The most impressive thing about a Navy aircraft carrier is just how massive it is. When it’s fully crewed, a carrier can house way over 5,000 men. So, if you think about it, that’s literally the size of a small city at sea.
Once you realize that the carrier is more or less like a small city, it puts things in perspective when trying to understand how such a large operational and organizational system works. Have you ever wondered what each crew member does aboard such a large carrier?
Commanding Officer aka The ‘Mayor’
At the very top, and what is the equivalent to a city’s mayor, is the ship’s Commanding Officer. The Commander is responsible for the entire carrier and the achievements of its assigned missions.
Did you know that a Navy aircraft carrier must be qualified as either a naval flight officer in the rank of a captain or a naval aviator? Yeah, neither did I.
The Executive Officer
Next in line and acting as a city’s manager would be the Executive Officer. The executive officer has a lot of responsibilities on their hands.
He is responsible for organizing the combat training, the ship’s defenses, interactions between various combat units, and much more.
The Administrative team is responsible for the paperwork necessary for the carrier to function accurately. These functions include recreational and regular data processing, police, and postal services.
The team handles a few other services such as the ship’s Public Affairs Office, television, radio stations, handling of personal records, and visiting Naval Reserve personnel.
This Department provides direct support to the embarked air wing. They oversee the launching and landing of the aircraft, fuel, and maintaining variable wings.
This team is also responsible for the everyday handling of the aircraft on the flight deck and in the hangar bays.
Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD)
AIMD’s mission is to provide maintenance repair, restoration, and support services to all Shipboard and Strike Force asset customers while incorporating Airspeed principles in support of Cost-Wise Readiness and Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) initiatives.
Their daily jobs include repairs on aircraft engines, the assembling of propellers, hydraulic components, metal, and composite aircraft structures, aviation life support systems, and personal survival equipment. And that’s only a fraction of their daily tasks.
Chaplains at Sea
The Chaplain Religious Ministry Department are sailors aboard aircraft carriers who provide the place and resources for the spiritual needs of the crew.
There are several Chaplains aboard the carrier to facilitate spiritual support for all Sailors of all faiths; Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other religion.
This team sends and receives messages to and from other ships, aircraft, and shore facilities via various sophisticated electronic equipment.
The apparatus includes satellites, computers, cryptographic devices, and high-power transmitters and receivers.
The Deck Department has the most traditional maritime responsibilities. Enlisted ‘Boatswain’s Mates,’ preserve the exterior of the ship’s surfaces, anchor and secure it, man lifeboats and rescue boats, and monitor ongoing replenishment.
Their most frequent duty is the ‘piping away’ of different events over the ship’s intercom. The ship’s First Lieutenant leads this department. (This happens to be a job title that’s not to be confused with the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps rank of O-2).
The Dental Department provides comprehensive dental care, including simple preventative care through emergency services for all embarked crew members.
However, only large ships like carriers and amphibious warfare ships have supplied Dental Departments. Along with Medical and Supply, these departments are known as support departments.
Maintenance Management Department
The Maintenance Management Department oversees the scheduling and coordinating of all the off-ship maintenance.
For example, they maintain repairs at the shipyards or dry docks and propose organic maintenance ship-wide.
The Medical Unit is responsible for preserving the health of the embarked crew. The head of this unit must be an officer of the Navy Medical Corps. Also, the Medical Officer Counsels with the ship’s CO regarding hygiene and sanitation conditions.
Smaller vessels might not have an embarked Medical Officer, in which case Hospital Corps employees maintain the unit under the administrative auspices of the Operations Department.
The Navigation Department
The enlisted navigation Quarter Masters, QMs, and the vessels assigned navigators to update the CO and the Officer-of-the Deck on the direction of travel and the safest sea routes.
Calculations are made using celestial navigation, visual reports, and electronic machinery. The Navigation Department is also liable for implementing all military traditions, customs, and honors on board.
The Operations Department is responsible for gathering, documenting, analyzing, and distributing combat information vital to the achievement of the ship’s offensive and defensive missions.
The head of this vital unit is the ship’s Operations Officer. This person is one of the busiest people aboard. Intelligence, photographic intelligence, air traffic command, and missile system maintenance are forms of services delivered by this unit.
The Safety unit oversees ongoing education and training programs, equipment dangers, procedural risks, and accident prevention. It is found only on aircraft carriers.
As mentioned before, a ship can be a dangerous place of work. While aboard, they need to be constantly aware of maintaining posted safety regulations and procedures.
This department is the vessels ‘supply system’ if you will. This team is directed by a member of the Navy Supply Corps. The Supply Department oversees the feeding and expenses of the ship’s crew.
They also handle the running of ship’s wardrooms and messing spaces. This team handles the barbershops, laundry and dry-cleaning amenities, stores, and recreation services.
This department oversees the continued advancement exams, reenlistments, and coordination of individual schools.
They also handle general damage control and 3M training (Maintenance Material Management).
And finally, we have the weapons unit. This team operates and maintains the various weapon systems onboard.
The unit assembles, test and maintain bombs, torpedoes, missiles, and small weapons ammunition. However, on smaller vessels, this department could fall under the Deck Department.
Air Wing Organization
If someone has been assigned to a unit with an embarked aircraft, it would be beneficial to familiarize yourself with their organization skills. It’s kind of like understanding how a city would run if you were an alien.
