Operations Specialist (United States Navy)

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Operations Specialist
Rating Badge OS.jpg
Rating insignia
Issued by: United States Navy

United States Coast Guard

Type Enlisted rating
Abbreviation OS
Specialty Technical

Operations Specialist (abbreviated as OS) is a United States Navy occupational rating. It is a sea duty-intensive rating, with most of its billets located afloat and assigned to warships, primarily guided missile cruisers, guided missile destroyers and frigates, as well as aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships and tactical air control squadrons.

Brief history[edit]

The rating started from the Radarman (RD) rating. When the Radarman rating was split up into OS, Electronics Technician (ET), and Electronic Warfare Technician (EW) ratings, the original RD rating badge continued to be used by the Operations Specialist. It symbolizes the radar scope (circle portion of symbol) oscilloscope radar (A-scope) used to determine a targets range from the radar antenna (the two spikes in the line drawn across the scope), and the arrow represents the ability to detect the azimuth or direction of the target.

Description[edit]

Operations Specialists at work

Operations Specialists aboard U.S. Navy combat vessels work in the Combat Information Center (CIC) or Combat Direction Center (CDC), aka: Combat, the tactical "nerve center" of the ship. Using a wide variety of assets available to them, they are responsible for the organized collection, processing, display, competent evaluation and rapid dissemination of pertinent tactical combat information to command and control stations, upon which sound tactical decisions may be made. Beginning training (called "A" school) for Operations Specialist's was originally located at the Naval Training Center (NTC) in Great Lakes Illinois. In 1979 it was moved to Dam Neck in Virginia Beach, Virginia; the school has since moved back to Training Support Center (TSC) NAVSTA Great Lakes in Illinois. Intermediate and Advanced training are in locations like California, Virginia, and various locations throughout the United States Navy.

They maintain Combat Information Center (CIC) displays of strategic and tactical information, including various plotting boards and tables depicting position and movement of submarines, ships and aircraft as well as tote boards containing data relevant to the tactical picture. They operate surveillance, tracking and height-finding radars, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) equipment, HF, VHF and UHF radios, Tactical Data Link (TADIL-A/Link 11, TADIL-J/Link 16, etc.) systems and displays, and computerized consoles and peripheral equipment that allows them interface with the Aegis Combat System. They operate encrypted and non-encrypted long and short range radiotelephone equipment as well as intraship communication systems.

With specialized training, they also may serve as combat air controllers for helicopters, anti-submarine patrol aircraft, and jet strike fighter aircraft in Anti-Submarine Tactical Air Controller (ASTAC), Sea Combat Air Controller (SCAC), and Air Intercept Controller (AIC) roles. They also serve as watch supervisors, watch officers, and section leaders underway and in port aboard ship and at commands ashore. Operations Specialists assist in shipboard navigation through plotting and monitoring the ship's position using satellite and other electronic navigation resources, as well as fixing the ship's position near landfall using radar imaging.

They interpret and evaluate presentations and tactical situations and make recommendations to the Commanding Officer (CO), CIC Watch Officer (CICWO), Tactical Action Officer (TAO), Officer Of The Deck (OOD), or any of their commissioned officer surrogates during various watch or combat/general quarters conditions. They apply a thorough knowledge of doctrine and procedures applicable to CIC operations contained in U. S. Navy Instructions and Allied Tactical or U.S. Navy Tactical Publications. Operations Specialists are responsible for maintaining the physical space of CIC as well as performing minor planned maintenance care of the equipment they operate. A minimum of a Secret security clearance is required for this rating, with more senior personnel holding a Top Secret clearance.

Operations Specialists provide to their shipboard or shore-based command a wide range of technical information and assistance related to Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Amphibious Warfare, Mine Warfare, Naval Gunfire Support, Search and Rescue operations, radar and dead reckoning navigation, overt intelligence gathering and transmittal, and other matters pertaining to the Operations Specialist's area. They also have a working knowledge of protocols and procedures in Electronic Warfare, though this area is normally covered by its own occupational rating, such as Cryptologic Technician (CT) aboard ship or ashore, or Naval Aircrewman (AW) aboard specific naval electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft.

Duties[edit]

The duties performed by Operations Specialists include:[1]

  • operate a variety of computer-interfaced detection, tracking and height-finding radars
  • plot a ship's position, heading, and speed, using computerized or manual trigonometric methods
  • maintain a tactical picture of the surrounding seas by plotting and maintaining a visual representation of ships, submarines and aircraft in the area, including friendly, neutral, hostile and civilian contacts
  • use secure and non-secure radio in communicating, in plain voice or coded signals, with other air, sea or land units to coordinate tactical and combat evolutions
  • operate common marine electronic navigation instruments including radar and satellite systems, plot own ship's position and movement on charts and make recommendations in navigation to the Officer Of The Deck
  • provide target plotting data to the Command and Control based on information received from target tracking devices
  • make recommendations to Command and Control regarding tactical and combat procedures
  • assist in the coordination and control of landing craft during amphibious assaults
  • communicate with spotters, plot and make calculations to adjust fire during Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) missions
  • coordinate and assist in plotting and ship maneuvers for emergency evolutions such as man overboard and other search and rescue (SAR) activities
  • provide assisted and direct air control of combat aircraft in anti-air (AAW), anti-surface (ASUW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW)


The job of an Operations Specialist can be very intense and stressful while the ship is underway. They need to be able to think quickly, drawing on a large reserve of tactical and procedural knowledge and be able make calculations on the fly in the fast-paced and information-saturated environment of naval combat operations at sea.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Navy enlisted manpower and personnel classifications". Bureau of Naval Personnel. US Navy. Retrieved 2007-01-11.