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Submarine Electronics/Computer Field (SECF): Career Details

In the Submarine Electronics / Computer Field (SECF) of the United States Navy, qualified sailors are given the opportunity to train in and electronics repair, digital systems, electricity, electronics, computers, and fiber optics for practical use in our country’s nuclear submarine force.

Diligent maintenance and operation of what the Navy calls “Today’s High Technology” digital systems, computer, and advanced electronic equipment used in submarine, sonar, navigation, combat control, and communications are the bread and butter of the four SECF rates.

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STS3(SS) Linville, center, and ET2(SS) Jourden, right assist in pulling in the  USS West Virginia (SSBN 736) at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. (Source: U.S. Navy/MC1 Kimber)

The SECF rates are:

  • ETR (Electronics Technician – Communications) – in charge of all administrative and operational aspects of the submarine’s radio programs, systems, and communication equipment.
  • ETV (Electronics Technician – Navigation) – accountable for all administrative and operational aspects of the submarine’s radar and navigation systems, programs, and equipment.
  • FT (Fire Control Technician) – operates and maintains the advanced electronic equipment used in the submarine weapons systems, such as underwater weapons and guided-missile systems.
  • STS (Sonar Technician, Submarines) – responsible for all administrative and operational facets of the submarine’s control and computer mechanisms utilized for scientific data collection and underwater surveillance. STSs work in one of four areas:  underwater acoustic technologies, navigation, combat systems, or communications. 

Qualification requirements necessary for SECF volunteers are steep. 

The training and jobs themselves are both challenging and sometimes stressful. 

Only mature young men and women willing to apply themselves and shoulder significant responsibility should apply.

Per the Navy’s Official SECF page:

“The Sailors in the Submarine Electronics Computer Field (SECF) work with a submarine’s sonar, weapons, communications and navigation systems.

The training is rigorous and the career opportunities are equally impressive.”

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

The active-duty obligation for SECF volunteers is 60 months (five years). 

Applicants enlist only for four years but concurrently execute an agreement that extends their obligation for an additional year.

Requirements and Qualifications

As stated earlier, the requirements to qualify for the Navy’s SECF program are high:

  • Must be a member of the US Navy.
  • Must be a US citizen.
  • Must be between the ages of 18 and 39.
  • Must have normal color perception.
  • Must have normal hearing.
  • Must have no record of conviction by a civil court for any offense other than minor traffic offenses.
  • Must have no history of drug abuse.
  • Must be eligible for a Department of Defense (DoD) security clearance.
  • Must have an Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score of AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) + MK (Mathematics Knowledge) + EI (Electronics Information) + GS (General Science) = 222 or VE (Verbal Expression) + AR (Arithmetic Reasoning) + MK (Mathematics Knowledge) + MC (Mechanical Comprehension) = 222

Related Article: Navy Height And Weight Standards

Training and Career Path

Like all other sailors, SECF volunteers must successfully complete eight weeks of  Navy Recruit Training, at the Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes (RTC Great Lakes).

 Related ArticleIs Navy Boot Camp Hard?

Basic Enlisted Submarine School

After successful completion of Navy Boot Camp, SECF candidates attend Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) in Groton, Connecticut. 

Submarine School is four weeks long and sailors are indoctrinated in basic submarine systems via group instruction and practical application.

After Basic Enlisted Submarine School, the SECF candidates are assigned their SECF rate (ETR, ETV, FT, STS) based on their preferences, needs of the Navy, Basic Apprenticeship Training (BAT) scores, and Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) scores.

Class “A” Technical School and Specialty Pipeline School

All of the SECF Class “A” Technical and Specialty Pipeline Schools are mostly located in Groton, Connecticut. The Electronics Technician start out in Groton CT, but could finish school up in Bangor, Washington, or Kings Bay, Georgia.

However, the duration of training is dependent on the SECF rate:

  • Navy Electronics Technician – Communications (ETR) Pipeline – First 9 weeks at basic electrician school and then additional 14 to 28 Weeks in the submarine specialty.
  • Navy Electronics Technician – Navigation (ETV) Pipeline – Same as ETR
  • Navy Fire Control Technician (FT) Pipeline – 27 to 33 Weeks
  • Navy Sonar Technician, Submarine (STS) Pipeline – 37 Weeks

It is here, through group instruction, equipment labs and practical application that SECF candidates are trained in electronics, basic electricity, and general computer technical knowledge. 

Additionally, they are prepared for and taught the skills in/for communications for deployment to a ballistic missile or fast attack submarine.

Let’s take a look at the specific duties of the SECF rates are and life is like on a day-to-day basis.

Electronics Technician – Communications (ETR)

Electronics Technician – Communications (ETR) specialize in communication systems and are are assigned to multiple submarine classes.

ETRs are charged with repairing, tuning, calibrating, maintaining, and adjusting all electronic equipment used for communications onboard the submarine. 

At sea, the Electronics Technician monitor and operate computer and computer-controlled systems. 

These include printers, transceivers, receivers, and data storage devices.

