Swift Boat Sailors Memorial

Watch Assignments

Watches were manned when there was no perceived requirement for a higher state of readiness such as board & search or general quarters.

Underway, standing written orders from operational and administrative commanders typically specified that a minimum of three Swift Boat Sailors should be on watch.  We’ll look at three representative watch stations:

  • Helmsman
  • Look Out/Machine Gunner
  • Radio Operator. 

When radio speakers, microphones & controls were conveniently located in the pilot house, the watch stations of Helmsman and Radio Operator were sometimes combined.

 

Officer of the Deck

  • The senior Sailor on watch had responsibilities similar to that of an Officer of the Deck on a Destroyer.

Conning Officer

  • The Helmsman had responsibilities similar to that of the Conning Officer on a Destroyer. 

Helmsman

  • Comply with orders from the Officer in Charge, including night orders as applicable
  • Maneuver the boat (helm & throttle settings) consistent with mission & other orders
  • Monitor the performance of the engineering plant (through gages, engine noises, vibrations, Craft motion, etc.); respond to potential problems as appropriate
  • Maintain navigational awareness using appropriate charts (before assuming the watch), electronic navigational aids (such as radar & fathometer) and visual navigational aids (such as day shapes & night lighting)
  • Maintain night vision during hours of darkness
  • Use properly focused binoculars/night vision device if assigned
  • Act as lookout for given field of vision
  • Comply with good practices to avoid running aground or collision
  • As directed by the Officer in Charge, take steps to avoid detection of boat (e.g.: maintain darken craft at night; avoid silhouetting Craft at sunrise/sunset or moon rise/moon set from the perspective of known or assumed hostile positions ashore)
  • Make appropriate entries in the deck log
  • Help keep fellow watch standers awake & focused
  • When in doubt, call the Officer in Charge.

Look Out

  • Comply with orders from the Officer in Charge, including night orders as applicable
  • Maintain navigational awareness using appropriate charts (before assuming the watch)and other visual navigational aids (such as day shapes & night lighting)
  • Maintain night vision during hours of darkness
  • Use properly focused binoculars/night vision device if assigned
  • Comply with good practices to avoid running aground or collisions
  • As directed by the Officer in Charge, take steps to avoid detection of boat (e.g.: maintain darken craft at night)
  • Be cognizant of the fact that as the Watch Stander highest in the Craft, the Look Out had the longest visual horizon (360 degrees) & the only visual view aft; search & report accordingly
  • Be cognizant of the fact that as the Watch
    Stander outside the Pilot House/Cabin, the Look Out potentially had the best opportunity to make visual and olfactory (smell) detections; search & report accordingly
  • Make appropriate entries in the deck log
  • Help keep fellow watch standers awake & focused
  • When in doubt, call the Officer in Charge.
  • Machine Gunner
  • Maintain machine guns (and other weapons at hand) in assigned state of readiness; ensure machine gun timing & head spacing are properly set
  • Ensure ammunition is available and appropriately staged
  • Ensure weapons safety
  • To the extent possible, alert Officer in Charge before operating machine guns (or other weapons at hand)
  • As necessary operate machine guns (or other weapons at hand)in accordance with rules of engagement and other directives

Radio Operator

  • Comply with orders from the Officer in Charge, including night orders as applicable
  • Maintain navigational awareness using appropriate charts
  • Maintain night vision during hours of darkness (consistent with lighting required to operate & troubleshoot radios)
  • Use properly focused binoculars/night vision device if assigned
  • Guard & monitor assigned radio circuits
  • Monitor communications propagation; inform the Officer in Charge as appropriate
  • Respond to radio calls
  • Make radio reports as directed
  • Inform Officer in Charge of any radio traffic requiring the use of Communications Security (COMSEC) Material (such as coded messages or challenges & replies)
  • Make appropriate entries in the radio log
  • Help keep fellow watch standers awake & focused
  • When in doubt, call the Officer in Charge.