NAVY BOATSWAIN'S MATES
"Bosun Mates" (Boatswain Mates) are assigned most of the "classic" seamanship tasks on a Navy vessel. For example, they supervise the handling of mooring lines when leaving port and mooring (done wrong, the lines can snap and cut you in half). They know how to rig a tow line in an emergency. They drop the anchors, and haul them back up (very noisy and dangerous work) They operate the ships boats (which might be one or two, or as many as 20, depending on the type of ship). On certain ships, like Cruisers or Destroyers, they also run the flight deck, where the helicopters operate.
They work in "deck division" and usually provide most of the watchstanders on the bridge, such as the helmsman (who steers) and the lookouts, and of course the 'Boatswain's Mate of the Watch" BMOW, who talks on the 1MC and pipes various calls during the day (like for meals, etc). While they are not very numerous or necessarily respected on smaller ships, on larger amphibious ships there are MANY more of them and they play a huge role in what the ship does. Deck division is also assigned almost all of the "housekeeping" tasks like cleaining and painting the outside of the ship. Fresh air and manual labor are a very big part of the Bosun's day. (unlike a lot of other rates) The Boatswain's Mate rating is abbreviated BM, and does not have any requirements (in terms of ASVAB scores, etc), and Deck division is where most sailors go after boot camp IF they come to a ship WITHOUT an advanced school. If you don't have an advanced school (like an A or C school that trains you to be another rate, like an ET, Electronics Tech), then you are a "non-rate" and you either become a SN (Seaman) in deck, or a FN (Fireman) and work down in the engine rooms. BM's are often referred to as "Deck Apes" by other ratings who think they are smarter based on their schools, but this is not really the point. BM's do a variety of difficult tasks, for example, the Master Helmsman, who steers the ship during the most critical times, is almost always a Bosun Mate. Running the flight deck, or operating small boats is a very challenging task. The ship's "rescue swimmer" is usually from Deck division, and he is like a coast guard rescue swimmer. Also, the team that rescues you if you fall overboard, and the one who will (hopefully) see you if you do and sound the alarm... all Seamen or Boatswains mates! Lastly, BMs learn to do a variety of cool things with rope and canvas, making weird knots and doing decorative awnings, etc for the ship's quarterdeck. If you are a BM for two years, you would just be getting started, and would perhaps, if you were responsible, get to lead small groups of younger sailors in completing tasks like painting or maintenance. As you got to more like the 5-7 year point, you would be an LPO or Leading Petty Officer with real serious responsibilities, like being rig captain for underway replenishment, where if you make a mistake, people can die. You would learn a lot of classic seamanship stuff that would be useful if you were going to work on a ship somewhere, and you would do more practical leadership at a younger age than in most other rates, where even senior petty officers often only sit in chairs all day, fixing gadgets or standing watch (as opposed to leading). Lastly, if you want to, depending on the needs of your ship and your abilities, you can "strike" from deck division out to some other division and basically change your rate to something else. This is easier to do if you are still a SN (non-rate), but can be done as a BM.