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History and Heritage

Crossed Anchors, Dedicated Sailors

The backbone of the Navy

A loud crack shattered the tense air like a bullwhip as metal met metal. The hammer stood upright again for only a second, as if holding its breath, and fell on the pelican hook. With a final heave, the boatswain's mate knocked the stopper loose.

Thousands of pounds of anchor and chain now stood like racehorses silently waiting to plunge down and out into the sea. It was the kind of moment this Sailor lives for.

The U.S. Navy has had a strong presence around the world for almost two and a half centuries and though technology and ships have transformed greatly, one rate has remained unchanged over the years, boatswain's mate (BM).

One of my favorite phrases about BMs is that we're the backbone of the Navy, and it's true. We are up early, eager and hard working in any evolution we take part in."
-BM3 Spencer Norwood

Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the job of a BM continues to evolve, but in many ways is still reminiscent of the trade it was hundreds of years ago. Despite modern technological advances, BMs are still essential to the Navy's mission. From dropping the anchor to refueling or replenishing at sea, BMs have always held the safety of the crew in their hands.
Three photo collage: Left: Sailors hold line on flight deck. Middle: BMs braiding line. Right: Sailors looking at ocean.

Historically, the Navy has entrusted BMs with managing the ship's anchors, deck crew and boats. BMs also polish brass to a shine, manicure the forecastle and add fresh paint to the ship's decks and bulkheads to prevent corrosion and ensure Ike looks and performs the best it can.

Ever since ships have sailed the seas, there has always been a boatswain's mate. From taking charge during an underway replenishment to upholding the Navy's traditions, the boatswain's mate has always been there and always will be."
-BM2 Joe Hernandez

Norwood said the BM rate will never become obsolete. "I live for the day when I am able to train those who are coming up in the ranks and to be able to leave my mark for future generations of Sailors to look back on."

For more news from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), visit

Pulling Their Weight: Anchor and Chain graphic