However, coming back to the ‘organization topic.’ The embarked aircraft units retain their primary organization and corporate identity.
Air Wing Commander
The (CAG) is responsible for the readiness and tactical performance of the air wing. However, he isn’t directly under the carrier’s commanding officer. Instead, he is a co-commanding officer.
The commander oversees the coordination and observation of all activities, and for the material readiness, communications, and intelligence functions of the air wing.
An Operations Officer supervises training, readiness, and the operations of all air wing squadrons.
The officer also standardizes operational procedures among units, coordinates and creates operational contingency strategies, and supervises the execution of those plans.
The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command
They are responsible for the command and management of the Naval Oceanography Program, which utilizes meteorology and oceanography, GI&S, and precise time and astrometry.
They do this to leverage the environment to enable effective strategic, tactical, and operational battlespace utilization across the continuum of campaigning and at all levels of war – strategic, operational, and tactical.
The Air Intelligence Officer
The air wing Intelligence Officer is responsible for the gathering, preparation, and communication of intelligence material.
All this work is to assist CAG in planning and executing operations with air assets. He also directs and supervises the Mission Planning (MP) work center.
The maintenance individual oversees the monitoring and coordinating the air wing assets maintenance.
They also ensure that all necessary equipment and spare parts which are required by the units are available.
The officer advises the CAG on handling, loading, and expenditure of weapons, which is employed by the air wing.
He will also assist the units in all matters which relate to the weapons handling as well as employment.
Landing Signal Officers
For this small team, there happens to be two (LSOs) who are usually assigned to the air wing.
They regularly coordinate with pilots to improve recoveries, such as landing, safety awareness, and operations.
I know we have already discussed the medical center. However, this flight surgeon provides medical assistance to the men as well as officers of the air wing.
The surgeon is responsible for updating the CAG with particular health or medical problems that could affect the air wing.
Air Wing Intelligence Team
This unit consists of the squadron intelligence officers and intelligence specialists who were assigned to the units in the air wing.
The Air wing Intelligence Officer is the leader of this unit and as such, is the Mission Planning Coordinator.
This department, known as the Engineering Department, maintains the ship’s power plants providing steam for propulsion and aircraft launch catapults.
The department also maintains the life support systems such as freshwater, telephone service, air conditioning, ventilation, heating, hot water, electrical power, and keeps the ship’s sewage system. The ship’s Chief Engineer heads this department.
Deputy Air Wing Commander
The essential duty of the Deputy CAG is to be of assistance to the CAG, acting in effect as his executive officer.
The Chief of Staff will ensure the activities and functions of the CAG staff adhere to the desires of the CAG.
Small Boat Operations
Depending on the vessel, small boat operations in naval combat refers to operations in and around the littoral zone.
They usually operate within a certain distance of shore, carried out by small but fast and highly maneuverable boats.
Some men were assigned to jobs like picking up fired shells after practicing in a live-fire exercise.
Do you know why this is so crucial? If the enemy had to attack, they wouldn’t be able to use their ammunition or shells against them.
Manning the Rail
Sailors manning the rail is a technique for saluting or rendering honors used by naval vessels. Isn’t that cool?
They usually man the rails when entering or leaving ports. The tradition evolved from ‘manning the yards,’ which comes from the days of sailing.
Welcome to the board of inspections and surveys. This department inspects our Navy ships providing feedback on the vessel’s readiness.
This happens to be a detailed inspection that investigates if the ship holds navy standards and determines readiness in myriad areas.
The ‘lookout person’ is a comrade who was appointed to monitor everything within an assigned section.
They are required to report everything they see happening inside or hear from that section. They need to keep the Deck Officer, and the Combat Information Center watch officer updated on everything.
Weapon Certification Course
This course provides training, instructions, and basic knowledge of non-lethal weapons’ characteristics, employment, policy, and their applications in a wide variety of military operations.
The course can be taken online. The interactive multimedia instruction is intended to acquaint Service members with non-lethal weapons.
OW Division analyzes data collected from the electromagnetic spectrum. If that was hard to understand, I’m with you.
The unit’s mission is to detect, identify, and classify air, surface, and subsurface contacts via passive detection. Meaning, aided using electronic support measures (ESM) equipment.
These scientists help care for survivors at the scene of a natural disaster. Conducting blood transfusions in conflict zones where trauma patients need lifesaving treatment.
Wherever they are, and whatever they’re up against, as a Royal Navy Biomedical Scientist, they’ll support our medical teams with an essential clinical laboratory service.
Environmental Protection Specialist
The purpose of the position is to plan and carry out a variety of established project or program activities to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations or to improve the administration of environmental protection programs.
This department oversees and responds to spillage, perform regularity visits and inspections, administer environmental protection programs, determine if and how much the navy impacts the environment, implement corrective actions, and so on.
Underwater Construction Team
The Underwater Construction Team provides a capability for construction, inspection, repair, and maintenance of ocean facilities in support of Naval and Marine Corps operations, to include repair of battle damage.
Maintain capability to support a Fleet Marine Force (FMF) amphibious assault, subsequent combat service support ashore, and self-defense for their camp and facilities under construction. In the time of emergency or disaster, conduct disaster control and recovery operations.