On a day-to-day basis, the Electronics Technician – Communication (ETR) is charged with:

  • Operation of printers, data storage devices, transceivers, and receivers under senior personnel supervision.
  • Safe maintenance and use of portable power tools and hand tools.
  • monitoring and operating computer-controlled systems and computers while at sea.
  • Adjusting, maintaining, repairing, calibrating, and tuning all communications-related electronic equipment.
  • Operating underwater communications equipment.
ETSN (SS) Waller secures an access panel on the sail of the USS Albany (SSN 753). (Source: U.S. Navy/MC1 Schaffer)

ETRs are automatically advanced to E-4 (PO3) after successful completion of initial school training and all advancement-in-rate requirements are completed.

The Sea/Shore rotation for an Electronics Technician – Communication (ETR) is:

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour54 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour42 Months (3 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fourth Tour36 Months (3 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)

Note that some overseas assignments count as sea tours.

The Navy COOL website reports that placement opportunities are good for the 1,100 ETRs serving in today’s Navy.

Electronics Technician – Navigation (ETV)

Electronics Technician – Navigation (ETV) are deployed to multiple classes of submarines.

The Navy ETV is responsible for electronic equipment utilized for conducting and preparing for basic submarine piloting and navigation evolutions.

On a day-to-day basis, the Electronics Technician – Navigation (ETV):

  • monitors and operates Global Positioning and Inertial Navigation systems under the supervision of senior personnel.
  • safely maintains and utilizes portable power tools and hand tools.
  • operates ship control subsystems as well as atmosphere monitoring systems.
  • adjusts, maintains, repairs, tunes, and calibrates all electronic equipment used for navigation.
  • performs basic preventive maintenance on interior communications announcing circuits.
ETC(SS) Butts explains basic submarine command and control operations to a group of Navy Junior ROTC cadets during a tour of the USS Cheyenne (SSN 773). (Source: U.S. Navy/MC2 Gutridge)

ETVs are automatically advanced to E-4 (PO3) after successful completion of initial school training and all advancement-in-rate requirements are completed.

The Sea/Shore rotation for an Electronics Technician – Navigation (ETV) is:

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour42 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour36 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fourth Tour36 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)

Note that some overseas assignments count as sea tours.

The Navy COOL website reports that placement opportunities are good for the 1,100 ETVs serving in today’s Navy.

Fire Control Technician (FT)

Fire Control Technicians (FT) are specialized in combat systems and deploy aboard multiple classes of submarines.

They are charged by the Navy with the responsibility of operating and maintaining advanced electronic equipment utilized in the submarine weapon systems, in regards to underwater weapons and guided-missile systems.

FT3 Schrade, left, and GM3 Marable prepare to fire the shot line during an underway replenishment. (Source: U.S. Navy/PH1 Spain)

On a day-to-day basis, Fire Control Technicians (FT):

  • perform testing of submarine combat control systems.
  • safely maintain and use portable power tools and hand tools.
  • maintain and operate non-tactical computer systems and associated peripherals.
  • take part in weapons handling functions.
  • submarine combat control systems operations.
  • maintain and operate combat control systems and associated systems.
  • calibrate, adjust, maintain, repair, and tune all combat systems-related electronic equipment.
  • basic maintenance and operation support of submarine weapon control systems.
  • conduct intermediate and level maintenance on submarine combat control systems associated with combat control systems test equipment.

FTs are automatically advanced to E-4 (PO3) if they agree to extend their enlistment one additional year.

The Sea/Shore rotation for a Fire Control Technician (FT) is:

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour54 Months (4.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour42 Months (3.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour36 Months (3.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fourth Tour36 Months (3 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)

Note that some overseas assignments count as sea tours.

The Navy COOL website reports that placement opportunities are good for the 1,100 FTs serving in today’s Navy.

Sonar Technician Submarines (STS)

Sonar Technician Submarines (STS) are specialized in combat systems and deploy aboard multiple classes of submarines.

They are charged by the Navy with the responsibility of operating and maintaining advanced electronic equipment utilized in the submarine weapon systems, in regards to underwater weapons and guided-missile systems.

On a day-to-day basis, Sonar Technicians Submarines (STS):

  • perform testing of scientific data collection and underwater surveillance systems.
  • tune, maintain, calibrate, adjust, and repair all electronic equipment utilized for scientific data collection and underwater surveillance.
  • conduct intermediate and organizational maintenance on scientific data collection systems, equipment, and associated combat control systems test equipment.
  • safe maintenance and operation of portable power tools and hand tools.
  • scientific data collection and underwater surveillance basic maintenance and operation support.
  • combat control systems (and associated systems) maintenance and operations.
  • scientific data collection systems and underwater surveillance operations.
STS2 (SS) Williams takes sonar readings aboard the USS Newport News (SSN 750).  (Source: U.S. Navy/MC3 Morris)

The Sea/Shore rotation for a Sonar Technician Submarine (STS) is:

TourSea TourShore Tour
First Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Second Tour48 Months (4 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Third Tour36 Months (3.5 Years)36 Months (3 Years)
Fourth Tour36 Months (3.5 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)

Note that some overseas assignments count as sea tours.

