U.S.S. Little Rock
CL 92 / CLG 4 / CG 4

* * * The QM Rating * * *

QM Badge  

QM Quartermaster

Page last updated: 23 January, 2018

General Info:

In the modern navy, a quartermaster is a petty officer who specializes in navigation. The rating abbreviation is QM, and the symbol used for the rating and worn on the uniform is a ship's wheel.

Quartermaster is one of the few ratings for which billets exist in just about every type of Navy ship.  Quartermasters stand watch as assistants to officers of the deck and the navigator. They serve as helmsman as well as perform various ship control, navigation and bridge watch duties.

The QM's "Art"

Although modern navigation
is done "electronically" using GPS,
Loran, radar, etc. the QM's "art"
still demands proficiency with the
sextant. Here the navigator is taking
a "noon sight" which will determine
the ship's latitude.
Officer with Sextant

What They Do:

QMs are responsible for procuring, correcting, using and stowing the ship's navigational and oceanographic publications and oceanographic charts. In addition they maintain the ship's navigational instruments, keep correct navigational time; render "honors and ceremonies" in accordance with national observance and foreign customs; send and receive visual messages; and may also serve as petty officers in charge of tugs, self-propelled barges and other yard and district craft.

The nature of the Quartermaster's work depends on the type of ship to which he is assigned. Aboard carriers, cruisers, and other deep draft ships, the Quartermaster force is likely to be quite large, with the senior Quartermaster spending much of his time on administrative duties and supervision. Aboard medium size ships, the senior Quartermaster is often the assistant to the navigator, and may spend most of his time in actual navigational duties. On very small ships, the senior Quartermaster usually is the navigator's assistant, and may also be responsible for supervision of the ship's signal force.


    ASVAB Score:   VE+AR=96

    Must have normal color perception.

    Security Clearance, (SECRET) Requirement.

    Must be U.S. citizen.

    Visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20.

Technical Training Information

Enlistees are taught the fundamentals of this rating through on-the-job training and formal Navy schooling. Advanced technical and operational training is available in this rating during later stages of career development.

Great Lakes, IL --40 calendar days

Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to operate electronic navigation equipment. They will be able to conduct weather observations, determine compass and gyro error, compute tide and tidal current data, keep logs and records, determine their ship's position by visual and electronic means, compute times of sunrise and sunset; and follow the nautical rules-of-the-road to prevent collisions at sea.

After "A" school, USN Quartermasters are assigned to all types of ships. TAR QMs are assigned to NRF ships in CONUS. Upon completion of sea tours, TAR QMs will be assigned to reserve centers across the country including the heartland. While assigned to reserve centers TAR QMs will train and administer Selected Reserve Personnel. During a 20 year period in the Navy, QMs spend about 60 percent of their time assigned to fleet units and 40 percent to shore stations.

From the Quartermaster 1 & C Manual:

Quartermaster is one of the few ratings for which billets exist in virtually all types of Navy ships, from the largest to the smallest--both surface craft and submarines. The nature of the First Class or Chief Quartermaster's work depends mainly on the type of ship to which he is assigned. Aboard carriers, cruisers, and other deep draft ships, the Quartermaster force is likely to be quite large; the senior Quartermaster spends much of his time on administrative duties and supervision. Aboard meduim size ships, the senior Quartermaster frequently is the assistant to the navigator, and most of his time is taken up in actual navigational duties. Aboard very small ships, the senior Quartermaster usually is the navigator's assistant, and may have the additional responsibility of supervising the ship's signal force. At the first class and chief level, Quartermasters may also be assigned to sea duty as petty officer in charge of tugboats or other types of yard craft.

Working Environment:

Quartermasters usually work in a clean, air-conditioned electronic equipment space or the ship's bridge/pilot house, and frequently perform their work as part of a team, but may work on individual projects. Their work is mostly mental analysis and problem solving. USN QMs are stationed primarily aboard USN deploying ships, TAR QMs are stationed aboard Naval Reserve Force (NRF) ships that deploy or conduct local operations.

General Rating

QM  Quartermaster (1902 - Present)

Service (Specialty) Ratings

Quartermaster Dirigible
Quartermaster Listening
Quartermaster Navigation
Quartermaster Pigeon
Quartermaster Quartermaster
Quartermaster Signal

Note 1.  After 2003, the U.S. Navy disestablished the Signalman (SM) rating and incorporated many of the personnel and their responsibilities into the QM rating.

Note 2.   At one time the Quartermaster rate, along with Gunner's Mate, Cook, and Boatswain's Mate were the oldest rates in the Navy. These were considered "right-arm" rates. Right Arm Rates which were disestablished on 02 April 1949, originally signified men of the Seaman branch. During WWII these rates included Boatswains Mate, Turret Captain, Signalman, Gunners Mate, Fire Controlman, Quartermaster, Mineman, and Torpedomans Mate. Other ratings wore rates on the left sleeve.

Note 3: In the U.S. Army, the term "Quartermaster" is used to describe all supply personnel and units that are part of the Quartermaster Corps.

Note 4: Pirate quartermasters (from wikipedia.org.)

Through a historical oddity, pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy elevated the rank of quartermaster to much higher powers and responsibilities than it had aboard any merchant or naval vessel.

Pirate quartermasters, like pirate captains, were usually elected by their crews. The quartermaster ranked higher than any officer aboard the ship except the captain himself, and could veto the captain's decisions whenever the ship was not chasing a prize or engaged in battle. The quartermaster also was chiefly responsible for discipline, assessing punishments for crewmen who transgressed the articles. It was generally also the quartermaster's responsibility to lead the pirate boarding party when coming aboard another ship. Several quartermasters, notably Calico Jack Rackham, succeeded to command and became captains in their own right after the previous captain was killed or deposed.

Although a minority of pirate scholars dismiss the accepted version of the pirate quartermaster's importance, it is well supported by the extant secondary sources such as Charles Johnson, Cordingly and Botting, and overwhelmingly borne out by the primary sources, including Ringrose, Dampier, Snelgrave, Trott, and George Roberts.

Quartermasters in Action

Gee I Wish I Were A Man Poster

"Gee, I Wish I Were A Man!"
by Howard Chandler Christy

Note that the Sailor is a Quartermaster and
displays her rate on the right arm.

USS Little Rock Bridge

The Bridge of the USS Little Rock after shipmate
QM2 George Thomas finished with the brightwork.
George accomplished this while participating in the
2007 Little Rock Association Workparty.

Links to other Quartermaster Websites:


Comments from the Crew
Ron Berardino QM2

CPO Mess to the Bridge

Came on board as an SA.   Mess cooked in the CPO Mess until I convinced Chief Olsen I wanted to be a Quarter Master.

Left the Little Rock as QM2.

It was the Best Time, but never know it until it's past. The guys, the places we went!

I've been back to the Rock 3 times. Might try this JULY 2007.

Were you a QM on the Little Rock?
We'd like your input memories and comments.
Add your story to the Message Board under the
"What Did YOU Do On the Little Rock" postings.

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