by Chief Petty Officer (SW/ AW) David Rush, USN
Sailors in the Submarine Force are welcoming a change announced last month that requires all Submarine Navigation Electronics Technicians to qualify as Assistant Navigators (ANAVs).
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Whitt, COMSUBPAC Personnel Readiness Officer, said the change means that all submariners holding the ET rating will eventually be required to become a certified ANAV. “By your second tour as a Navigation Electronics Technician, you’ll have to complete ANAV qualifications within 24 months,” said Whitt. “The commanding officer would have to report persons not qualified, determine their capabilities, and outline plans for qualification for each individual. We want the [E-8] selection board to know who is working towards the ANAV qualification.”
Whitt said that the ANAV is not only an important job on a submarine – it’s essential. “If we lose an ANAV on one of our submarines, it does have an impact; we have to look hard,” said Whitt. “We’re trying to fill an upcoming vacancy, and there are only two possible candidates to fill the position in the whole Submarine Force.”
USS La Jolla (SSN-701) Commanding Officer Cmdr. Brian Howes, agreed. “The ANAV is the right-hand man to the navigator... and the technical expert on the safe navigation of the ship,” said Howes. “As a first class petty officer or chief, they can be an advisor to the navigator and an advisor to the commanding officer on how to safely operate the ship.”
Chief Petty Officer Wayne Westrich, La Jolla’s ANAV, knows what it takes to work long hours with great responsibility. “It really takes a certain tenacity to be an ANAV. At times there’s a lot of pressure that comes with the responsibility of safe navigation,” said Westrich. “We can say the captain has ultimate responsibility, but that’s not the full story. It’s also on the shoulders of the ANAV who is planning that voyage.”
Once a submarine’s operational commander issues a basic track or operating area, the boat’s navigation team is responsible for properly planning the route. The charts and plan are prepared and approved by – in order – a qualified quartermaster of the watch, the submarines’s assistant navigator, navigator, executive officer and commanding officer. Though each of those positions shares responsibility for navigation, the ANAV is generally the one with the greatest level of subject-matter expertise on navigation.
“The position of ANAV is vital to operations,” said Howes. “It’s a challenging billet with a lot of responsibility. We have great first class petty officers and chiefs filling those shoes.”
The ANAV position has its roots in the submarine Quartermaster rating, which was absorbed into the Electronics Technician rating several years ago. “The ratings of Quartermaster, Interior Communications, and Electronics Technician were all merged into the Electronics Technician, Navigation rating,” said Whitt. “They were then separated by NECs [Navy Enlisted Classifications], but we have always had an ANAV, and you can’t get underway without an one,” he said. “They have to be initially certified by their squadron and commanding officer.”
As an ANAV, Westrich, along with many of his counterparts, is working with a relatively new system called Voyage Management System, or VMS. “VMS is a spectacular development,” said Westrich. “I started using it in 2000, and it’s been an excellent tool that I’ve been able to incorporate into piloting and open ocean navigation.”
Westrich is convinced that VMS has been extremely helpful in putting the submarine in the right place while La Jolla conducts operations with Navy SEALS.
“I use it non-stop for Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) operations because it’s all about pinpoint navigation,” he said. “It’s an excellent tool for precise positioning.”
Developed by Sperry-Marine, VMS enhances the accuracy and efficiency of navigation and voyage planning. Since it was first introduced in 1998, all submarines in the fleet today have received some version of VMS, depending on the class of submarine and the installation date. Although crews are still required to use paper charts as the primary means of navigation, VMS serves as a valuable back-up tool. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has spent the last five years digitizing all nautical charts of the world’s waterways, with the exception of the polar ice cap. In some cases electronic charts provide much more detailed and layered information than paper charts.
Regardless of what high-tech navigational equipment may be available, Cmdr. Howes added that ANAV skills are important not only to various missions, but to safeguard the very lives of those living within the steel hulls of submarines. “It’s critical for the safe operation of a submarine,” Howes said.
Westrich said that serving as ANAV means he has to put in more hours per day than most would care to, but it comes with the territory. “As an ANAV, our additional pay is $375, not including submarine and sea pay. But I put in long work days in port and at sea," he said. “It takes a lot of drive and personal initiative. I don’t complain about it; I get my sleep when needed.”
