Navy Stereotypes : “Specialists” and “Salt Horses”
We tend to stereotype Military Officers.
Army has Colonel Blimp.
Navy has Captain Haddock.
Here are some more Navy Stereotypes…
SALT HORSE and NAVY STEREOTYPES
Ramblings of a Navy Veteran By Vikram Karve
Long ago — when I joined the Navy — there was a tendency to stereotype officers — especially officers of the Executive Branch (“Seaman” Officers) — on ships.
Those days — a warship had four “Specialist” Executive Officers:
- Gunnery Officer (GO)
Typically — Gunnery Officers were supposed to be “hot-shot” “spit-and-polish” “rough and tough” Type-A personalities who would be hollering at the top of their voice most of the time.
In addition of their professional gunnery duties — Gunnery Officers were responsible for all Parade, Drill and Ceremonial Activities/Events/Routines on the ship.
Gunnery Officers commanded Landing/Boarding Parties sent by the ship on operations to land ashore or board other ships.
Traditionally — the Gunnery Officer of the ship was the Officer of the Watch (OOW) during the toughest “Middle Watch” at Sea.
(The Four Hour Middle Watch was from Midnight to 4 AM in the morning — or — in Naval Parlance — from 2400 0000 Hrs to 0400 Hrs)
The “stereotype” Gunnery Officer was a redoubtable officer with “spic-and-span” bearing — the “prima donna” among Seamen Specialist Officers.
Of course — Gunnery Officers had the reputation of being “hard drinking” officers who could drink everyone else under the table.
In earlier days — Gunnery Officers dominated the Navy — they were the “prima donnas” — the “crème de la crème” — and — most Admirals were Gunnery Officers.
Now — it is not so.
- Navigation and Direction (ND) Officer (NO)
Navigation Officers considered themselves as “intellectuals” among the Seamen Officers.
The NO was the “pilot” of the ship — responsible for safe and proper Navigation of the Ship.
The NO also looked after Operations and Aircraft Direction — and was the Ship’s “Meteorological” Officer — unless a qualified “Met” Officer from the Education Branch was borne.
Since Navigation Officers considered themselves to be the intellectually superior “crème de la crème” among Seamen Officers — so — they tended to remain aloof.
In fact — in British Origin/Design Ships — the NO’s Cabin was located near the Bridge — far away from the Cabins of other Officers (Officers’ Cabin Flat) — and this distance further facilitated aloofness and exclusivity.
- Signal Communication Officer (SCO)
These were the “clever” and “smart” officers — shrewd, canny and wily — who — owing to the nature of their duties — enjoyed proximity to the Captain — and hence — the Captain’s “Spy” in the Wardroom was most likely to be the SCO.
Due to their intelligent cunning and crafty nature — they always outwitted their counterparts — especially the straight-talking Gunnery Officer (GO) and the laid-back TASO (Torpedo Anti-Submarine Officer).
A unique feature of the Signal Communications Branch was that though SCO’s were considered Executive (Seamen) Officers — their Sailors were not “Seamen”.
This enabled them to enjoy Command and rise to the highest echelons of the Navy.
- Torpedo Anti-Submarine Officer (TASO)
(With our penchant for changing names — and — in consonance with the increasing “Americanization” of the Navy — TASO was later renamed as ASWO (Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer) — but — I will use the designation TASO of the 1970’s — the era to which this story pertains…)
The TASO was the most “laid back” Officer among the “Specialist” Officers.
Maybe — this was because his domain was towards the aft of the ship — away from prying eyes of the Captain on the bridge — in contrast to the Gunnery Officer’s “part of ship” — the fo’c’sle — in direct view of the bridge.
Or maybe — it was because of the rather nebulous nature of underwater warfare in those times.
I may be wrong — but it was my observation — that — on the ships on which I served — the TASO was the least ambitious among “Specialist” Officers — in contrast to the “Hot-Shot” Gunnery Officer, the “Cat’s Whiskers” Navigating Officer and the “Shrewd” Signal Communication Officer.
The TASO did his job quietly and efficiently.
“Visibility” is important in the Navy.
On a ship — the Captain (and “powers-that-be) — are normally stationed on the “Bridge” of the Ship.
From the “Bridge” — the TASO was not “visible” — nor did he make too much “noise” — so he was not “audible” too — and this made him appear relatively “laid back” as compared to his “Eager Beaver” counterparts.
TASO’s were my best friends on the ships on which I served.
Those days — it seemed — that — very few TASO’s reached the higher echelons of the Navy — as compared to their counterparts in Gunnery, Navigation and Communications.
However — with the renaming of TAS to ASW (and TASO to ASWO) — things seem to have changed dramatically — and — there seem to be plenty of ASWO’s in the higher echelons of the Navy.
(Yes — the renaming of TASO to ASWO seems to have miraculously brightened their fortunes).
SALT HORSE (and OTHER OFFICERS)
Well — based on my observations of “yesteryear” — I have “stereotyped” four types of Executive Officers (abbreviated as “X” Officers) — GO, NO, SCO, TASO.
However — I did come across other types of officers who belonged to the Executive Branch (“X” Branch).
For example — there were the “Hydro” Officers (Hydrographers) — highly specialised professionals — who were in their own world — busy on their Survey Ships — which were painted White in contrast to the Battle-Grey of Warships.
There were Naval Aviators (Pilots and Observers) — and Submariners — some of whom were specialists in G/ND/C/TAS too.
Also — there were the “landlubber” Naval Armament Inspection (NAI) Officers — why they were categorised as “X” Officers — I have not understood till today.
And — when the Supply and Secretariat (S&S) Branch was abolished in the late 1970’s — suddenly — overnight — hey presto — all S&S Officers became “X” Officers — and some of them completed their “X” courses and Sea Watchkeeping — and in due course — they qualified their Specialisation Courses too — and became GO, NO, SCO, TASO etc.
And of course — there was the “Salt Horse” — Navy Term for an Executive Officer who has not specialised in Gunnery, Navigation, Communications, TAS etc.
Yes — a “Salt Horse” is a Non-Specialist “X” Officer.
Will some “Sea Dog” please tell us the origins of the term “Salt Horse”…?
Well — let me tell you that I have seen a few “Salt Horses” reach high rank in the Navy — even command Warships.
But — these are exceptions — and — it is the “Specialist” Executive Officers who rule the roost.
Do these stereotypes exist today…?
I don’t know.
But — I certainly saw the stereotypes diluting towards the later part of my Naval Service.
I did see a few “laid back” Gunnery Officers — but — I have yet to see an “Eager Beaver” TAS Officer.
What about you — Dear Reader…?
Are there such stereotypes in your organisation…?
If you are a Navy Veteran — do you agree with the stereotypes above — or — have things changed…?
If you are a Military Veteran — do tell us about the “stereotypes” in the Army and the Air Force.
Dear Reader — before some “Hot Shot” Gunnery Officer comes “Gunning” for me — let me add a “disclaimer” that this story is a fictional spoof — and the stereotypes are a product of my imagination.
Copyright © Vikram Karve
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
- This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
- All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
Link to my source blog post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: https://karvediat.blogspot.com/2020/01/salt-horse.html
This story also posted in my writing blog at url: https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/01/10/humor-in-uniform-salt-horse-and-navy-stereotypes/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/05/14/salt-horse-navy-stereotypes/ etc
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.