Face of Defense: Sailors Handle Variety of Tasks
By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nathanael Miller
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command
ARABIAN GULF, Jan. 19, 2011 Armed with scissors, clippers, keys to the ship's store and laundry detergent, the sailors who wear the crossed quill and key of the ship's serviceman, or SH, rating badge provide a multitude of services to the crew of amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Harlan Jones, clad in a black barber's smock and awaiting his next customer, said the ship's serviceman rating brings a variety of services to Ponce.
"Ship's servicemen provide services to the crew, generally anything other than what the culinary specialists provide and general parts the logistical specialists provide," he explained. Culinary specialists provide food service for the crew, while logistical specialists are responsible for all supply matters, but a gap still exists, Jones added, and the ship's serviceman rating fills that gap.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Harlan Jones, a ship’s serviceman, trims Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Smith's hair in the barber shop aboard amphibious transport dock USS Ponce in the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 22, 2010. USS Ponce is part of Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nathanael Miller
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"We run the barber shop, ship's store, and laundry all at once,” Jones said. “There's an SH in every one of them," he said.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Chandler noted that sailors require several skill sets to be successful in handling the rating’s diverse responsibilities. Security, laundry, sales, retail management and barber services are some of the skills a sailor must master to qualify, he said.
One example of the daily challenges ship's servicemen face is keeping the ship's store stocked. "You can never know exactly how much you need in the ship's store," Chandler said. "You're constantly going up there to check up on it."
Although the ship's laundry is not as labor-intensive as the ship's store or barber shop, it is just as critical to the crew’s readiness. Even though Ponce has a "self service" laundry, a ship's serviceman has to man the space to ensure the machines are functioning and assist shipmates if there is a problem. Noting that clean uniforms are as much a part of daily hygiene and sanitary living conditions at sea as daily showers are, Jones said the ship’s laundry affects more than morale. The crew’s health can be at stake as well, he explained.
In the ship's barber shop with their clippers buzzing and scissors snipping, ship's servicemen help to keep their shipmates' hair within standards and boost morale at the same time.
"I love being able to help people out," Jones said. "There are little things about your self-esteem that start when you wake up in the morning. You look at yourself in the mirror, and if you have a messed-up haircut that takes a little bit off. Those little things start to turn into bigger things as you go along during the day."
With the broad range of duties required, the ship's servicemen stay busy. Their efforts affect readiness as well as morale. Whether it's keeping the laundry running, selling candy in the ship's store or chatting with shipmates while cutting hair, the ship's servicemen said, they provide a valuable service to the fleet.