Salt Horse

SALT HORSE
Navy Stereotypes
Random Ramblings of a Navy Veteran
By
VIKRAM KARVE
Long ago – when I joined the Navy – there was a tendency to stereotype officers – especially officers of the Executive Branch (“Seaman” Officers) – on ships.
Those days – a warship had four “Specialist” Executive Officers:
1.            Gunnery Officer (GO)
Typically – Gunnery Officers were supposed to be “hot-shot” “spit-and-polish” “rough and tough” Type-A personalities who would be hollering at the top of their voice most of the time.
In addition of their professional gunnery duties – Gunnery Officers were responsible for all Parade, Drill and Ceremonial Activities/Events/Routines on the ship.
Gunnery Officers commanded Landing/Boarding Parties sent by the ship on operations to land ashore or board other ships.
Traditionally – the Gunnery Officer of the ship was the Officer of the Watch (OOW) during the toughest “Middle Watch” at Sea (Midnight to 4 AM or 2400/0000 Hrs to 0400 Hrs).
The “stereotype” Gunnery Officer was a redoubtable officer with “spic-and-span” bearing – the “prima donna” among Seamen Specialist Officers.
Of course – Gunnery Officers had the reputation of being “hard drinking” officers who could drink everyone else under the table.
In earlier days – Gunnery Officers dominated the Navy – they were the “prima donnas” – the “crème de la crème” – and – most Admirals were Gunnery Officers. (Now – it is not so).
2.            Navigation and Direction (ND) Officer (NO)
Navigation Officers considered themselves as “intellectuals” among the Seamen Officers.
The NO was the “pilot” of the ship – responsible for safe and proper Navigation of the Ship.
The NO also looked after Operations and Aircraft Direction – and was the Ship’s “Meteorological” Officer – unless a qualified “Met” Officer from the Education Branch was borne. 
Since Navigation Officers considered themselves to be the intellectually superior “crème de la crème” among Seamen Officers – so – they tended to remain aloof.
In fact – in British Origin/Design Ships – the NO’s Cabin was located near the Bridge – far away from the Cabins of other Officers (Officers’ Cabin Flat) – and this distance further facilitated aloofness and exclusivity. 
3.            Signal Communication Officer (SCO)
These were the “clever” and “smart” officers – shrewd, canny and wily – who – owing to the nature of their duties – enjoyed proximity to the Captain – and hence – the Captain’s “Spy” in the Wardroom was most likely to be the SCO.
Due to their intelligent cunning and crafty nature – they always outwitted their counterparts – especially the straight-talking Gunnery Officer (GO) and the laid-back TASO (Torpedo Anti-Submarine Officer).
A unique feature of the Signal Communications Branch was that though SCO’s were considered Executive (Seamen) Officers – their Sailors were not “Seamen”.
This enabled them to enjoy Command and rise to the highest echelons of the Navy.
4.            Torpedo Anti-Submarine Officer (TASO)
(With our penchant for changing names – and – in consonance with the increasing “Americanization” of the Navy – TASO was later renamed as ASWO (Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer) – but – I will use the designation TASO of the 1970’s – the era to which this story pertains…)
The TASO was the most “laid back” Officer among the “Specialist” Officers.
Maybe – this was because his domain was towards the aft of the ship – away from prying eyes of the Captain on the bridge – in contrast to the Gunnery Officer’s “part of ship” – the fo’c’sle – in direct view of the bridge.
Or maybe – it was because of the rather nebulous nature of underwater warfare in those times.
I may be wrong – but it was my observation – that – on the ships on which I served – the TASO was the least ambitious among “Specialist” Officers – in contrast to the “Hot-Shot” Gunnery Officer, the “Cat’s Whiskers” Navigating Officer and the “Shrewd” Signal Communication Officer.
The TASO did his job quietly and efficiently.
“Visibility” is important in the Navy.
On a ship – the Captain (and “powers-that-be) – are normally stationed on the “Bridge” of the Ship. 
From the “Bridge” – the TASO was not “visible” – nor did he make too much “noise” – so he was not “audible” too – and this made him appear relatively “laid back” as compared to his “Eager Beaver” counterparts.
TASO’s were my best friends on the ships on which I served.
Those days – it seemed – that – very few TASO’s reached the higher echelons of the Navy – as compared to their counterparts in Gunnery, Navigation and Communications.
However – with the renaming of TAS to ASW (and TASO to ASWO) – things seem to have changed dramatically – and – there seem to be plenty of ASWO’s in the higher echelons of the Navy. (Yes – the renaming of TASO to ASWO seems to have miraculously brightened their fortunes).
Well – based on my observations of “yesteryear” – I have “stereotyped” four types of Executive Officers (abbreviated as “X” Officers) – GO, NO, SCO, TASO.
However – I did come across other types of officers who belonged to the Executive Branch (“X” Branch).
For example – there were the “Hydro” Officers (Hydrographers) – highly specialised professionals – who were in their own world – busy on their Survey Ships – which were painted White in contrast to the Battle-Grey of Warships.
There were Naval Aviators (Pilots and Observers) – and Submariners – some of whom were specialists in G/ND/C/TAS too.
Also – there were the “landlubber” Naval Armament Inspection (NAI) Officers – why they were categorised as “X” Officers – I have not understood till today.
And – when the Supply and Secretariat (S&S) Branch was abolished in the late 1970’s – suddenly – overnight – hey presto – all S&S Officers became “X” Officers – and some of them completed their “X” courses and Sea Watchkeeping – and in due course – they qualified their Specialisation Courses too – and became GO, NO, SCO, TASO etc.
And of course – there was the “Salt Horse” – Navy Term for an Executive Officer who has not specialised in Gunnery, Navigation, Communications, TAS etc.
Yes – a “Salt Horse” is a Non-Specialist “X” Officer.
(Will some “Sea Dog” please tell us the origins of the term “Salt Horse”…?)
Well – let me tell you that I have seen a few “Salt Horses” reach high rank in the Navy – even command Warships. 
But – these are exceptions – and – it is the “Specialist” Executive Officers who rule the roost.
EPILOGUE
Do these stereotypes exist today…?
I don’t know.
But – I certainly saw the stereotypes diluting towards the later part of my Naval Service.
I did see a few “laid back” Gunnery Officers – but – I have yet to see an “Eager Beaver” TAS Officer.
What about you – Dear Reader…?
Are there such stereotypes in your organisation…?
If you are a Navy Veteran – do you agree with the stereotypes above – or – have things changed…?
If you are a Military Veteran – do tell us about the “stereotypes” in the Army and the Air Force. 

Dear Reader – before some “Hot Shot” Gunnery Officer comes “Gunning” for me – let me add a “disclaimer” that this story is a fictional spoof – and the stereotypes are a product of my imagination. 

VIKRAM KARVE 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

Disclaimer:
1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
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Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved) 

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 



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