operations specialist navy

Navy Operations Specialist (OS): Career Details

Navy Operations Specialists are Navy enlisted personnel who serve as key members of the combat team on Navy vessels in the fleet.

Specific jobs a Navy Operations Specialist performs include navigation and plotting specialists, operations administrator, warfare operator, electronic systems operator, and combat air controller.

navy operations specialist (OS)
Operation Specialists monitor the Global Command Control Systems (GCCS) in the CDC. Image: Wikipedia.org

The Navy Operations Specialists responsibilities and duties vary depending on their ship’s equipment and the ship’s mission.

From handling shipboard communication (with sound-powered telephones and radio-telephones) to surveillance duties including identifying enemy aircraft and naval vessels using the Navy’s “Identification Friend or Foe” radar system, to serving as an air traffic controller for Navy helicopter and fixed-wing jets in their ship’s vicinity, a Navy Operations Specialist is never without a lack of work.

Related ArticleNavy Jobs List: A List Of All 71 Ratings In The Navy

Navy Operations Specialists normally work inside the Combat Information Center (CIC)/Combat Direction Center (CDC).

Whatever the specific mission, the Navy charges Navy Operations Specialists with disseminating and displaying tactical information.  Such operations include:

  • Search and Rescue (SAR) operations
  • Air Warfare (AW), Surface Warfare (SUW)
  • Amphibious Warfare (AMW)
  • Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)
  • Littoral Warfare (LW)
  • Undersea Warfare (USW)
  • Mine Warfare (MIW)
  • Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS).
navy OS
OS2 Gretchen Flint and OSSN Andrew Wilbanks monitor radar in the CIC aboard the USS Bataan. Image: Getarchive.net

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Requirements and Qualifications

To become a Navy Operations Specialist, there are specific requirements and qualifications that you must meet:

  • Must be a US Citizen.
  • Must be a member of the US Navy.
  • Must be between the ages of 18 and 39.
  • Must have normal hearing.
  • Must have normal color perception.
  • Must have no speech impediment.
  • No record of adversely adjudicated drug abuse offenses.
  • Must have an Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score of VE (Verbal Expression)+ MK (Mathematics Knowledge) + CS (Coding Speed) = 148 or AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) + 2MK (Mathematics Knowledge) + GS (General Science) = 198
  • Must be able to meet all security clearance requirements (Secret Clearance is the minimum).

Related Article: Navy Height And Weight Standards

Training and Career Path

Prior to becoming a Navy Operations Specialist, you must first become a US Navy Sailor via successful completion of Recruit Training, commonly referred to as Boot Camp.

All sailors attend Boot Camp at the Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes (RTC Great Lakes).

Commonly referred to as “The Quarterdeck of the Navy,” RTC Great Lakes is located at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, Illinois in Lake County.

Boot Camp is eight weeks long. During these eight weeks, the Navy will teach you the basic skills required of all US Sailors.

 Related ArticleIs Navy Boot Camp Hard?

Navy Operations Specialist Class “A” School

After boot camp, Navy Operations Specialist head across Naval Station (NAVSTA) Great Lakes to Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) Great Lakes where they attend Operations Specialist Class “A” school.

Navy Operations Specialist Class “A” school is ten weeks long.

During Navy Operations Specialist ” A” School training, sailors learn subjects like:

  • Charts and course plotting
  • Tactical publications
  • Radar operations
  • Vector analysis
  • Naval tactical data systems basic procedures, detection, tracking, and interpretation
  • Radiotelephone coding
  • Air and surface status board keeping
  • Anti-warfare plotting from a combination of classroom, computer-aided, and group instruction.

Just recently, many wanna-be Operations Specialists take part in the Navy’s innovative initiative known as Ready, Relevant, Learning (RRL). 

With Ready, Relevant, Learning, instead of attending Operations Specialist “A” school sailors self-study pier side via interactive, self-directed courseware, step-by-step guides, demonstration videos, and game-based virtualization software during a sailors career dependent on specific skills required.

Navy Operations Specialists must commit to a five-year service obligation.

Besides Operations Specialist Class “A” school, the Navy expects and encourages Operations Specialists to complete self-paced Non-Resident Training Courses (NRTC) and relative Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) when they get to the fleet to enhance their knowledge and increase their promotion opportunities.

In addition, The Navy provides online training to qualified Navy Operations Specialists through their Credentialing Opportunities On-Line website, referred to as Navy COOL.

There also exists Navy Operations Specialist-related Class “C” schools for more senior, high performing Navy Operations Specialists interested in further training.

How Much Are Navy Operations Specialists Paid?

Like all other enlisted personnel (in all branches), the Navy bases a sailor’s pay on their rank and length of service.

InsigniaPay Grade RankAbbreviation2021 Minimum Monthly Pay
N/AE-1Seaman RecruitSR$1,785.00
E-2Seaman ApprenticeSA$2,000.70
e-3 navy seamanE-3SeamanSN$2,103.90
petty officer third classE-4Petty Officer Third ClassPO3$2,330.40
petty officer second classE-5Petty Officer Second ClassPO2$2,541.60
petty officer first classE-6Petty Officer First ClassPO1$2,774.40
chief petty officerE-7Chief Petty OfficerCPO$3,207.60
senior chief petty officerE-8Senior Chief Petty OfficerSCPO$4,614.60
master chief petty officerE-9Master Chief Petty OfficerMCPO$5,637.00
command master chief petty officerE-9Command Master Chief Petty OfficerCMDCM$5,637.00
master chief petty officer of the navyE-9Master Chief Petty Officer Of The NavyMCPON$5,637.00

Navy Operations Specialists may also qualify for other forms of compensation including basic allowance for housing (BAH), base allowance for subsistence (BAS), and billet pay (sea pay, flight pay, submarine pay, hazardous duty pay, etc.) if eligible.

