out the message. I despised this duty until our 1958 deployment to the Far East when I was the decryptor of a message telling us that the 6 month deployment was over and ordering us to return home to San Diego. The ratings that came under the Communications officer were:

  • Radioman (RM) – Responsible for all electronic means of exterior communications. Available methods included voice radio, teletype, and the old fashioned Morse Code key.
  • Signalman (SM) – These people stood watch on the signal bridge. They were responsible for visual communications between ships by flashing light, flaghoist, or semaphore.
  • Quartermaster (QM) – The only reason these people were assigned to this division aboard Halsey Powell was that the Operations Officer was also the navigator. Quartermasters perform a variety of bridge duties. As well as providing assistance to the navigator, they maintain the Deck Log while the ship is underway and coordinate a number of other bridge functions. Frequently the helmsman duties when entering and leaving port or conducting underway replenishment are assigned to a Quartermaster.

OI – Division – Headed by the CIC Officer, assisted by the Electronics Material Officer (EMO). This division included:

OI Division, USS Halsey Powell, from 1958 Cruise Book

  • Radarman (RD) – This was a new rating that was established during World War II. The RD ratings stood watch in the Combat Information Center (CIC). The CIC included radar repeaters, voice radios, electronic warfare equipment, plotting boards, logging facilities, etc. Facilities were provided for collection, display, evaluation, and dissemination of information and making appropriate recommendations to the command (and in some cases Weapons Control). During routine steaming operations, CIC was responsible for radar navigation and tracking of routine surface contacts and making appropriate recommendations to the Officer of the Deck. Under these conditions, a commissioned CIC Watch Officer (CICWO) was assigned. This duty normally fell to the most junior three Ensigns in the wardroom. I did not like this practice and I always made sure that more experienced officers were assigned to these duties when I became a commanding officer myself.
  • Electronics Technician (ET) – These sailors were responsible for maintenance of all exterior communication, navigation, and radar equipment. They did not stand regular watches but they were the people you called when something failed to operate properly. During World War II, these functions had belonged to the Chief Engineer. But by 1956 they were more appropriately assigned to the Ops Department.

(NOTE: Later on the name of the rating was changed from Radarman (RD) to Operations Specialist (OS).)

Gunnery Officer – Or “Gun Boss” was responsible for operation and maintenance of all of the ship’s armament plus all matters relating to deck seamanship. In later years with the advent of missiles, the title of this billet became “Weapons Officer.” The Gunnery Department aboard Halsey Powell included three divisions, i.e. First (Deck), Second (Guns), and Fox (Fire Control, Sonar, and Anti-Submarine Armament).

First Division was headed by the First Lieutenant. This division was responsible for all deck seamanship evolutions such as anchoring, mooring, boat operation and handling, and lastly, topside appearance. During World War II, the First Lieutenant functioned as a department head and he had also been responsible for damage control. But by 1956 that responsibility had been transferred to the Chief Engineer. The First Lieutenant probably came under fire more than any other officer because everything his people did was readily observable and most COs and XOs were very concerned with topside appearance, sometimes overly so. First Division provided the majority of the bridge watch standers and the gun crews. Ratings assigned to the division included:

  • Boatswain’s Mates (BM) – This was generally considered to be the senior enlisted rating in the navy, a tradition probably handed down from the days of sail. The Chief Boatswain’s Mate (BMC) was expected to be the most capable seaman on board. Often he was assigned additional duties as Chief Master at Arms (The ship’s head policeman). The other rated BMs were generally assigned individual sections of the ship to maintain. This was a very prestigious assignment and these Petty Officers generally lorded it over the junior non-rated sailors in the division
  • Seaman/Seaman Apprentice (SN/SA) – This takes some explanation. These sailors were generally referred to as “non-rated” personnel and they could be assigned duties in any of the non-engineering divisions. Most were assigned to the Deck Force. All sailors initially attended Boot Camp where they held the rating of Seaman Recruit (SR). Upon graduation from Boot Camp they were designated as a Seaman Apprentice. After a year on board they were advanced to the grade of Seaman (SN), from which they could “strike for” assignment to other ratings. Some SAs were sent through advanced schooling for a particular rating and came aboard as “Designated Strikers” such as GMSN, RMSN, etc. Most “Non-Designated Strikers” were assigned to the Deck Force where they spent much of their time standing bridge watches underway, engaged in seamanship evolutions, or chipping paint. Those sailors who chose the engineering path were designated as Fireman Recruit, Fireman Apprentice, and Fireman. They followed exactly the same path but they were only assigned to the Engineering Department.

