THE CREWS OF TRIDENT SUBMARINES
"Blue" and "Gold" Crew Cycle
TRIDENT submarines, like all previous SSBN's, have two separate
identical crews (called "blue" and "gold" for the Navy
colors) who alternate manning the boat. This arrangement allows for maximum
utilization of the ship at sea, while managing to maintain quality of life for
the assigned crew members. While one crew takes the boat to sea on its regular
cycle of refit and a two month patrol, the other is back at Kings Bay. There,
the (off) crew members have a two-week "R and R" period following
their two-month confinement in the submarine. They then undergo intensive
refresher training in preparation for the next patrol.
The SSBN cycle repeats every 200 days. This means that each cycle will appear
to move back by 35 days. This allows the crew to be home for holidays and the
seasons they may have missed the previous year. Over a nominal three year tour,
each crew member will have the opportunity to be home for two holiday seasons.
The two-crew system accomplishes several objectives. Most importantly, it
enables the submarine to be at sea more than eight months during the year. This
means the submarine can be kept at sea for over two thirds of its operational
lifetime. An SSBN at sea and submerged is essentially invisible, and hence
survivable from an enemy attack. This enables proper execution of the SSBN's
strategic deterrence mission.
Second, it provides a regular program of refresher training for the
"off" crew. Each crew must be ready at all times while on patrol. They
must be experts on their equipment to keep it running during the long patrol.
Refresher training on equipment exactly like that found on the sub keeps the
"off" crew sharp. Intensive instruction serves to continually upgrade
Finally, there are refinements and improvements consistently being made to
the weapons system's various equipment operating procedures. These changes,
which must be well understood by submariners, are thoroughly studied during the
"off" crew period.
The term "Ships Crew" is defined as all the officers
(wardroom) and enlisted members assigned to a ship or shore command. On a fleet
ballistic missile submarine the enlisted crew is made of technical experts from
different occupational fields. These personnel ensure the ship is self
sufficient while at sea. A submarine at sea is pretty much a small town with all
the equivalent jobs being handled by the crew.
Personnel of the following technical ratings form the enlisted portion of the
crew of a fleet ballistic missile submarine:
Electricians Mate (EM) - Responsible for all electrical systems throughout the
ship. Continuously monitor, troubleshoot and repair electrical equipment.
Electronics Technician (ET) - Responsible for all electronic equipment on board
the ship. Some personnel are trained to operate and maintain the Nuclear Power
Plant, while others specialize in Navigations/Electronic support equipment. The
ET rating has recently absorbed the Interior Communications Electrician (IC),
Quartermaster (QM) and Radioman (RM) ratings as well. The former IC personnel
specialized in the maintenance and repair of all interior communications and
sensors circuits onboard the submarine. Their area of expertise includes alarms
and control circuits. The former QMs monitor the ships position while at sea,
providing the navigational data to the Officer of the Deck to support the safe
navigation of the submarine. The former RMs Operate, maintain and troubleshoot
the complex communication system aboard the submarine. The capability of
receiving continuous communications is a critical element of the nuclear
Fire Control Technicians (FT) - Specialize in the operation of the ships'
tactical weapons control system. Responsible for ensuring tactical weapons
systems are ready to fire at a moment's notice. Fire Control Techs come in
two forms, FTG (Guns) take care of the torpedo fire control systems, and FTB
(Ballistic) control the Missile Control Center (MCC) for the targeting and
launching of the Fleet Ballistic Missiles (FBM's)
Hospital Corpsman (HM)- The onboard "doc". Responsible for the
physical readiness of the crew. Constantly monitors atmosphere and water systems
to ensure proper sanitary operation of these systems. Monitors the sanitation of
food preparation, and is capable of handling most minor medical emergencies that
might occur while a submarine is at sea.
Machinist Mates (MM) - Personnel in this field specialize in the operation,
maintenance and repair of mechanical systems. Due to the complexity ofthe
Nuclear Propulsion plant, and submarines in general, MMs assigned to submarines
further specialize in Auxiliary, Propulsion and Engineering Laboratory
Technician occupational fields.
Mess Management Specialist (MS) - Are responsible for providing properly
prepared food for the subsistence of the crew. In addition, they ensure
sufficient stock of rations are on board prior to deployment.
Missile Technicians (MT) - Perform preventive and corrective maintenance on the
mechanical and electrical systems supporting the D-5 missile in its stowage
tube. Specialize in the operation of the ships' strategic weapons control system
Store keeper (SK) - Ensures adequate supplies of repair parts and consumables
are carried onboard. Orders replacement parts as required.
Seaman/Fireman (SN/FN) - These are non-rated personnel just reporting aboard for
their first at-sea tour. They are exposed to the different occupational fields
aboard a submarine to help them decide which career path to take. These
personnel are responsible for the topside maintenance of the ship in port.
Sonar Technician (ST) - Are the underwater "eyes" of the submarine.
Using the complex passive and active sonar systems, sonar technicians listen to
the sounds from the ocean and provide information on the activity outside the
Torpedoman's Mate (TM) - Operate and maintain torpedo tubes and associated
tube-launched weapons. They ensure proper operation of the torpedo tube system
during combat operations, and supervise the movement and reloading of weapons
into torpedo tubes.
Yeoman (YN) - Are the administrative experts of the ship. They ensure all
correspondence received by the command is properly replied to. Also ensure that
all the personnel records are properly maintained and updated.
The above list identifies the specific enlisted ratings detailed to a
submarine and a basic description of their primary job assignments. In reality,
the multi-faceted environment onboard a submarine requires the performance of
many other tasks, from the complex requirements of Maintenance Coordinator, to
the simple ones of crew barber.
These other tasks do not fall under a specific job description, but are very
much a major component of ensuring the proper operation of such a complex
organization as a submarine. The crew routinely executes these additional tasks
ensuring the proper operation of this complex piece of machinery.
A crew is what makes any ship function. Without a crew, a submarine is
nothing more than a very complex piece of cold, lifeless metal.
This page created by the Public Affairs Office, Naval Submarine Base, Kings