A Quartermaster is one of the oldest ratings in the United States Navy. At
its most basic definition, naval quartermasters are responsible for the navigation
of the ship under the direction of the navigator on a watch-to-watch basis.
Among the many duties of a quartermaster are the preparation, corrections
to, and maintenance of nautical charts as well as navigation publications.
A quartermaster is also responsible for training ship’s lookouts and helmsman
as well as the care and maintenance of navigational instruments and clocks.
In the modern Navy, a quartermaster is a petty officer, which is a noncommissioned
officer. Petty officers within the United States Navy are designated as first,
second, or third class Petty officers. A first class Petty Officer is equal
to the rank of a staff sergeant in the Army. While a quartermaster in 1776
earned a whopping nine dollars a month, quartermasters today are guaranteed
a bit more than that.
Duties of a quartermaster also involve personnel supervision, use of navigational
instruments such as a sextant, parallel rulers, dividers, and operational techniques
of various electronic navigational aids. Quartermasters are assigned to carriers,
cruisers, and other surface vessels as well as submarines. Depending on the
size of ship to which a quartermaster is assigned, there are multiple quartermasters
and different rankings such as first-class, chief, or senior quartermaster
assigned to various tasks and duties.
Quartermasters have existed in naval fleets for hundreds of years, and their
domain was typically the quarterdeck, where the ships wheel was located, which
is how they got their name.