Second Division, USS Halsey Powell, from 1959-1960 Cruise Book

Second Division was headed by the Assistant Gunnery Officer. Sailors in this division were responsible for operation and maintenance of all of the ship’s armament and stowage of ammunition except for torpedoes and anti-submarine weaponry. The only rating in this division was the Gunners Mate (GM). Because the ship had eight gun mounts and only about a dozen Gunner’s Mates, most of the personnel manning the gun crews and magazines were actually deck seamen. At least one GM was assigned to each mount as the Mount Captain and another would be in charge of loading operations. The Chief Gunner’s Mate (GMC) normally acted as a roving troubleshooter.

Fox Division – This division was headed by either the Fire Control Officer or Anti-Submarine Officer, whoever was senior. This division contained a variety of ratings including:

  • Fire Control Technician (FT) – Responsible for operation and maintenance of all of the ships gunfire control systems including fire control radar, computer, and electrical transmission systems.
  • Torpedoman (TM) – Responsible for operation and maintenance of the ships torpedoes, depth charges, and Hegehogs.
  • Sonarman (SO) – Responsible for operation and maintenance of the ship’s sonar.

Engineering Officer – This was my assignment. The Chief Engineer bears responsibility for operation of the ship’s engineering plant, electrical generation and distribution, auxiliary machinery, and interior communications. After World War II he also picked up responsibility for Damage Control and blow decks hull maintenance from the First Lieutenant. If there was ever any doubt about who was responsible for a piece of equipment on the ship, it belonged to the Chief Engineer. He was also responsible for coordination of shipyard overhauls or periods (availabilities) alongside a tender. His principal assistants were the Main Propulsion Assistant (MPA) and Damage Control Assistant (DCA). His office was referred to as the “Log Room” and he would designate one bright young sailor as the “Log Room Yeoman” to help with the paperwork.

Engineers were always referred to as “Snipes.” This term originated in the British Navy when a visiting Admiral said that the engine room on a battleship resembled a “snipe marsh”.

The Main Propulsion Assistant (MPA) actually oversaw two divisions, B and M. Ratings assigned to these divisions were as Follows:

M Division, USS Halsey Powell, from 1959-1960 Cruise Book

  • Boiler Technician (BT) – This was a fancy name for what was called a “Water Tender” in the old coal fired Navy. The BT rating was responsible for operation and maintenance of the ship’s boilers and all associated equipment in the two fire rooms. Normally half of the sailors in this division would be assigned to each space. One Petty Officer was designated as the “Oil King”. He was responsible for all fuel transfer operations plus chemical testing and treatment of the ship’s boiler water. Normally he was a non-watchstander and he was usually provided with at least one full time assistant. All records of boiler water treatment and fuel usage were kept in an office referred to as the “Oil Shack”. The BT rating was considered to have the hottest and dirtiest jobs in the navy.
  • Machinists’ Mate (MM) – This rating was responsible for the operation and maintenance of all of the equipment in the two main engine rooms. Working conditions were similar, but not quite as bad as in the fire rooms. We usually had 2 or 3 Chief Machinist’s Mates (MMC) assigned. Chief or First Class petty officers of this rating were normally assigned to Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) duties in the Forward Engine Room where they were directly responsible for the operation of the engineering plant during their watch
  • Fireman (FN) and Fireman Apprentice (FA) – These non rated men were assigned at the discretion of the Chief Engineer.

