You would be hard-pressed to find a single Coast Guard rating more valuable to seagoing operations than Boatswain’s Mate. And you needn’t take our word for it: In the Coast Guard Boat Crew Training Manual, you’ll find that the Coxswain is “the most critical boat crew member”—and that all E5 and higher Boatswain’s Mates are certified as Coxswains. Boatswain’s Mates are also the sole source rating for the Surfman certification.

Boatswain’s Mates are the masters of quintessential seafaring skills such as navigation, marlinspike seamanship, small-boat operations, deck maintenance, and workforce supervision and command at the small-boat level. Their importance was greatly expanded in 2003 when they absorbed the Quartermaster rating and took on that rating’s responsibilities for safe navigation, chart corrections, maintenance of ship logs, voyage planning, and the oversight and calibration of navigation instruments.

After completing recruit training at the Training Center Cape May in New Jersey, aspiring Boatswain’s Mates will spend 14 weeks at their rating’s “A” School held at Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Virginia. In addition to boat operations and related seafaring tasks, these future BMs will take part in Team Coordination Training and acquire First Aid / CPR certification, while making sure they are able to meet the physical fitness requirements mandated by the Boat Crew Member Certification.

Boatswain’s Mates who complete both the Knowledge and Performance Requirements for Enlisted Professional Military Education will be able to advance to Boatswain’s Mate Third Class immediately upon completion of the “A” school courses. Thoughtfully, the Coast Guard allows personnel seeking the BM qualification to finish those requirements before starting “A” School, giving them more time to focus on what are likely to be subjects with which they will have had precious little previous familiarity.

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