The Navy COOL website reports that placement opportunities are good for the 1,100 STSs serving in today’s Navy.

How Much Are Navy SECF Sailors Paid?

Like the other Armed Services, the Navy bases a sailor’s pay on their rank and length of service.

InsigniaPay GradeRankAbbreviation2019 Pay (monthly)
N/AE-1Seaman RecruitSR$1,681
E-2Seaman ApprenticeSA$1,884
e-3 navy seamanE-3SeamanSN$1,981
petty officer third classE-4Petty Officer Third ClassPO3$2,195
petty officer second classE-5Petty Officer Second ClassPO2$2,394
petty officer first classE-6Petty Officer First ClassPO1$2,613
chief petty officerE-7Chief Petty OfficerCPO$3,021
senior chief petty officerE-8Senior Chief Petty OfficerSCPO$4,345
master chief petty officerE-9Master Chief Petty OfficerMCPO$5,308
command master chief petty officerE-9Command Master Chief Petty OfficerCMDCM$5,429
master chief petty officer of the navyE-9Master Chief Petty Officer Of The NavyMCPON$5,580

All sailors may be entitled to other forms of compensation including base allowance for housing (BAH), base allowance for subsistence (BAS), and billet pay (sea pay, submarine pay, hazardous duty pay, etc.) if eligible.

Rates in the SECF program are often eligible for enlistment/re-enlistment bonuses dependant on the current needs of the Navy.

Related Article: Navy Ranks And Pay For 2019

What’s Life Like for Sailors SECF Rates

As stated earlier, life as an SECF Sailor is challenging and, at times, stressful. 

There is much time spent at sea aboard the submarine and the hours are long. 

One reviewer claimed an average of 120 hour work weeks, adding “I loved it.”

Sailors in the SECF rate will be required to obtain their Submarine Warfare Specialist Pin (SS). 

The SS Pin is earned through qualification and broken down into qualification blocks or phases. 

These include:

  • Indoctrination/Damage Control Phase
  • Propulsion Phase
  • Auxiliary Systems Phase
  • Electronic Equipment and Navigation Phase
  • Combat Systems Phase

After successful completion of the qualification card/book, the sailor must face a “Qual Board” comprised of a submarine-qualified officer, a chief petty officer and a petty officer who “drill” the member with questions concerning the different systems on the shift, often asking them to draw and/or explain these systems.

If the board deems the sailor worthy, they recommend the SS qualification to the Commanding Officer. 

If the CO agrees with the board’s recommendation, the Sailor is presented their SS qualification and his service jacket updated to reflect such.

They are presented their Submarine Warfare Specialist Pin (SS), or “Dolphins” by the CO and allowed to wear on their uniform and use the SS after their rate (i.e., STS2(SS), or FT1(SS).

SS-qualified sailors are designated as “Qualified in Submarines” and are viewed with respect by their fellow sailors.

Job Reviews

Moreover, reviews on indeed.com are primarily positive:

Civilian Career Opportunities

Civilian career opportunities abound for SECF Sailors and include such jobs as:

  • Electrical/Electronic Repairers
  • Electro-Mechanical Technicians
  • Radio Operators
  • Electrical Engineering Technicians
  • Computer Operators
  • Electronics Engineers (except computer)
  • Inspectors, Testers, Sorter, Samplers, Weighers
  • Explosive Workers
  • Blasters
  • First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers

Sailors in the SCEF Program are encouraged to take full advantage of on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities, and educational opportunities offered and afforded them during their naval service.

Related ArticleDishonorable Discharge: Reasons, Consequences, And More

The United States Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) also allows NDs to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while on active duty.

Several national certifications, federal licenses, state licenses, and apprenticeships are available for departing ETRs, ETVs, FTs, and STSs.

If you are considering the US Navy, can meet the rigid qualifications, have the maturity required, feel confident in handling the training, long hours, and life aboard a submarine, a career in the Navy Submarine Electronics / Computer Field could just be for you.

References

Find A Navy Recruiter

Official Navy Submarine Electronics Careers Description

Navy Personnel Command Submarine Electronics Computer Field Overview

Navy COOL Summary For Fire Control Technician (FT)

Navy COOL Summary For Navy Electronics Technician, Submarine, Communications (ETR)

Navy COOL Summary For Navy Electronics Technician, Submarine, Navigation (ETV)

Navy COOL Summary For Navy Sonar Technician Submarine (STS)

Navy Cyberspace Overview of Submarine Electronics/Computer Field

Navy Fire Control Technician (FC) Reviews

Navy Electronics Technician (ETR/ETV) Reviews

Navy Sonar Technician (STS) Reviews

Travis R.

A St. Louis, Missouri native, Travis served eight years in the United States Navy. Duty stations include Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (AIRTEVRON ONE), NAS Patuxent River, MD, the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), Commander Second Fleet (COMSECONDFLT), and US Transportation Command, (USTRANSCOM) Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

After the Navy, Travis worked in the Information Technology sector for twenty-five years.

Connect with Travis @MichaelTRose.
Travis R.

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