The Damage Control Assistant (DCA) was in charge of R Division. It was a very diverse division that was comprised of several ratings.

  • Shipfitter (SF) and Damage Controlmen (DC) comprised the Damage Control gang on the ship. This group was responsible for all general hull fittings such as watertight doors and hatches, ventilation system closures, general plumbing, etc. This group normally had one or more qualified welders assigned. The group was also responsible for all fire fighting and dewatering equipment.
  • Machinery Repairman (MR) were in charge of the Machine Shop. He was usually the only qualified lathe operator on board.
  • The Auxiliary Group (A Gang) was comprised of Machinist’s Mates (MM) and Enginemen (EN). Enginemen were diesel engine specialists who took care of boat engines and the emergency diesel generator. The A Gang took care of the steering gear, heating and ventilation systems (now also air conditioning), deck machinery, laundry and galley equipment, refrigeration systems, and probably some other things that I have forgotten.
  • Electrician’s Mates (EM) – Were responsible for the entire ships electrical and distribution systems including all power and lighting equipment.
  • Interior Communications Electricians (IC) were responsible for all interior communications equipment including telephone, indicating and alarm systems, announcing systems, and the ship’s gyro compass.

The Supply Officer also had department head status. Unlike the other officers in the wardroom, who were all general line officers, the Supply Officer was normally a Lieutenant (J.G.) or Ensign in the Supply Corps. Supply officers were all referred to as “Pork Chops” because of the shape of their insignia. This officer stood no underway watches. But he had a good deal of responsibility. Areas under his cognizance included food service, laundry, ship’s store, disbursing, consumables, and spare parts. He was directly accountable for all expenditures of government funds. Supply Department ratings included:

Supply Department, USS Halsey Powell, from 1959-1960 Cruise Book

  • Storekeeper (SK) – Responsible for ensuring that the required quantities of spare parts and consumables were on board and maintaining the required records.
  • Comissaryman (CS) – These were the ship’s cooks. Obviously they were the people who were most likely to take heat from the other crew members for their efforts, or lack thereof. The CS rating who was responsible for the dry provisions and refrigerated storerooms was referred to as the “Jack of the Dust”.
  • Ship Servicemen – (SH) – Served as laundry men and operated the ship’s store and barber shop.
  • Disbursing Clerk (DK) – Assisted the Supply Officer in performing his paymaster functions.
  • Stewards (SD) – Ran the Wardroom Mess and provided valet service for the officers. In those days they were nearly all Filipinos. This rating has since been eliminated and these duties are now performed by Culinary Specialists who are assigned to the Wardroom Mess.

Naval officers are required to pay for their own meals. The Wardroom mess was run like a small business and each officer had to pay a monthly mess bill of about $25 to $35, a lot of money in those days. All wardroom provisions had to be purchased from the General Mess or other sources ashore. The job of Mess Treasurer rotated among the junior officers. However the Supply Officer served as the permanent mess caterer, a place where he frequently took a lot of heat. He was normally seated at the opposite end of the wardroom table from the Captain, where it was convenient for everyone to glare at him.

This organization sounds very complex to the outsider. But it must be recognized that a naval vessel must remain at sea for extended periods and it has to function as a small self supporting community. The individual rating groups are very specialized. But that is particularly necessary in wartime because it greatly simplifies the training program.

Civilian vessels have always had much smaller crews and made far greater use of automation and labor saving devices. A Liberty Ship or T-2 Tanker of the same era had a crew of about 40 people, plus a naval armed guard.

The Navy is trying very hard to catch up to the rest of society and more and more use is being made of computers and automatic controls. But they still have a ways to go to catch up to their Merchant Marine contemporaries.

(read part 3 here)

George W. Stewart is a retired US Navy Captain. He is a 1956 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. During his 30 year naval career he held two ship commands and served a total of 8 years on naval material inspection boards, during which he conducted trials and inspections aboard over 200 naval vessels. Since his retirement from active naval service in 1986 he has been employed in the ship design industry where he has specialized in the development of concept designs of propulsion and powering systems, some of which have entered active service. He currently holds the title of Chief Marine Engineer at Marine Design Dynamics.

