Originally titled Soundman, the Sonar Technician (ST) rating was established in 1942 while the U.S. Coast Guard was under the command of the Department of the Navy. A year later the rating’s name was changed to Sonarman, a designation it retained until 1970 when its personnel were absorbed into the newly created Sonar Technician rating. (Some Coast Guardsmen had been absorbed into the Marine Science Technician rating two years earlier.) In 1993, the ST rating was absorbed into Electronics Technician, which in turn was subsumed by the Operations Specialist rating in 2004.

But whether it was called Sonarman or Sonar Technician, the rating was in effect for the entire duration of the Cold War—one aspect of which was the focus by both the United States and the Soviet Union on antisubmarine warfare, or ASW. Both sides deployed “hunter-killer” submarines to follow and, if necessary, attack enemy submarines, and tracking the position of ballistic-missile submarines capable of launching thermonuclear weapons was a primary mission of both services.

Just how important the Navy’s antisubmarine warfare doctrine became is revealed by looking at the description of the Coast Guard’s ST rating at the peak of the Cold War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Besides the operation and maintenance of sonar equipment and the acquisition and interpretation of underwater data for operational use, the duties of Sonar Technicians included:

  • Organizing antisubmarine (A/S) attack teams
  • Training and supervising A/S personnel
  • Operating underwater fire-control and associated equipment for the solution of ASW problems
  • Evaluate targets
  • Perform operational and preventive maintenance on all ASW systems (except ASW weapons)
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the need for such ASW operations was effectively eliminated, and non-ASW sonar duties were transferred to personnel serving in the Electronics Technician rating—an entirely fitting change give the fact that Sonar Technician was one of the career paths for the CWO Electronics specialty.

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