A specialty mark featuring a globe with superimposed longitudinal and latitudinal lines was first used in the Coast Guard in 1915 for the Electrician rating, which was disestablished and replaced with the Electrician’s Mate (EM) rating in 1920; it was also used by the Navy when it made the same transition in 1921.

That part of the history of the EM rating is clear-cut, but precisely what the imagery is intended to symbolize is something of a mystery. Simply describing the insignia as a globe surcharged “with five lines of jaceron representing lines of latitude and five lines of frieze representing lines of longitude” gives us no clue as to how this relates to the EM’s work, and consequently Coast Guard personnel and Sailors have been left to their own devices to divine a meaning.

But it turns out there’s a good reason that determining the true meaning of the design is so difficult: It was the result of a mistaken interpretation of the word “globe.” According to a story titled “How Did it Start?” in the November, 1943 edition of All Hands magazine (at the time known as the Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin), the original order for the rating badge specified a “globe”—but the word was used as a synonym for “light bulb.” When the Navy received the badges featuring the now-familiar world globe, however, it was so well-received that the decision was made to retain it without any modifications.

No evidence has been found that would discount this theory, but All Hands magazine muddied things up a bit when a reader’s letter brought up the subject again in the January, 1944 issue. The editor’s reply—“There are a number of versions as to the origin of the Electrician’s Mate’s ‘globe.’ The Information Bulletin gave one. Are there any more?”—is bewildering in that it asserts there are several explanations, then wonders if other explanations exist.

What isn’t a mystery is the path that Coast Guard personnel must take to earn the right to wear the Electrician’s Mate rating badge. Today’s EM personnel attend an intensive 19-week course at Training Center Yorktown that focuses on the mathematics, physics, and principles of electromagnetism that serve as the foundation for their subsequent on-the-job training. Afloat assignments for Electrician’s Mates are typically aboard cutters; in some cases, EMs serve as the ship’s Engineering Petty Officer (additional training is available on Main Propulsion Control and Monitoring Systems). Among the shore assignments available to Electrician’s Mates are billets at Integrated Support Commands and Maintenance and Logistics Commands.

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