How to Be a Ship Mechanic in the US Navy

by Will Charpentier

There are four U.S. Navy specialties for those who want to be ship mechanics. These jobs repair the propulsion systems, the electrical and communications systems, and the body of the ship -- the hull. Training for these specialties involves school plus extensive on-the-job training. Each position requires constant training as new systems come into the fleet and ship designs change to meet the needs of the Navy.

Becoming a Gas Turbine System Technician

A gas turbine systems technician maintains gas turbine engines, which are similar to low-speed jet engines, along with the engine’s drive systems and the associated controls and electronics. Their initial training is 15 weeks of classroom instruction in gas turbine operation and maintenance, followed by assignment to a ship for the rest of the technician's initial enlistment. While aboard, they receive on-the-job training from senior noncommissioned officers and take a series of qualification courses that provide the latest information on the technology. Those wishing to enter the Navy as gas turbine systems technicians must enlist for a minimum of five years.

Training to Be an Engineman

Enginemen maintain and operate internal combustion propulsion systems, such as high- and low-speed diesels used to power ships or power the generators aboard ships that use gas turbines. They also repair air-conditioning systems aboard ship and auxiliary engines, such as the boilers used to propel maneuvering engines used when a ship is in port. Their schooling last nine weeks and includes basic heating, ventilation and air conditioning training, boiler technology and diesel engine repair. School is followed by assignment to a ship. The minimum enlistment is four years.

Becoming a Hull Maintenance Technician

Hull maintenance technicians do all of the work necessary to keep the ship’s hull and structures in good condition. Part metalworker and part pipe fitter, they maintain piping systems, small boats, the ballast tanks that stabilize the ship, the ship’s sanitation tanks, and run the ship’s quality assurance program. Although specifics of the training are classified, hull maintenance technician's training includes sheet metal working, welding, basic plumbing and training in the operation of marine sanitation systems. After 14 weeks' schooling ashore, a shipboard assignment awaits hull technicians. A five-year minimum commitment is required.

Machinist's Mates

Machinist’s mates repair, operate, and maintain a ship’s propulsion machinery. They repair a ship's steering gear and steering engines, work on wenches, refrigeration systems and all other mechanical equipment aboard a ship. Their training includes operating and repair hydraulic and pneumatic equipment, HVAC training, and general mechanics. Machinist’s mates attend classroom training for nine weeks, followed by assignment to a ship. Those wishing to enlist in the Navy as a machinist’s mate must commit to a five-year enlistment.

On-the-job Training After School

Completion of a formal Navy school is just the beginning of a sailor's training. Once assigned to a ship, sailors find themselves under the tutelage of experienced petty officers and chiefs whose experience compares to that of journeymen or master craftsmen in civilian life. Before the end of a sailor's initial enlistment, they will be able to qualify as a journeyman in the skill, should they choose to return to civilian life or they can teach others, if they choose to reenlist.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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