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    Boatswain’s Mates of the Watch: The Familiar Voices

    Boatswain’s Mates of the Watch: The Familiar Voices
    Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Liz Thompson

    She stands watch on the bridge well after the sun has gone down. She checks the time and tunes her pipe by ear. She then asks the officer of the deck to pass word on the ship’s 1MC (one main circuit). She presses the top button on the 1MC while a red light illuminates a small section of her. She rings the ship’s bells, pipes her call and passes word to the Sailors onboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

    “The voices you hear are of the five boatswain’s mates that stand boatswain’s mate of the watch,” said Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Fae’Line Matthews, from Visalia, California. “When walking around ship, we all get asked by people that we don’t necessarily know, but they recognize us from our voices and ask us if we’re the voices on the 1MC.”

    Before you can be one of the recognizable voices on the 1MC, a BMOW must go through an extensive qualification process.

    “There are six steps prior to being qualified BMOW,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Martin Widenhouse, from Boston. “You need to qualify as every watch on the bridge - deck fundamentals 100-200, bridge telephone talker, lookout, lee helmsman, helmsman and aft steering helmsman.”

    As with most qualification processes onboard Ford, a prospective BMOW must sit an oral board for these qualifications on top of learning how to pipe calls.

    “Once you have qualified for all these watches and learn how to pipe calls, you can be considered a subject matter expert,” said Widenhouse. “You can then be put on the watch bill to stand BMOW under instruction. As your confidence builds, you will get a few chances to make simple announcements and strike bells on time. Once you are completely comfortable, you can approach the officer of the deck yourself, request permission to make calls, pipe and announce your own calls.”

    Being a BMOW is more than being a recognizable voice.

    “As BMOW, I am the direct line of information from the Captain to the crew,” said Matthews. “Everything that goes on, we are the ones that relay that message. It makes me feel important because aside from passing announcements and ringing bells, I'm also in charge of the entire bridge watch team that I take along with me, everyone who drives [the ship], who controls speed [of the ship], and all of the lookouts to include the low visibility detail, when they go out.”

    A BMOW must be very knowledgeable about the ship.

    “We have to be well-versed on the Captain’s standing orders and very knowledgeable of all aspects of the ship,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Issac Ball, from Allegany, New York. “As a boatswain’s mate of the watch, you must be quick thinking in a fast-paced environment. You have to know how to appropriately respond to casualties and know each repair locker’s AOR (area of responsibility) and that’s just the start of our responsibilities.”

    Other responsibilities that come along with being a BMOW is being the senior enlisted person on the bridge.

    “No enlisted person is above you on the bridge while we stand BMOW,” said Ball. “We all handle it tactfully when the bridge is calm or, at most times, when there is a lot going on.”

    Under the BMOW, there is a team of watch standers also on the bridge.

    “I try to lead by example,” said Ball. “I push my watch team to the next level. I motivate and challenge my junior Sailors. I hold my Sailors to a high standard and I hold myself to that same standard. I tell them, ‘I need you to care about these next six hours more than anything else.’ I figure if you care about what you are doing, you won’t make the same mistakes that you would have if you didn’t care.”

    That level of caring can be seen through other Sailors who stand BMOW, such as Matthews, the only third class to stand BMOW onboard Ford.

    “Being the only third class that stands BMOW is hard work, but I like being recognized,” said Matthews. “I have stood BMOW since I was a seaman apprentice. I was the first seaman on Ford to stand BMOW. I think I set the bar high, but I always tell my watch team if I can do it, you can too. What set me apart was my persistence to excel at what I do, by having goals and high standards for myself.”

    In Widenhouse’s case, his significant role as BMOW is heightened by being selected as BMOW during every Ford sea and anchor evolution.

    “Having the responsibility of BMOW during sea and anchor is high profile and extremely fast-paced,” said Widenhouse. “Naturally, sea and anchor evolutions pose significant risks and is one of our highest visibility moments as a ship. The number of personnel on the bridge doubles, and many other departments are involved. It’s rewarding in and of itself to be the BMOW when all hands are on deck and all eyes are on CVN 78.”

    With such a highly recognizable job, their voices have become familiar throughout the ship and the complexity of a BMOW’s responsibility can now be recognized, too.

    Yes, ISSAC is the proper spelling of BM2 Ball’s first name



    Date Taken: 05.19.2018
    Date Posted: 12.19.2018 14:38
    Story ID: 304385
    Location: VA, US

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