By Betty Hernandez, Chief Ship’s Serviceman
Afloat Training Group Norfolk
The ship’s serviceman (SH) rating was established on October 1, 1943. Two years into World War II, the Navy had 2,381,116 personnel on active duty so one could understand why quality of life was a concern. The original documents outlining the rating establishment were not found, however, the following are listed facts from various training sources.
- The rating initially identified four specialty areas: barber (SSMB), laundryman (SSML), tailor (SSMT), and cobbler (SSMC). Subsequently, the store clerk (SC) was included as one of the specialty areas. SHs were identified in these specialty areas in paygrade as SH3 and above. Today, those services have been replaced by three jobs in the SH rating: barber, laundry operator, and retail operator.
- The reduced demand for shoe repair services led to the removal of the cobbler specialty.
- Accounting and records keeping for the service functions were considered a responsibility of the storekeepers until June 1969, when official training was provided to the SH community.
- Barbering has been one of the specialty areas since rating creation, but official training was not offered until 1971.
Today there are approximately 2,000 Sailors serving in the SH rating. SHs must be personable and enjoy working with people in a customer service environment. They work in diverse environments where they use financial and inventory software applications, receive, monitor and count funds received from ATMs and vending machines, operate coffee bar shops, and are involved in store operations. They also develop marketing strategies for ships stores, oversee sales and service operations, and provide morale funding to the ship’s morale recreation and welfare (MWR) department for the crew.
Under the new meritorious advancement program (MAP), many SHs have been handpicked for advancement by their commands. These opportunities are advancing future leaders that will carry on the traditions and history of the SH rating.