Ready-for-Sea Handbook
United States Naval Reserve Intelligence Program


B. Commanding Officer 4-
C. Typical Carrier Departments 4-
1. Administrative Department 4-
2. Air Department 4-
3. Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) 4-
4. Chaplain Department 4-
5. Communications Department 4-
6. Deck Department 4-
7. Dental Department 4-
8. Engineering Department 4-
9. Maintenance Management Department 4-
10. Medical Department 4-
11. Navigation Department 4-
12. Operations Department 4-
13. Safety Department 4-
14. Supply Department 4-
15. Training Department 4-
16. Weapons Department 4-
D. Air Wing Organization 4-
1. Air Wing Commander (CAG) 4-
2. Deputy Air Wing Commander 4-
3. Operations Officer 4-
4. USW Operations Officer 4-
5. Air Intelligence Officer 4-
6. Maintenance Officer 4-
7. Weapons Officer 4-
8. Landing Signal Officers (2) 4-
9. Flight Surgeon 4-
10. Carrier Air Wing Intelligence Team 4-


Navy warships will of course vary in size and function. Most however, have similar organizational structures. For purposes of instruction, we will examine the organizational structure of the modern aircraft carrier as the largest expression of ship administration. Keep in mind that individual ships will incorporate different organizational structures.


When fully manned, an aircraft carrier is home to as many as 5,000 personnel—the size of a small city. Thinking of a carrier as a city is a useful way to understand its organization. At the top and comparable to a city’s mayor is the ship’s Commanding Officer (CO), who is ultimately responsible for the entire ship and the accomplishment of its assigned mission. Next in line and acting as city manager is the Executive Officer (XO). From the XO on down, the ship’s individual functions are handled by the ship’s company via different departments. These departments are in turn divided into divisions, each specialized in an area of the ship’s operation and mission.

The carrier battlegroup’s primary mission is power projection to targets ashore and at sea. The central element of the carrier’s offensive punch is its embarked air wing (CVW). The typical carrier air wing normally consists of nine squadrons, each with individual missions, which join the carrier while it is deployed.

B. Commanding Officer

The Commanding Officer of an aircraft carrier must satisfy two requirements: He must be an unrestricted line officer (which enables him to command at sea) and he must be a naval aviator. He is always the rank of Captain (O-6). Through his XO (who in most cases is also is a Captain), the CO runs the ship via its various departments.

C. Typical Carrier Departments

Typical carrier departments are listed below:

Typical Carrier Departments


Maintenance Management



Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance












Each department is further subdivided into divisions with personnel manning these divisions assigned to "Watches," "Sections," or both.

1. Administrative Department

The Administrative Department is responsible for maintaining all administrative data and paperwork necessary for the ship to function properly. These functions include data processing, as well as recreational, police, and postal services. This department is also responsible for operation of the ship’s Public Affairs Office as well as the onboard television and radio stations. This department typically handles personnel records, including visiting Naval Reserve personnel (see Module 1).

2. Air Department

The Air Department gives direct support to the embarked air wing. The Air Department is in charge of launching and landing aircraft, fueling, moving, and controlling fixed and variable wing aircraft. It is also responsible for the routine handling of aircraft on the flight deck and in the hangar bays. Note: Smaller vessels with embarked helicopter detachments should have some flavor of an Air Department, although it may be very small.

3. Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD)

The AIMD provides industrial level maintenance for the air wing and the ship’s ground support equipment.

4. Chaplain Department

Onboard the carrier, the Chaplain Department is dedicated to promoting the spiritual, religious and personal morale of embarked military personnel. The Chaplain Corps extends this mission to all military personnel and their dependents. The Chaplain Department also coordinates all personal emergency communications from the American Red Cross, provides pastoral care and counseling, and directs operation of the ship’s library. Smaller vessels may not have their own chaplain, especially if they are deployed with a CVBG. In these cases, a chaplain will fly from the carrier via helicopter to conduct services.

5. Communications Department

The Communications Department sends and receives messages to and from other ships, aircraft and shore facilities via various sophisticated electronic equipment. Such equipment includes computers, satellites, cryptographic devices, and high power transmitters and receivers.

6. Deck Department

The Deck Department is charged with the most traditional of nautical responsibilities. Enlisted Boatswain’s Mates (BM) maintain the exterior of the ship’s surfaces, anchor and moor the ship, man the rescue and assistance lifeboats, and monitor underway replenishment. The BMs’ most prevalent (and audible) duty is the "piping away" of different events over the ship’s intercom. This department is headed by the ship’s First Lieutenant (a job title, not to be confused with the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps rank of O-2).

7. Dental Department

The Dental Department provides comprehensive dental care, encompassing simple preventative care through emergency services for all embarked personnel. Note: Only large ships, such as carriers and amphibious warfare ships, have embarked Dental Departments. This department, along with Medical and Supply, are known as support departments.

8. Engineering Department

The Engineering Department maintains the ship’s power plants providing steam for propulsion and aircraft launch catapults. It also provides all life support systems, fresh water, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, hot water, electrical power, telephone service, and maintains the ship’s sewage system. The ship’s Chief Engineer, or "Cheng", heads this department.

9. Maintenance Management Department

The Maintenance Management Department is responsible for the scheduling and coordination for all off-ship maintenance (i.e., repairs at shipyards or dry docks) and planned organic maintenance ship-wide.

10. Medical Department

The Medical Department is responsible for maintaining the health of the crew, the treatment of sick and injured ship’s personnel, disease prevention and the promotion of good health ship-wide. The head of this department must be an officer of the Navy Medical Corps (MC). Additionally, the Medical Officer also advises the ship’s CO on ship’s hygiene and sanitation conditions. Smaller ships may not have an embarked Medical Officer in which case Hospital Corps personnel run the department under the administrative auspices of the Operations Department (see below).

