Navy Enlisted Boatswains Mate – NEC-B400

Enlistees Who Haven't Decided on Their Navy Career Path May Choose This Rating

Female boatswain's mate standing at attention on board a ship.

 Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Navy's Boatswain's Mate rating (which is what the Navy calls its jobs) is one of the two oldest in this branch of the military, dating back to 1794.

This rating, which has Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) B400 allows new recruits to enlist without a specific career path identified. It's often used by some enlisted personnel who haven't decided which career to pursue (think of it as a college freshman whose major is still "undecided"), and by others who want a certain rating that may not be available at the time they enlist. 

Duties Performed by Boatswain's Mates

The boatswain's mate will train, direct, and supervises ship's personnel in all activities relating to using the marlinspike. A marlinspike is a tool used to help tie large knots. The boatswain's mate also helps to instruct other activities on deck, boat seamanship painting, upkeep of ship's external structure, rigging, deck equipment and, of course, the smaller crafts onboard.

Boatswain's mates also operate and maintain equipment which may be used in a variety of areas aboard a ship, including loading and unloading cargo, ammunition, fuel, and general stores.

Since this rating is kind of an all-purpose position, the duties are varied and tend to cover work not assigned to other ratings. Boatswain's mates may serve as helmsmen and lookouts, or stand as security watches (both in port and at sea), or serve as part of damage control, emergency, or security alert team. 

Their duties may also include repairing, maintaining, and stowing equipment in preparation for underway operations; doing temporary duty for 90-120 days with food services divisions or compartment cleaning; working in non-engineering divisions of the ship or station or participating in naval ceremonies. 

Working Environment for Boatswain's Mates

After successful completion of recruit training, boatswain's mates are usually assigned to shipboard duties where the Navy needs them the most.

Boatswain's mates can request and may receive on-the-job training for a rating that they are interested in, qualified for and which is available at their first command by completing correspondence courses and personal advancement requirements. They must also be recommended by their commanding officer for the Navy rating they desire.

Although this rating may seem like a jack-of-all-trades job with wildly varied duties, the Navy describes boatswain's mates as the "backbone of every ship's crew." 

Technical School Training for Boatswain's Mates

After completion of recruit training, enlistees in the Seaman Apprenticeship Training Program attend six weeks of training at boatswain's mate class "A" school in Great Lakes, Illinois.

Boatswain's mates may also attend Navy schools to learn about general damage control, shipboard firefighting, preventive maintenance of special equipment and special tools used in the rating they are working in or seeking.

Testing and Qualifications for Boatswains' Mates

Boatswain's mates need a combined score of 175 in the verbal expression (VE), arithmetic reasoning (AR) mathematics knowledge (MK) and automotive and shop (AS) information segments of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests.

Alternately, they could present with a combined score of 135 in the MK, AS and assembling objects (AO) sections of the ASVAB. 

There is no Department of Defense security clearance required for this position.

Sea/Shore Rotation for Boatswain's Mates

  • First Sea Tour: 56 months
  • First Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Second Sea Tour: 60 months
  • Second Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Third Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Third Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Fourth Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Fourth Shore Tour: 36 months

Sea tours and shore tours for sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea followed by 36 months ashore until retirement.