March 2, 2007:
Another sign of the times. The
U.S. Navy is merging two job categories, Gunners Mate (sailors who operate and
maintain guns and missiles) and Torpedoman (who operate and maintain
torpedoes). Those currently holding a Torpedoman mate job will do the same
work, but now be known as Gunners Mates. However, those holding Torpedoman
rates can wear their distinctive Torpedoman rate badge for another two years. This merger is
no surprise. For many years, Gunners Mates and Torpedomen went to many of the
same technical schools. Both rates operated and maintained missiles, for the
most part. Torpedoes, which appeared in the late 19th century, were the first
guided missiles. Very high tech for their time, they were in service for about
three decades before one was actually fired in anger and did some damage.
But during the first half of the 20th century, torpedoes were a heavily used,
and very effective, weapons. The most expensive missiles are still the high end
torpedoes. But missiles that fly through the air have become more capable over
the decades, and have replaced torpedoes, and guns, for most anti-ship work.
Missiles supply most of the anti-aircraft weaponry for ships as well. It's
ironic that sailors called Gunners Mates are now mostly people who operate
missiles, rather than guns.