Medical Officer's Guide to the Navy

Reporting Aboard

Reporting aboard a navy ship is almost ceremonial. There are certain steps to take before actually getting to the department. You will need the following: military ID card, orders stamped original, medical records, and dental records. Ask your sponsor what the uniform of the day will be. In the summer it is typically whites, winter is typically service dress blues.

Every navy ship is on a pier that is guarded. To get through the gate, you will need an ID. Most larger ships will have two gangways (bridges from the pier to the ship)- one for officers and one for the crew. Be sure to use the correct one.

From 0800 until sunset (taps), walk up the gangway, stop about ¾ of the way, turn to the stern of the ship and salute the national ensign. Continue to the quarterdeck. Present your ID card to the officer of the deck and “request permission to come aboard”. If the flag is not flying (i.e. after evening colors), do not stop, instead proceed directly to the quarterdeck. If you are not in uniform, stop ¾ of the way and come briefly to attention (do not salute).

When initially reporting aboard, you will be asked to state your business. Present your orders and tell the OOD you are reporting aboard today as the new ship’s surgeon. The OOD will call medical for an escort.

When leaving the ship (on liberty or for business), do the reverse. Present your ID to the OOD and state, “I have permission to go ashore”. Stop ¼ down the gangway, turn to the ship’s stern and salute the ensign if in uniform (if not, just pause briefly at attention). If the flag is no longer flying (i.e. taps has sounded), just proceed off the gangway without stopping.

The navy is very fluid. Meaning, you might report aboard your ship with it being at sea. Every time a ship with 5,500 sailors departs for sea, some people are left behind. Reasons vary from medical issues to being close to retirement or separation from the navy. Whatever the reason, there will always be representatives of the ship that function as support personnel (beach detachment) to handle all administrative details.

The beach detachment is responsible for getting you out to the ship. It may not always be a direct route, though. Depending on where in the world your ship is, you may need to fly to another country, first, then take a COD flight out to the ship.

You will likely fly out to the ship wearing civilian clothes Space onboard COD flights is very limited. You may want to mail extra items ahead (books, etc...). The beach detachment should be expecting you as the the surgeon you are relieving cannot leave until you arrive!

Getting Around

Reporting to a new command can be a little stressful, especially if this is the first time aboard a navy ship.Navy ships that require surgeons are extremely large.The newest aircraft carriers have over 20 floors (levels and decks by navy terms) with a flight deck that is over 1100 feet in length.The ship’s full complement is over 5,500 men and women when the air wing is attached.Housing that many people alone is quite a feat, let alone, housing 100 aircraft, maintenance equipment, 2 reactor plants, 3 wardrooms, 3 mess decks, etc.

With the ship being so large, it is important to learn some items about shipboard navigation.  To begin with, port is the left side of the ship, spaces are even numbered, and its associated color is red (navigation lights). The right side of the ship is starboard, spaces are odd numbered, and the associated color is green.





General Quarters

1.  Port



Up Ladder


2.  Starboard



Down Ladder



The different floors on the ship are in reference to the main deck (on a carrier the main deck is the hangar bay).  Floors above the main deck are referred to as levels.  They are written with a leading "O".  Floors below the main deck are referred to as decks- "3rd deck".  In order to provide exact locations (or addresses) for equipment or damage control efforts, each space on the ship has an associated fram number.  You will see the frame number posted on a sign (AKA "bulls eye") which glows should you lose lighting.  Here is an example of a "bulls eye" and how to read it 2-117-0-L

2        2nd deck

117    frame number 117

0          on the midline

L      Living space  

The 3rd place tells you how far off the midline the space is and to which side (rememberport is even and starboard is odd).  1 would be the first frame to the right of midline, 3 would be the second, 5 is the third, and so on.  Ask your damage control petty officer for a listing of all the different types of spaces (4th place).

Ask the corpsmen to show you around the spaces. Pay particular attention to exits and to emergency equipment. Should you lose lighting, the spaces become quite dark.It is imperative that you know your way around the ship!  They may blindfold you and insist that you find your way out!