The Navy Petty Officer, or non-commissioned officer, is the backbone of the United States Navy, standing between the junior enlisted ranks and the officer corps. The petty officer ranks are divided into six increasing higher ranks, from E-4 through E-9. The E-7 through E-9 are part of the Chief Petty Officer designation, and they are traditionally considered separately from the lower ranking petty officer. A Petty Officer 1, or E-6, is normally given a considerable amount of direct supervisory control over junior personnel.
Leadership and administrative responsibilities
According to the Military Requirements for 1st Class Petty Officer, the main job of the petty officer is "to evaluate and prioritize division jobs daily.” Petty Officer 3s and Petty Officer 2s are usually responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the junior sailors, seeing that they have their workday scheduled with meaningful activity.
The Petty Officer 1 is considered the expert in the division for job knowledge and ability. They handle the more demanding aspects of the division work, and the junior petty officers do the more routine tasks that require less experience.
Often, the Petty Officer 1 is the senior trainer for the division. By the time they've reached this rank, they generally have six to fourteen years of experience, and their day-to-day professional work keeps them abreast of the problems likely to be encountered. Petty Officer 3s and Petty Officer 2s usually handle training the junior sailors in basic skills.
Unlike the Army and Air Force, the Navy mid-enlisted ranks are not divided into technical specialists and military specialists. The Navy petty officer is supposed to be equally adept at both sides. A petty officer assigned aboard a ship is expected to meet all the requirements for becoming Surface Warfare Qualified. They are also assigned a specific task to do when the ship is at General Quarters, or ready for battle. Many times, this is with a damage control team, but there are numerous other needs for which seasoned petty officers may be responsible.
Navy tradition has always demanded a well-disciplined crew. The petty officers are almost always the first in the chain of command. Junior petty officers are responsible for seeing that problems are solved at the lowest level, and senior petty officers are responsible for judging whether or not to take a problem to the next higher level. First Class Petty Officers may discipline their subordinates with extra military instruction or extra work within the division.