Related Article: Navy Ranks And Pay For 2019

What’s Life Like as a Navy Operations Specialist?

Navy Operations Specialists normally work in the Combat Information Center (CIC) or Combat Direction Center (CDC) onboard their respective ships.  Cool and air-conditioned (albeit dimly it), the CIC/CDC is the “tactical nerve center” of the ship.

Navy Operations Specialists use a wide variety of assets available to them in the CIC/CDC to help organize, collect, process display, evaluate, and disseminate pertinent tactical combat information to their leaders so they can make sound tactical decisions in a minimal amount of time.

navy operations specialist at work
Sailors aboard the USS Cowpens coordinate tactical information in the CIC. Image: Wikimedia.org

During military operations, the CIC/CDC is often fast-paced and stressful for Navy Operations Specialists.

Navy Operations Specialists have jobs which fall in one of five categories:

  • Navigation and Plotting Specialists
  • Operations Administrator
  • Warfare Operator
  • Electronic Systems Operator
  • Combat Air Controller

Navy Operations Specialists should, however, expect, that they will perform one or more, or even all, of these roles depending on the size of their duty station and the needs of the command and Navy.

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The duties of a Navy Operations Specialist are vast and depend on the ship or duty station to which they’re assigned.  Some of these duties are:

  • Provide command relevant and timely information related to Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, Air Warfare (AW), Surface Warfare (SUW), Amphibious Warfare (AMW), Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), Littoral Warfare (LW), Undersea Warfare (USW), Mine Warfare (MIW), and Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS).
  • Plot a ship’s position, heading, and speed.
  • Provide target plotting data to the CIC based on information obtained from target tracking devices.
  • Provide recommendations to relevant personnel regarding tactical and combat procedures.
  • Assist and direct air control of combat aircraft.
  • Plot and make calculations to adjust fire during naval gunfire support missions (requires communication with spotters).
  • Operate radar systems and other common marine electronic navigation equipment.
  • Serve as watch supervisors and section leaders.
  • Maintain a tactical ‘picture’ of the surrounding area via plotting and maintaining a visual representation of aircraft, ships, and submarines.  This includes all contacts (friendly, neutral, hostile, and civilian).

Operations Specialists must also maintain a working knowledge of protocols and procedures in electronic warfare, despite this being outside their normal duties and usually covered by other rates such as Aviation Warfare Systems Operators (AW) aboard naval electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft or Cryptological Technicians (CT) aboard ships, submarines, or ashore.

As Operations Specialists advance in their careers, the Navy depends on them to lead and supervise less senior Operations Specialists in their Department and/ or Division.  It is also likely that Operations Specialists will need to qualify for higher-level clearances, such as Top Secret or Top Secret SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information), as their rank and responsibilities increase.

Sailors in specific jobs (or rates as the Navy refers to them) must adhere to a Sea/Shore rotation based on their rate.

Navy Operations Specialist is a sea-duty intensive rating.  Navy Operations Specialists typically spend three-fifths of a twenty-year career assigned to sea duty.

Typical Rotation

Specifically, the Navy Operations Specialist Sea/Shore rotation is:

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour54 Months (4.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour60 Months (5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fourth Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fifth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Sixth Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Seventh Tour36 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)

Sailors who have completed four sea tours will serve 36 months at sea followed by 36 months on shore until retirement. 

Note that some overseas assignments count as sea tours.

Life aboard ship and life while on shore duty will be drastically different and the Navy expects Operations Specialists to adapt and meet the challenges presented by these different environments.

There are many benefits afforded to Navy Operations Specialists such as cool, clean, comfortable work environments, opportunities to travel the world, great and varied benefits, unlimited opportunities for learning and advancement, and control over your career.

Here are a few reviews we happened across on indeed.com for a Navy Operations Specialist:

Noteworthy is that Navy Operations Specialists, like all other Navy rates, are sailors first.

Operations Specialists have collateral duties which may include standing watches, working parties, firefighting duties, damage control duties, and other various tasks as assigned by the chain of command.

Civilian Career Opportunities

Civilian Career Opportunities abound for the Navy Operations Specialists when they leave or retire from the Navy.

This is especially true if the sailor takes full advantage of on-the-job (OJT) training and educational opportunities afforded them during their service.

Civilian occupations for Navy Operations Specialists include, but not limited to:

  • Computer Operator
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Radio Operator
  • Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician
  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Electronics Engineer
  • Remote Sensing Scientist/Technologist
  • Remote Sensing Technician
  • Airfield Operations Specialist

If you are a young person considering joining the US Navy, life as a Navy Operations Specialist offers a fast-paced, adventurous life in uniform, along with a plethora of opportunities as a sailor. 

After a successful contract with the Navy there will also be opportunities later in life, as a civilian.


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Travis R.
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