The Electronics Technician (ET) rating was established in 1948, a recognition of the need for specialists to maximize the potential of the rapidly expanding field of electronics. Its genesis is found in the wartime Radio Technician (RT) rating, which was redesignated Electronics Technician Mate in 1945. In November, 1958, Hawaii native Melvin Kealoha Bell became the first ET to be promoted to the rate of Master Chief (E-9), which had been created by Congressional legislation just six months earlier; ETCM Bell was also the first Master Chief Petty Officer of color.
United States Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma is the home of the Electronics Technician “A” School. Spanning nearly seven months, the ET curriculum is broken into eight units covering fundamental electronics principles, circuitry, receivers, VHF, SINS (Shipborne Inertial Navigation System), cryptography, and soldering. Nearly a month is devoted to the RT-9000, a digital HF-SSB (High Frequency-Single Side Band) transceiver. Entry-level equipment includes directional and depth finders, GPS systems, radar, and associated control systems.

Advanced training is available at “C” schools for Electronics Technicians assigned for work on close-in weapons systems such as the Phalanx, found on the service’s largest cutters (NSC, Hamilton-class, and Legend-class). Other systems ETs are taught to service at the intermediate-level include the AIMS MK XII IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), AN/SPS-73 Radar, and Nautel navigation systems. Senior Petty Officers (E6 to E8) are offered the opportunity to two-year associate or four-year bachelor’s degrees in engineering or technology.

ET personnel are deployed to afloat billets (major cutters), communications stations, and electronics shops; the larger shops are called Electronics Systems Support Detachments (ESDs), while smaller ones are designated as Details (ESDDs). ETs are sent to smaller units lacking on-site technicians, such as search-and-rescue stations or smaller cutters, in order to perform maintenance and repairs.

ETs work and support large and small shops, communications stations, and all major cutters. The large shops are called electronics systems support detachments (ESD) and smaller shops are known as electronic systems support detachment details (ESDD). From these units, ETs are dispatched to Coast Guard search-and-rescue stations and smaller cutters to maintain, repair or install electronic systems.

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