The five divisions (A, B, E, M, R) of department personnel can equate to many of the companies who provide services to you in your hometown. They are a Fire Department, Utilities Department, Electric and Telephone Company and the Public Works Department all rolled into one. Headed by the Chief Engineer and with the aid of his five Principal Assistants, they are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of a wide range of equipment and systems throughout the ship.
The responsibility for keeping the ship afloat and functioning is an all hands effort but the job of keeping it intact falls on the engineers. They operate the ship's fire main system and are the primary damage control team members, they train the crew in basic and advanced damage control and they hold the data base of all damage control equipment and fittings throughout the ship. There is not a single space on this warship which does not involve the engineers in some way. The cable ways and piping overhead, the fire stations and water tight doors you pass and the decks we walk on are all tied to Engineering Department.
The Men That Sail Below
A "Snipe" in the Navy is an enlisted person in an engineering rating, specifically those rates that work below the waterline in Engineering Main Propulsion spaces. In the 19th century, ships changed propulsion from wind power (Can you guess from where the term "sailor" came?) to steam power bringing noise, dirt, and smoke to previously sail powered vessels. The Deck Crew resented and looked down on the "engineers."
Along comes an Engineering Officer named John Snipe who demanded the Deck Crew show respect to his engineers below decks. The engineering crew began to be called "Snipe's men" which fininally got the moniker "Snipes." The term "Snipe" was originally considered an insult aimed at Engineering Department sailors. Snipe's Lament is a 3-minute 20-seconds lyric story video. You can also view it in PDF format.
Propulsion systems (12 boilers & 4 engines), electrical plants and damage control are the three main functions of the Engineering Department.
The M Division Fireman at left is on throttle watch making sure the engine is adjusted to the speed commanded to Engine Room 4 by the bridge. Each engine delivers about 53,000 shaft horsepower when traveling at flank speed. The shafts connecting engine to propeller each have their own alley. Shaft Alley No. 3 traversed my first berthing compartment aboard ship way below decks where I slept on a canvas hammock laced to a metal frame. "Heave out and trice up" used to be a call for all hands to assemble on the deck to view floggings; today, it is a call to the crew to get out of their bunks and fold the bunks up to the wall and secure them there. I actually did that until being assigned an 02-Level modern berthing space after about a month aboard. This experience led me to appreciate my "snipe" shipmates. It is not easy for snipes to befriend an "airdale" Electronic Technician. Living among them below decks gave me "street cred" or should I say "ship cred."
When a B Division Fireman lights the boiler it is the initial act that turns cold steel into US Government diplomacy. Boilers heat the fresh water made in the desalination plants to power the turbines, catapults and other vital ship systems with steam.
Ever heard of "Hollywood showers?" The term meant a long luxurious shower which was completely forbidden when on the line in the South China Sea. Fresh water to make steam was more important to the catapults for launching aircraft than for the convienence of the crew. There were times when sub-systems were down for maintenance and the crew only had a 1-hour period for fresh water in the "heads" each day; wet it quick, soap it up and rinse fast is what is called a "Navy shower."
B Division systems maintenance is no trivial task. Care and cleaning of the ship's massive boilers is a hard dirty job with which today's Navy does not have to carry out. Reflecting the evolution of naval propulsion systems away from steam power, the Boiler Technician (BT) rating was disestablished in 1996 and converted to Machinist's Mate.
Engineering's A Division crew (A-Gang) does maintenance on the ship's auxiliary engineering equipment. Many different skills are required by the Fireman, Engineman, Electrician's Mate and Machinist's Mate sailors rates that comprise this division.
Electrician's Mates in the E Division have eight main generators that have the capability to power a city the size of San Francisco.
Machinist's Mates in M Division are responsible for the continuous operation of the many engines, compressors, gears, refrigeration, and air-conditioning equipment along with other types of machinery. The many MM shops on CORAL SEA make it possible to build and/or maintain any machine you could describe.
R Division is manned by Damage Controlmen (DC), Hull Technicians (HT) and Machinery Repairmen (MR) and are augmented by one crew member from each division. They are responsible for the maintenance and repair of Damage Control and firefighting equipment throughout the ship.
Copyright © 2019 Bert McNamee, Harleigh, PA. All rights reserved.