11. Navigation Department

The enlisted navigation Quarter Masters (QMs) and the ship’s navigator brief the Commanding Officer and the Officer-of-the Deck (OOD) on the position of the ship, the direction of travel and the safest sea lanes to traverse. Computations are made using celestial navigation, electronic machinery and visual reports. The Navigation Department is also responsible for executing all military traditions, customs and honors onboard ship.

12. Operations Department

The Operations Department is responsible for collecting, cataloging, analyzing and distributing combat information vital to the accomplishment of the ship’s offensive and defensive missions. Heading this very important department is the ship’s Operations Officer, or "Ops." This individual is one of the busiest persons on the ship. Intelligence, photographic intelligence, local air traffic control, and missile system maintenance are types of services provided by this department. The ship’s intelligence officer and the CVIC spaces fall under this department on a carrier. On other ships, 3905 enlisted Intelligence Specialists and/or collateral duty intelligence officers fall under the Operations Department. As a reserve intelligence officer (1635) or enlisted Intelligence Specialist, you most likely will be assigned to this department during your AT-at-Sea. The Operations Department will be discussed in more detail in the next module.

13. Safety Department

The Safety Department is responsible for ongoing training and education programs, equipment dangers, procedural hazards, and accident prevention. It is found only on aircraft carriers. As mentioned earlier, a ship can be an extremely dangerous place to work (see Module 1). While onboard, constantly be aware of maintaining posted safety regulations and procedures.

14. Supply Department

The Supply Department is responsible for feeding and paying the ship’s crew, including the running of ship’s wardroom(s) and messing spaces. This department holds responsibility for the laundry and dry cleaning services, stores, barbershops, and recreation services. This department also stocks spare parts for underway ship and/or aircraft repairs. Heading this department is the ship’s Supply Officer, or "Suppo," a member of the Navy Supply Corps (SC). The Supply Officer may have assistants for disbursing, food service, ship’s store, or wardroom mess.

15. Training Department

The Training Department is responsible for the continued coordination of enlisted advancement exams, reenlistments and coordination of special schools. Training also handles general damage control and 3M training.

16. Weapons Department

The Weapons Department maintains and operates the ship’s various weapons systems. Personnel of the Weapons Department also assemble, test and maintain bombs, missiles, torpedoes and small weapons ammunition. On smaller ships, this department might fall under the administrative auspices of the Deck Department (see above).

D. Air Wing Organization

If assigned to a carrier or other vessel with embarked aircraft, it is important to familiarize yourself with their organization. It mirrors to a large extent, the ship’s organizational structure. The embarked aircraft squadrons retain their corporate identity and basic organization, but each squadron also supplies specific personnel, such as ship mess cooks, stewards, and laundry, to various departments listed above.

1. Air Wing Commander (CAG)

The CAG is directly responsible for the operational readiness and tactical performance of the air wing. He is responsible for the coordination and supervision of all activities of the embarked squadrons and detachments, and for the material readiness, communications, and intelligence functions of the air wing. The CAG does not fall directly under the carrier’s commanding officer. Rather, he is a co-commanding officer. Both the carrier CO and CAG report to the composite warfare commander under the CWC concept discussed earlier.

2. Deputy Air Wing Commander

The primary duty of the Deputy CAG is to assist the CAG, acting in effect as his executive officer. The Chief of Staff will ensure the activities and functions of the CAG staff adhere to the desires of the CAG.

3. Operations Officer

Responsible for supervising the training, operations, and readiness of all air wing squadrons. The Operations Officer standardizes operational procedures between squadrons, coordinates and develops operational contingency plans, and supervises the execution of those plans.

4. USW Operations Officer

Responsible for USW operations conducted by air wing assets. The USW Operations officer provides advice on the operational employment and training of the air wing USW squadrons.

5. Air Intelligence Officer

The Air wing Intelligence Officer is responsible for the collection, preparation, and dissemination of intelligence material needed by the CAG to plan and execute operations with air assets. He also directs and supervises the Mission Planning (MP) work center of CVIC.

6. Maintenance Officer

This individual is responsible for monitoring and coordinating the maintenance of air wing assets, and ensuring all necessary equipment and spare parts required by the squadrons is available. The Maintenance Officer also reports to the CAG regarding the impact on operational readiness by maintenance and material conditions in the squadrons.

7. Weapons Officer

Advises the CAG on loading, handling, and expenditure of the weapons employed by the air wing. This individual will assist the squadrons in all matters relating to weapons handling and employment.

8. Landing Signal Officers (2)

Two LSOs are normally assigned to the air wing. They coordinate with pilots to improve recovery (i.e., landing) operations and safety awareness.

9. Flight Surgeon

The Flight Surgeon provides medical care for the officers and men of the air wing. He is tasked with keeping the CAG informed of particular medical problems affecting the air wing.

10. Carrier Air Wing Intelligence Team

This group consists of the squadron intelligence officers and intelligence specialists assigned to the squadrons in the air wing. The Air wing Intelligence Officer is the leader of this team and as such is the Mission Planning Coordinator. All squadron intelligence personnel work in CVIC when embarked. That is, they integrate into a combined CV/CVW intelligence team. The Carrier Air Wing Intelligence Team provides direct support to the air wing with cyclic event briefs/debriefs, and in-flight aids in support of exercises and/or operations. Except for the TARPS officer, the members of this team also augment the SUPPLOT. The TARPS officer normally works in the Multi-Sensor Interpretation (MSI) area of CVIC.