Announced in Commandant Notice 1414 of October 22, 1968, the Marine Science Technician (MST) rating was established primarily from the Aerographer’s Mate (AG) rating (some personnel from the Sonarman rating were also offered the chance to laterally transfer). Its roots in the AG rating—often dubbed the “Navy’s weathermen—are clearly seen in early versions of the rating’s description. MSTs were to “observe, collect, record, reduce, analyze, and disseminate meteorological and oceanographic data for military and civil use, make visual and instrumental weather and oceanographic observations… and analyze and interpret weather and see conditions to furnish advice concerning probable changes and their effect on operations.”

But growing environmental concerns during the 1970s and 1980s led to an expansion of the MST rating’s responsibilities, with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill thrusting the work of Marine Science Technician’s firmly into the spotlight. Today, the Coast Guard’s MST personnel are focused as much on safety and security as they are on scientific data and its analysis.

Serving as Port State Control officers, MST personnel board vessels and carry out inspections of structural conditions and to verify the presence and operability of requisite lifesaving, fire-safety, navigational, and mechanical systems. They are also authorized to ensure the vessels are following domestic laws (where applicable) and adhering to international treaties, as well as perform security checks as part of anti-terrorism efforts, particularly those spelled out in the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.

Because harbors and ports are frequently home to storage facilities housing potentially hazardous materials, and the inspections performed by MSTs are critical in the prevention of leaks, spills, and even intentional discharges of waste matter and other substances that could cause significant environmental damage.

The Class “A” School for the MST rating is held at Training Center Yorktown. Initial training consists of a nine-week course focusing on pollution (investigations and responses), facility inspections, OSHA standards, and the basics of boarding vessels. The principles of Marine Safety, a major component of the MST rating, are featured in the Introduction to Marine Safety Course, also held at TC Yorktown.

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