The structure of the United States Navy consists of four main bodies: the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the operating forces (described below), and the Shore Establishment.

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations[edit]

The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav) includes the Chief of Naval Operations, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Deputy Chiefs of Naval Operations, the Assistant Chiefs of Naval Operations, the Chief of Legislative Affairs, the Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and other members of the Navy or Marines or civilians in the Department of the Navy assigned or detailed to the Office.[1][2]

As of June 2008, there was a DCNO Manpower and Personnel/Chief of Naval Personnel (N1), the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6), (established October 2009),[3] DCNO Plans, Policy, and Operations (N3/N5), Fleet Readiness and Logistics (N4), DCNO Warfare Requirements and Programmes (N6/N7), and DCNO Resources, Requirements and Assessments (N8). In addition there was a Director of T&E and Operational Requirements, Surgeon General of the Navy, Chief of Naval Reserves, Chief of Oceanography, and Chief of Chaplains of the Navy.

Operating forces[edit]

The operating forces consists of nine components:[5]

Fleets in the United States Navy take on the role of force provider; they do not carry out military operations independently, rather they train and maintain naval units that will subsequently be provided to the naval forces component of each Unified Combatant Command. While not widely publicized, groups of ships departing U.S. waters for operational missions gain a Task force type designation, almost always with the Second or Third Fleets. On entry into another numbered fleet's area of responsibility, they are redesignated as a task group from that fleet. For example, a carrier task group departing the Eastern Seaboard for the Mediterranean might start out as Task Group 20.1; on crossing the mid-Atlantic boundary between Fleet Forces Command and United States Naval Forces Europe - Naval Forces Africa, it might become ('inchop')[6] Task Group 60.1.

Numbered fleets[edit]

The United States Navy currently has six active numbered fleets. Various other fleets have existed, but are not currently active.

Numbered FleetStatusParent CommandNotes
1st FleetInactivePacific FleetThe First Fleet existed after World War II from 1947, but was redesignated Third Fleet in early 1973.[7]
2nd FleetInactiveAtlantic FleetThe Second Fleet was redesignated from the Second Task Fleet in 1950 as part of United States Fleet Forces Command in the Atlantic. It was deactivated in 2011.[8]
3rd FleetActivePacific FleetThe Third Fleet was redesignated from First Fleet in early 1973.[7]
4th FleetActiveNaval Forces Southern CommandThe Fourth Fleet was active during World War II and inactivated in 1950 when its responsibilities passed to Second Fleet. It was reactivated in 2008.
5th FleetActiveNaval Forces Central CommandThe Fifth Fleet was deactivated in 1947 after serving during World War II. It was reactivated in 1995 to assume responsibilities in the Persian Gulf previously assigned to Seventh Fleet.
6th FleetActiveNaval Forces EuropeThe Sixth Fleet was redesignated from Sixth Task Fleet in 1950 and has been continuously active in the Mediterranean since.
7th FleetActivePacific FleetThe Seventh Fleet was activated in 1943, redesignated Naval Forces Western Pacific in 1947, Seventh Task Fleet in 1949 and to its current designation in 1950.
8th FleetInactiveAtlantic FleetThe Eighth Fleet was established in 1943 from Northwest African Force. It operated in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II, with its forces briefly reassigned to Twelfth Fleet. From 1946-47 served as the heavy striking arm of the United States Atlantic Fleet before being redesignated Second Task Fleet and later Second Fleet.[9]
9th FleetInactiveAtlantic and PacificBefore 15 March 1943, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe served as Commander Task Force 99, of the 9th Fleet, which was under the direct command of Admiral King.[10] On 15 March 1943, TF 99 was redesignated TF 92. On 15 August, the 9th Fleet was redesignated 11th Fleet, still under the direct command of Admiral King, and TF 92 was redesignated TF 112. Task Forces in the 90s series have been used since World War II. In 1945, under Admiral Nimitz, CINCPOA, as Commander Ninth Fleet, Task Forces 90-92 formed the North Pacific Force, and the higher numbers were used for Strategic Air Force, POA, and local defences (Marshals-Gilberts Force, Hawaiian Sea Frontier, etc.).[11]Naval Forces Far East used 90-series task forces in Korea.
10th FleetActiveFleet Cyber CommandThe Tenth Fleet was active during World War II and reactivated in 2010 for assignment to Fleet Cyber Command.[12]
11th FleetInactivePacific Fleet and Atlantic FleetRedesignated on 15 August 1943 from 9th Fleet and subsequently transferred to Atlantic Fleet
12th FleetInactiveNaval Forces EuropeThe Twelfth Fleet was active in European waters during World War II. It was redesignated United States Naval Forces Mediterranean in 1946, which later became Sixth Task Fleet.[13]

