With the rapid evolution of missile technology following World War II, the U.S. Navy began a slow but steady process of moving away from guns to missiles for both offensive and defensive purposes. Just how quickly the Navy became enamored of missile technology can be seen in the fact that just four years after the 1953 establishment of the Guided Missileman (GS) rating in rating, an entire special of the Bureau of Naval Personnel’s magazine All Hands was devoted to missile technology. Dubbed the “Guided Missile Navy,” March 1957 edition of the periodical featured stories on almost every possible aspect of missiles, from study guides for Sailors in missile-related ratings to tutorials on the basics of missile-guidance technologies.
Four years later, the GS rating was changed to Missile Technician (MT), and the rating has now been in place since 1961. Today’s MT Sailors serve exclusively aboard the U.S Navy’s Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs) or Guided Missile Submarines (SSGNs). Like all combatant submarines in the Navy, these are nuclear-powered vessels capable of staying submerged for indefinite periods of time—constrained, of course, by food stockpiles and the mental well-being of Sailors working in rather cramped confines for extended lengths of time.
The Navy considers the MT rating and its associated training an “Elite Program,” and for good reason. For one thing, only enlistees who volunteer for submarine service are even considered for inclusion in the rating. Second, choosing Missile Technician as a Naval Career entails a long-term commitment: Sailors who apply for the rating are enlisting for four years and, at the same time, executing an agreement that the will continue their enlistment for another 24 months at the end of that time.
Lastly, all Missile Technicians must not only be U.S. citizens eligible for security clearance, verified through a Single Scope Background Investigation, but also pass the Personnel Reliability Program, a Department of Defense evaluation system created to guarantee that only the most stable and trustworthy people have access to nuclear weapons.