PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Sailors in the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force are welcoming a change announced in June that all submarine navigation Electronics Technicians (ET) must now qualify as Assistant Navigator (ANAV).
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Whitt, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet personnel readiness officer, said the change means submariners holding the ET rating will eventually be required to become a certified ANAV.
"By your second tour as a navigation Electronics Technician, you have to complete ANAV qualifications within 24 months," said Whitt. "The commanding officer would have to report that the person is not qualified and determine plans for qualification or if the person is capable of getting qualified. We want the [E-8] selection board to know who is working towards the ANAV qualification."
Whitt said that the ANAV is not only an important job on a submarine - it's essential.
"If we lose an ANAV on one of our submarines, it does make an impact. We have to look hard," said Whitt. "[For example,] we're trying to fill an upcoming [ANAV] vacancy [on board one of our submarines], and there are only two possible candidates to fill the position in the whole submarine force."
USS La Jolla (SSN 701) Commanding Officer Cmdr. Brian Howes agreed.
"The ANAV is the right-hand man to the navigator...and the technical expert on the safe navigation of the ship," said Howes. "As a first class petty officer or chief, they can be an advisor to the navigator and an advisor to the commanding officer on how to safely operate the ship."
Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Wayne Westrich, La Jolla's ANAV, knows what it takes to work long hours with great responsibility.
"It really takes a certain tenacity to be an ANAV. At times, there is a lot of pressure that comes with the responsibility of safe navigation," said Westrich. "We can say the captain has ultimate responsibility, but...it's also on the shoulders of the ANAV who is planning that voyage."
Once a submarine's operational commander issues a basic track or operating area, the sub's navigation team is totally responsible for properly planning the route.
The actual charts and plan are prepared and approved by, in order, the sub's assistant navigator, navigator, executive officer and commanding officer. Though each of those positions shares responsibility for navigation, the ANAV is generally the one with the greatest level of subject matter expertise on navigation.
"The position of ANAV is vital to operations," said Howes. "It's a challenging billet with a lot of responsibility. We have great first class petty officers and chiefs filling those shoes."
The ANAV position has its roots in the submarine Quartermaster rating, which was absorbed into the Electronics Technician rating several years ago.
"The ratings of quartermaster, interior communications, electronics technician, and radioman were all merged into the electronics technician rating," said Whitt. "They were then separated by NECs, but we have always had an ANAV."
The ultimate goal is for the entire submarine force, including ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), the newly converted guided-missile submarines (SSGN), Los Angeles-, Seawolf- and Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN) to be certified for electronic navigation in the 2008 time frame.
For related news, visit the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/subpac/.