If you were forced to pick a single Rating that exemplifies the word “Sailor,” you simply could not find a better one Boatswain’s Mate (BM). The introductory sentence in the Navy’s own description of Boatswain’s Mates gives you a good idea of why Boatswain’s Mates epitomize the public perception of the duties of a Sailor: “A Boatswain’s Mate performs general seamanship duties on board Navy Ships.”
Boatswain’s Mate is the oldest Rating in the U.S. Navy that is still in existence. The title was in use when the Second Continental Congress effectively created the Continental Navy (consisting of precisely two vessels with 20 guns between them), and it was officially established as a Rating in 1797. Over the decades, different specialties within BM Rating were created, such as Construction Battalion and Ship Repair. These gave way to Service Ratings—Master-At-Arms, Seabee, Shipboard, Canvasman, Rigger, and Stevedore—that either were rendered obsolete or folded into the Boatswain’s Mate rating.
Boatswain’s Mates fall in general occupational field of Seaman, so sailors can enter the Navy as a Boatswain’s Mate and advance in Rate to Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate, or they can “strike” to pursue another Naval career before taking the test for the E4 paygrade (Petty Officer Third Class), but only with approval and if there are openings in that rate. But the Boatswain’s Mate is a highly respected rate for enlisted personnel, and its members are considered the heart and soul of every ship.
Currently, there are three job titles in the BM rating: Ships and Boats Mates and Ordinary Seaman are in the Job Family of Transportation and Material Moving, while Able Seaman is classified under Installation, Maintenance, and Repair.