Additional numbered fleets have existed; for a period after World War II, the Sixteenth and Nineteenth Fleets were assigned as the reserve elements for Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.[14]


See also: List of units of the United States Navy and Disestablished commands of the United States Navy

The organization of the Navy has changed incrementally over time. During World War II administrative organization for many ship types included divisions, for example Battleship Divisions (abbreviated BatDivs), Cruiser Divisions, Destroyer Divisions, or Escort Divisions (CortDivs), usually composed of two ships, often members of the same class. These made up squadrons (e.g. Battle Squadron, Cruiser Squadron, Escort Squadron (CortRon) etc.) of several divisions. Yet the exigencies of World War II forced the creation of the task force system where ships no longer fought solely as part of same-type divisions or squadrons. This was gradually reflected in administrative arrangements; by the 1970s, formations such as Cruiser-Destroyer Groups (CruDesGrus) came into existence.

There was a time in history in which the Navy was disbanded 1790-1798. The only warships protecting the country were Revenue Cutters, the predecessor to the USCG. This is why USCG ships are referred to as Cutters.[15]

The Navy is currently organized as such:

  • Fleet Forces Command
    • Type commands, including Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Surface Forces Atlantic, and Naval Air Forces Atlantic
    • Task Force 20 (TF20) operates in the Atlantic Ocean from the North to South Pole, from the Eastern United States to Western Europe and Africa, and along both the eastern and western shores of Central and South America. TF20 is the sole operational fleet within Fleet Forces Command, providing force training and exercises of assigned maritime forces and providing combat-ready Naval forces to support Service missions and global requirements. TF20 works with the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea/Center of Excellence to complete its mission.
    • Military Sealift Command (MSC) serves not only the United States Navy, but the entire Department of Defense as an ocean carrier of materiel. It transports equipment, fuel, ammunition, and other goods essential to the smooth function of United States armed forces worldwide. Up to 95% of all supplies needed to sustain the U.S. military can be moved by Military Sealift Command.[16] MSC operates approximately 120 ships with 100 more in reserve. Ships of the command are not manned by active duty Navy personnel, but by civil service or contracted merchant mariners.
    • Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), established in January 2006, serves as the single functional command for the Navy's expeditionary forces and as central management for the readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of those forces. NECC capabilities include; Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Maritime Expeditionary Security, Riverine, Diving Operations, Naval Construction, Maritime Civil Affairs, Expeditionary Training, Expeditionary Logistics, Expeditionary Intelligence, Combat Camera, and Expeditionary Combat Readiness. The Maritime Expeditionary Security Force’s (MESF) (formerly known as Naval Coastal Warfare) primary mission is force protection conducted through fleet support with operations around the world. Two Maritime Expeditionary Security Groups in San Diego and Portsmouth, Va. supervise integration of coastal warfare assets trained to operate in high density, multi-threat environments. Coastal and harbor defense and protection of naval assets are placed under the jurisdiction of two Naval Coastal Warfare Groups: one for the Pacific Fleet and one for the Atlantic Fleet.
  • U.S. Naval Forces Europe / Sixth Fleet
    • The Sixth Fleet is deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, under the administrative direction of U.S. Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR), and the operational command of U.S. European Command. Sixth Fleet is based in Naples, Italy and its flagship is USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20). Sixth Fleet also provides the Mt Whitney as an Afloat Command Platform for Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, a Naples-based Maritime headquarters that serves as a deployable Maritime Component Commander as directed by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
  • Pacific Fleet
    • Type commands, including Submarine Forces Pacific, Surface Force Pacific, and Naval Air Forces Pacific
    • Third Fleet's jurisdiction is the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Pacific Ocean along with the West Coast of the United States. Normally, units assigned to Third Fleet undergo training cruises prior to deployment with either the Fifth Fleet or Seventh Fleet and are not intended for immediate use in battle. Only in the event of general war does Third Fleet participate in active combat operations. Forming part of the Pacific Fleet, Third Fleet is based in San Diego, California and is a part of U.S. Pacific Command.