Lt. Cmdr. Whitt said the extra pay is an incentive, and more is likely to come in the form of Selective Reenlistment Bonuses for the ANAVs. “We’re working to make it more enticing, but more importantly, we do need those Sailors onboard in order to operate attack and ballistic submarines at sea. Without them, we can’t do it,” he said.
Lt. Robert Hill, La Jolla’s Navigation Operations Officer, agreed. “The position of the assistant navigator is absolutely critical for safe navigation of the ship. As a department head, I have a unique situation in having a first class petty officer – or generally a chief – working directly for me for one specific purpose. But he is actually a subject-matter expert. I have to be an expert in a number of other areas, whereas he’s focused on the safe navigation of the ship,” said Hill. “When it comes to water-space planning or rapid movement, it’s the ANAV that drives the team, and he’s makes sure that all of the training is conducted. Without a specifically designated ANAV whose job it is to do that and nothing else, it just wouldn’t work,” he concluded.
Another Sailor who knows that navigation is a very important job onboard a submarine is one of Hill’s Sailors, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dennis Tam, responsible for plotting the submarine’s every move while on watch in Control. “It is hard the first couple of times, but after a while you get used to it. It’s not that hard, it just takes experience,” said Tam.
Ultimately, the entire Submarine Force, including ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), the newly converted guided-missile submarines (SSGNs), and Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia-class fast-attack submarines (SSN), will be certified for electronic navigation.
Chief Petty Officer (SW/AW) Rush serves in the COMSUBPAC Public Affairs
Assistant Navigator’s more likely to make CPO
by Chief Petty Officer(SW/AW) David Rush, COMSUBPAC Public Affairs
Submarine Navigation Electronics Technicians who qualify as assistant navigator (ANAV) are twice as likely to be selected for Chief Petty Officer than those without the qualification, according to an analysis of board results by the Submarine Force Pacific staff.
Of the 21 board eligible first class petty officers in the most recent board who had the ANAV qualification, 17 were selected for Chief – a rate of 81 percent. That’s nearly twice the 41 percent rate of selection for Navigation Electronics Technicians without the qualification.
The ANAV on USS Cheyenne (SSN-773), eleven-year Navy veteran Senior Chief Petty Officer (SS) John Perryman, said he has no regrets about achieving the qualification.
“When I reported to the submarine they had a gap in the ANAV billet so they asked me to fill it. I completed the qualifications onboard and was certified by Submarine Squadron SEVEN while we were on a Western Pacific deployment.”
Perryman, who arrived in Sept. 2004, said he was fortunate to get promoted to the next rank in less than a year. “I came here as a Chief and have been here for almost a year. I was up for Senior Chief and picked it up,” said Perryman.
According to Perryman, getting promoted is a direct result of having the qualification and job as the submarine’s ANAV. “For me it was a huge help for making Senior Chief first time around.”
Perryman added that the bottom line to getting promoted to Chief is more than getting qualified. “The thing that will separate you from the rest of the Navigation Electronics Technicians is whether you have the ANAV qualification, and sustained superior performance.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Green, the Navigation Department’s leading petty officer onboard Cheyenne, is well aware of the requirements for his rate. He is currently working on his ANAV qualifications on the Pearl Harbor-based nuclear attack submarine.
“As far as I’m concerned you can’t make Chief in our rate unless you’re a qualified ANAV,” said Green.
Green said the qualification is demanding, but he has sets his sights high. “I’m definitely going to qualify ANAV before I leave this boat. I want to be as qualified as my Senior Chief before I leave in March of next year.”
According to Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Force Master Chief Michael Benko, submariners with the ANAV specialty are more likely to get promoted.
“As we can see in these advancement numbers, as well as the advancement numbers from previous years, doing what the Navy expects of you will make you more competitive for promotion,” said Benko.
Benko added that the ANAV requirement has been around for a while. “The requirement to qualify ANAV is not a new one. The Submarine Force simply sent the message to the fleet that commands and Sailors are expected to follow the rules that have been in place for about 10 years. The fact that 17 of 21 board-eligible first class petty officers, who were qualified ANAV were promoted to chief petty officer, is the real impact statement.”
In addition to a greater opportunity of getting promoted, Benko said that there is also a monetary reward. “Besides the fact that ANAV is their senior in-rate watch, these petty officers will benefit from one of the highest Special Duty Assignment Pay awarded to enlisted personnel on submarines,” concluded Benko.