Navy Job: Aviation Boatswain's Mate - Equipment (ABE)

These sailors oversee equipment used by Navy aircraft

Aviation boatswain's mates refuel an AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft.
••• Philippine Sea, September 20, 2012 - Aviation boatswain's mates refuel an AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft on the flight deck aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during flight operations. Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Aviation Boatswain's Mates help launch and recover the Navy's aircraft, which includes preparing and fueling planes for take-off and landing. Boatswain's mate is one of the oldest of all the Navy's ratings (jobs), having been part of this branch of the U.S. military since its inception in 1775.

The Aviation Boatswain's Mate rating was established in 1944. 

There are several different categories of Boatswain's Mates, which are separated by their specific duties. The Boatswain's Mate- Equipment (ABE) is responsible, as the name suggests, for overseeing equipment used in naval aviation.

Duties of Navy ABEs

These sailors conduct organizational maintenance on hydraulic and steam catapults, barricades, arresting gear and arresting gear engines. They operate equipment such as catapult launch and arresting consoles, firing panels, water brakes, blast deflectors and cooling panels.

And like all Aviation Boatswain's Mates in the Navy, ABE's also perform a variety of other duties related to launching and recovery of aircraft.

Working Environment for Navy ABEs

Most of the work in this rating is performed outdoors on the deck of aircraft carriers, in all weather conditions, in fast-paced and often potentially hazardous environments. ABEs work closely with others in aviation ratings.

Training and Qualifying for Navy ABEs

After basic training (boot camp) at Great Lakes in Illinois, these sailors spend 39 calendar days in A-school (technical training) in Pensacola, Florida. 

To be eligible for this rating, recruits need a combined score of 184 on the verbal (VE), arithmetic (AR), math knowledge (MK) and auto and shop information (AS) segments of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests.

There's no Department of Defense security clearance required for this rating, but you must have vision correctable to 20/20 and normal color perception (no colorblindness). This is one of the ratings where a waiver of the vision requirements is not permitted. 

You'll also need to have normal hearing, which means the average hearing threshold level in frequencies of 3000hz 4000hz 5000hz 6000hz must be less than 30db, with no level greater than 45db in any one frequency. If the hearing level exceeds these limits, you won't qualify for this rating.

As with all jobs in the Navy and other branches of the U.S. military, promotions in this rating are linked to its staffing level. Sailors in undermanned ratings will thus have more potential opportunity for promotions than those in undermanned ratings. 

Sea/Shore Rotation for Navy ABEs

  • First Sea Tour: 60 months
  • First Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Second Sea Tour: 60 months
  • Second Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Third Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Third Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Fourth Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Forth Shore Tour: 36 months

Sea tours and shore tours for sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea followed by 36 months ashore until retirement.

ABE is a sea-intensive community. Manning conditions at sea may require the need to request sea tour extension or shore tour curtailments to ensure all sea duty billets are filled.