    • Seventh Fleet, the largest forward-deployed U.S. fleet, operates in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, stretching to the Persian Gulf and including much of the east coast of Africa. It forms the fully combat ready part of the Pacific Fleet and provides naval units to the U.S. Pacific Command. At any given time, Seventh Fleet consists of 40-50 ships operating from bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. It is headquartered at Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan with USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) as its flagship.
    • Naval shore commands: Commander Naval Forces Korea (CNFK), Commander Naval Forces Marianas (CNFM), and Commander Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ).
  • U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / Fifth Fleet
    • Fifth Fleet's area of responsibility is the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Consisting of around 25 ships, including a carrier strike group and an expeditionary strike group, Fifth Fleet is effectively fused with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, which is the naval component of the U.S. Central Command. Fifth Fleet is headquartered at Manama, Bahrain.
    • U.S. Naval Forces Central Command includes a number of Task Forces which are not part of the Fifth Fleet. These include Combined Task Force 150, carrying out maritime surveillance activities in the Gulf of Oman and around the Horn of Africa, and Task Force 152, covering the southern Persian Gulf with the same role. Both Task Forces report to Commander NAVCENT in his role as Combined Maritime Forces Component Commander.
  • U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / Fourth Fleet
    • The Fourth Fleet has operational responsibility for U.S. Navy assets assigned from east and west coast fleets to operate in the U.S. Southern Command area. The Fourth Fleet will conduct varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter narcoterrorism, and theater security cooperation (TSC) activities. TSC includes military-to-military interaction and bilateral training opportunities as well as humanitarian assistance and in-country partnerships.
    • U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command's (USNAVSO), the Navy component command for U.S. Southern Command, mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, and Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies to shape the maritime environment.
  • U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / Tenth Fleet
    • The Tenth Fleet has functional responsibility to achieve the integration and innovation necessary for warfighting superiority across the full spectrum of military operations in the maritime, cyberspace and information domains. Tenth Fleet has operational control of Navy cyber forces to execute the full spectrum of computer network operations, cyber warfare, electronic warfare, information operations and signal intelligence capabilities and missions across the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains. Tenth Fleet also partner with and support other fleet commanders to provide guidance and direction to ensure coordinated, synchronized and effective preventative and response capability in cyberspace. U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / Tenth Fleet is a subcomponent of U.S. Cyber Command.
  • U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command
    • Commissioned on 16 April 1987, at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, in San Diego, California. It acts as the Naval component of the United States Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Naval Special Warfare Command provides vision, leadership, doctrinal guidance, resources and oversight to ensure component maritime special operations forces are ready to meet the operational requirements of combatant commanders. The NSW has 5,400 total active-duty personnel, including 2,450 SEALs and 600 Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. NSW also maintains a 1,200-person reserve of approximately 325 SEALs, 125 SWCC and 775 support personnel.[17]

The Navy maintains several "Naval Forces Commands" which operate naval shore facilities and serve as liaison units to local ground forces of the Air Force and Army.[citation needed] Such commands are answerable to a Fleet Commander as the shore protector component of the afloat command. In times of war, Commander Naval Forces Korea becomes a Task Force (Task Force 78) of the United States Seventh Fleet. Other Naval Force Commands may similarly augment to become number fleet task forces.

