PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- "We have a term we refer to around the bridge as 'A day's work in navigation,'" said Chief Quartermaster Craig Bembry, assistant navigator aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97).
"The basic concept is that you're constantly working from when the sun's up to when the sun's down." Bembry said quartermasters represent tradition considering they have been around since the beginning of the Navy.
Quartermasters have been in the Navy since its inception in 1775 as one of the six original ratings. Their responsibilities include standing watch as assistants to the officers of the deck and navigator, serving as helmsman, and performing ship control, navigation and bridge watch duties.
"We're the ones who help the skipper (captain) sleep at night," said Senior Chief Quartermaster David Warden, Halsey's prospective assistant navigator. "Everyone has their own responsibilities, but I feel we're the eyes and ears of the ship because of our involvement in the bridge."
The technological advances in recent decades have seen quartermasters gradually switch from using paper charts to electronic navigation.
"I couldn't have imagined any of these advances back in 1998," said Warden. "Now there's VMS (Voyage Management System), which lets you set the voyage points electronically. It feels like a video game to me, but it shows how far the equipment has come."
VMS digitally plots and shows the ship's position, course, heading, speed and depth over a digital nautical chart. However, quartermasters are still required to be familiar with older tools of their trade.
"A QM still has to be familiar with the many aspects of their job, whether it's celestial navigation, using paper charts or manual navigation," said Bembry.
As technology continues to evolve, the tasks and responsibilities of a quartermaster will inevitably change as well.
"I think the Navy is evolving as a whole, not just quartermasters," said Bembry. "However, I think it goes back to the fact that a quartermaster's job is to the keep the ship on course."
It is for that reason the quartermaster rating has been around for over 200 years, is rooted in tradition and innovation, and will continue for decades to come.
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