Why the US Navy Blue Jacket’s Manual is the Perfect Addition to Your Bookshelf - ITS Tactical

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Why the US Navy Blue Jacket’s Manual is the Perfect Addition to Your Bookshelf

By Rob Henderson

I’m an avid reader and am always looking for the next book to draw me in, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Lately, I’ve been delving into a lot of technical publications, like manuals and how-to guides and I jumped at the chance when Bryan offered to let me read the Blue Jacket’s Manual he was issued in the Navy.

The Blue Jacket’s Manual is the basic handbook for US Navy personnel and it covers over twenty different topics that sailors need to know. While I never joined the military and don’t currently have plans to sign up, I still thought it would be interesting to see what all the manual covered.

What I discovered is that while this manual is geared toward preparing sailors for duty, it’s also a treasure trove of information for anyone that practices skill-sets like knot tying, navigation, firearms, or first aid. In this article, I’ll be highlighting some great information I discovered in the manual and why it’s a must have for not only upcoming sailors, but prepared civilians as well.

Always Read the Manual

The manual opens with a great introduction to the US Navy that walks the reader through everything from the structure of the organization, to what what a sailor can expect upon enlistment. From there, it moves into the Navy’s heritage and the scope of what the Navy does. As a civilian, these sections gave me some great insight into the Navy and an appreciation for the complexity of an organization that size.

Much of the information contained in the manual deals with ranks, insignia and things that many people would consider only useful for someone joining up. However, I think there are great deal of lessons that can be transposed into civilian life. The structure and organization of the military provides a basis for any operation.

One of the things that’s relied on heavily in the military is the chain of command. The structure of the chain of command provides accountability and a clear definition of where to take any problems you experience. The leadership lessons in the manual offer great advice for things like giving feedback and ensuring that subordinates understand what’s expected of them.

Practical Knowledge

In addition to non-tangible skills like leadership and communication, the Blue Jacket’s Manual provides information on a variety of physical skills like knot tying, navigation and first aid. The benefit to civilians with a manual like this is that it contains the distillation of all the trial and error the Navy went through to get to this basic information.

They’ve spent millions of dollars on training programs and literature to create the ultimate how-to on being in the Navy. A byproduct of this is that the skills offered in the manual have been tested and proven to work. While it might not always be the most high speed, lightweight method, anything shown in this manual has been proven in both training and combat situations. With much of the industry being focused on getting “Military Grade” or “Mil-Spec” gear, why should your training manuals be any different?

The navigation section of the manual is one I read through multiple times. It highlights different methods of navigating and stresses the importance of always having multiple methods. Navigation is one of those skills that when done correctly doesn’t really dazzle anyone. After all, it’s getting from point A to point B. However, failing to navigate properly, especially in an emergency situation, could mean the difference between life and death.   

One section in particular stuck out to me that I wouldn’t have expected and that’s the cleaning section; mostly dealing with cleaning performed when living on a ship. The underlying philosophy behind the section is that if you’re constantly cleaning and maintaining both your quarters and equipment, it’s much less likely to fail on you.

My favorite portion of this section deals with “Field Days,” which I’m sure brings back a rush of memories for any Veterans reading this. A Field Day is when all hands turn up to clean inside and out; covering everything on the ship. This includes corners, fixtures and places that may get missed with standard cleaning. I’ve begun to adopt more of a proactive cleaning schedule after reading this manual and I’ve definitely planned my own personal Field Day at home in the near future.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

At over 640 pages, the US Navy Blue Jacket’s Manual is definitely not a short read and I’d say it’s impossible to get the full amount of information on your first read through. This is a book that’s meant to be dogeared and worn in. It’s meant to quickly reference a lesson or a skill and the layout and organization of the manual makes this a breeze. One small thing that stuck out to me the most about the manual itself is the position of the page numbers. They run about halfway up the page and from a design perspective, it makes finding the exact page you’re searching for very quick.

All in all, I feel like this manual is something that I’ll continue to read through many times over the years. I’ve already learned and applied several lessons in both my personal and professional life that have helped in organization and purpose. While you might not be looking to ship out with the Navy anytime soon, I’d still highly recommend adding this book to your bookshelf.

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Discussion

  • Jhavard

    Wow, this is a cool article and it looks like an interesting book. What it seems like you were getting at is that the book is a framework for a particular skill and you can built off of it. Thanks for posting this!

  • If anyone is interested, The Coast Guardsman’s Manual is a good read as well. Prior to 1952, Coasties used the Blue Jackets Manual. Nowadays, every Coastie is issued the book at boot camp.

  • Adrian Iglesia

    Thanks for posting this! Being in the Navy (currently a recruiter) I have referenced this book countless times. It is a very underrated book, and many junior sailors overlook its potential. I hope you find many uses for it! Hooyah!

  • Tom Schuckman

    My Dad was a Navy SeaBee, and wounded in Saipan–WW-2, and I read and memorized much of his BJM as a teenager… but I joined the Army, and did 2–tours in Vietnam: 68-70, as a “door gunner,” –Huey’s. Still, I learned so much from Dad’s Blue Jacket Manual ! My Blog: TOM’S JOURNAL. My email: [email protected] –Jesus is Lord — —Tommy Schuckman

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