The Shore Establishment[edit]

  • "The shore establishment provides support to the operating forces (known as "the fleet") in the form of: facilities for the repair of machinery and electronics; communications centers; training areas and simulators; ship and aircraft repair; intelligence and meteorological support; storage areas for repair parts, fuel, and munitions; medical and dental facilities; and air bases."[18]

The following shore-based bureaus, commands and components are directly subordinate to the Chief of Naval Operations:"[18]

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Bureau of Naval Personnel

Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Relationships with other service branches[edit]

United States Marine Corps[edit]

Per 10 U.S. Code § 5001 (a) (2), § 5061 Introduction, § 5061 (4), and § 5063 (a): the United States Marine Corps, is (1) a separate branch of the naval service from the U.S. Navy; (2) the Department of the Navy and the U.S. Navy are distinct legal entities; (3) is, along with the U.S. Navy (and U.S. Coast Guard, when assigned) a component of the Department of the Navy; and (4) a branch of U.S. military service, separate from the U.S. Navy, within the Department of the Navy. Furthermore, per 10 U.S. Code § 5001 (a)(1), § 5061 (4), § 5062 (a): (1) the United States Navy DOES NOT include the United States Marine Corps (2); the U.S. Marine Corps IS a separate component service, from either the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Coast Guard within the Department of the Navy; and (3) the U.S. Marine Corps IS NOT a component of the U.S. Navy.

In 1834, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) came under the Department of the Navy.[19] Historically, the United States Navy has enjoyed a unique relationship with the Marines, partly because they both specialize in seaborne operations. At the highest level of civilian organization, the USMC is part of the Department of the Navy and reports to the Secretary of the Navy. However, it is considered to be a distinct, separate service branch and not a subset of the Navy; the highest ranking Marine officer, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, does not report to a Navy officer. Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipients are awarded the Navy variant, and Marines are eligible to receive the Navy Cross. The United States Naval Academy trains Marine Corps commissioned officers while prospective Navy officers undergo instruction by Marine NCO Drill Instructors at OCS. Naval Aviation includes Navy and Marine aviators, flight officers, and aircrew.

The relationship extends to the operational theater as well. As amphibious assault specialists, Marines often deploy on, and attack from, Navy vessels; while being transported on Navy ships, they must obey the orders of the captain of the vessel. Marine aviation tailhook squadrons train and operate alongside Navy squadrons, flying similar missions and often flying sorties together. Other types of Marine air squadrons operate from amphibious assault ships in support of Marine amphibious operations. Navy and Marine squadrons use the same NATOPS aviation manuals and procedures. The USMC does not train chaplains, hospital corpsmen or medical doctors; thus officers and enlisted sailors from the Navy fulfill these roles. They generally wear Marine uniforms that are emblazoned with Navy insignia and markings to distinguish themselves from Marines. Corpsmen and chaplains enjoy a great sense of camaraderie with the Marines due in part because they work closely with them and often are embedded with Marine units. They operate under the command of the Marine Corps under the auspices of the Fleet Marine Force, often called the "green side".[20]

Because of the lack of full-scale amphibious operations in recent conflicts, there has been pressure to cut the "gator navy" below the two-regiment requirement of the Marines.[21] This is a reduction from the programmatic goal of 2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigades and actual structure of 2.07 MEB equivalents in 1999.[22]

The relationship between the US Navy and US Marine Corps is also one of mutual respect, and that respect is manifested in various policies and procedural regulations. For example, per US Marine and Navy drill manuals, in a formation consisting of both Marine and Navy units, per MCO P5060.20, Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies Manual, Paragraph 15001. "ARRANGEMENT OF UNITS IN FORMATION 1. In ceremonies involving the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy units, the Marine unit shall be on the right of line or head of the column. The senior line officer, regardless of service, functions as the commander of troops." (As this is a Department of Defense/Department of the Navy regulation, no further 10 U.S. Code authority, other than already cited above, is required for the Secretary of the Navy, who supervises both the U.S Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard whenever it is assigned to the Department of the Navy, to specify that the Marine Corps takes precedence over the Navy and Coast Guard in Naval formations, parades, and ceremonies. This same military precedence is specified in DoD Instruction 1005.8 and U.S. Navy Regulations, Chapter 10, Paragraph 1007.) This is a symbol of the special status and honor granted to US Marines, and is a unique aspect of the Navy-Marine relationship.

