The rating of Aviation Ordnanceman was established in 1926, but it did not receive its current “AO” designation until 1948. Simply put, if a Naval task has anything to do with aviation-related ammunition and weaponry, it’s a safe bet that an AO is involved somewhere during the process. From the packaging, receipt, inspection, storage, and disbursement of all weapons and ammunition to the instruction in the safe handling and use of weapons, ammo, and explosives, AOs are responsible for ensuring that the Navy’s air assets stand ready to deliver offensive, defensives, reconnaissance, and countermeasure weapons and devices.
AOs are highly specialized, with seven jobs available within the rating. Armorers are responsible for the management and issuance of small arms, ammunition, explosive devices, optics, and related equipment. Aircraft Armament Equipment Technicians conduct maintenance on strike Aircraft Armament Equipment), particularly gun platforms and Linkless Ammunition Loading Systems. Aviation Ordnance Quality Assurance Safety Supervisors train personnel in the safe handling and use of explosives and ammunition, while the loading/downloading of weapons and the maintenance and inspection of airborne weapons and Armament Weapons Support Equipment falls under the bailiwick of Squadron Ordnance Technicians. Ammunition Logistics Managers are literally referred to as ammunition accountants, and Armament Weapons Support Equipment Technicians perform maintenance on specific and common ordnance handling and transportation equipment. Lastly, the Weapons Department Technician handles both the maintenance and testing (ashore and float) on air-launched weapons, elevators used for cargo or weapons, and magazine sprinkler systems.
The very term “Naval aviation” implies sea duty, and AO sailors can expect to spend about sixty percent of their time in the service assigned to fleet units.