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In Charge Of “Everything That Explodes”

Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. (January 29, 2024):  In this photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Hall, Sailors simulate loading a war shot torpedo into a surface vessel torpedo tube at Gunners Mate school. A Gunners Mate, or GM, is responsible for every type of weaponry aboard ship, from shot guns to guided missiles. If it shoots, it’s their gig.

These highly trained professionals are charged with securing all weaponry, repairing defense systems, and maintaining guided missile launchers. GMs are also experts at a multitude of small arms including shotguns, automatic riflespistols, and submachine guns. On the explosives side, GMs stow and maintain all bombs, portable and large-scale, along with mounted weapons systems and various rocketstorpedoes, and missiles. GMs also assist with operating shooting rangesarmories, and the storage and maintenance of arms.

To become a GM, a recruit must pass boot camp at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes followed by fifteen more weeks of specialized training at Class "A" Technical School. Here Sailors study electronics and the operation of launch systems and the torpedoes they will encounter aboard ship. After graduation, DMs may be assigned to a combat surface craft, a weapons installation, ordnance depot, or aviation activity in the U.S. or overseas.

The skills learned as a GM are highly prized in the civilian economy, especially in the mechanical and aviation industries. Navy technical and operational training as a Gunner's Mate can translate into credit hours toward a bachelor’s or associate degree through the American Council on Education.