United States Coast Guard[edit]

Although the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity, applies only to the Army and Air Force, Department of Defense rules effectively require the Navy and Marine Corps to act as if Posse Comitatus did apply, preventing them from enforcing Federal law. The United States Coast Guard fulfills this law enforcement role in naval operations. It provides Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) to Navy vessels, where they perform arrests and other law enforcement duties during Navy boarding and interdiction missions. In times of war, or when directed by the President, the Coast Guard operates as a service in the Navy and is subject to the orders of the Secretary of the Navy until it is transferred back to the Department of Homeland Security.[23] At other times, Coast Guard Port Security Units are sent overseas to guard the security of ports and other assets. The Coast Guard also jointly staffs the Navy's Naval Coastal Warfare Groups and Squadrons (the latter of which were known as Harbor Defense Commands until late-2004), which oversee defense efforts in foreign littoral combat and inshore areas. Additionally, Coast Guard and Navy vessels sometimes operate together in search and rescue operations.


  1. ^"10 USC 5031. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved September 24, 2007. 
  2. ^"Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Secretary of the Navy". United States Navy. Retrieved May 24, 2008. 
  3. ^"Establishment of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information DOMINANCE (N2/N6)". NAVADMIN 316/09. October 29, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  4. ^Garamone, Jim (6 January 2011). "Joint Chiefs Fully Agree With Gates' Efficiencies". Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense. American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  5. ^"Navy Organization - The Operating Forces". Official Website of the United States Navy. Washington, DC. 23 June 2004. Retrieved 6 August 2006. 
  6. ^Maloney, Sean Michael (1991). To Secure the Command of the Sea: NATO Command Organization and Planning for the Cold War at Sea, 1945-1954 (Thesis). University of New Brunswick. p. iii.  
  7. ^ ab"United States Navy Third Fleet (Official Website)". Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  8. ^Reilly, Corinne, "Navy's Second Fleet Sails Off Into History Books", Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 1 October 2011.
  9. ^Thomas A. Bryson, 'Tars, Turks, and Tankers: The Role of the United States Navy in the Middle East,' Scarecrow Press, Inc., Metuchen, NJ, and London, 1980.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^Navy Stands Up Fleet Cyber Command, Reestablishes U.S. 10th Fleet, NNS100129-24
  13. ^Peter M. Swartz, Captain, USN (Retired), Colloqium on Contemporary History, September 2003. Retrieved June 2008.
  14. ^MBI, Warship Boneyards, p.79, via Google Books.
  15. ^"Numbered Fleets". Military Analysis Network. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 8 April 2006.  
  16. ^"Military Sealift Command". Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 24 July 2006. 
  17. ^"Naval Special Warfare Command". Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 1 February 2008. 
  18. ^ ab"Navy Organization - The Shore Establishment". Official Website of the United States Navy. Washington, DC. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  19. ^"Marine Corps Manual - General Administration and Management - Organization of the Marine Corps"(PDF). Official U.S. Marine Corps Website. Washington, DC: Department of the Navy. 1980. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  20. ^Peterson, Bryan A. (2 March 2007). "Recon Marines seek green-side corpsmen". Letherneck. Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  21. ^Ewing, Philip (13 June 2009). "Gator fleet a likely target for QDR, cuts". Navy Times. 
  22. ^"Amphibious Ship Building". Global Security. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  23. ^"14 USC 3 - Department in which the Coast Guard operates". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
Organization of the CNO's Office


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