No one joins the Navy to be an escort, but a lot of people spend a lot of time doing it.
Escorts are little ships that accompany the big ones when they go to sea. If aircraft carriers were world famous rap artists, escorts would be the posse. They are the offensive linemen to the Peyton Mannings of the sea.
Frigates (when they exist), destroyers and cruisers are generally grouped into the escort class. Their job is to protect the “High Value Units.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together when it comes to figuring out who the heavies consider to be expendable. They are the red shirts that go with Captain Kirk to the alien planet, if you know what I mean.
When Strike Groups deploy, the high value units are surrounded not only by destroyers and cruisers, but also by submarines.
I have even seen a Coast Guard cutter in formation, which makes sense since the Coast Guard’s job is to protect, and that is what escorts do.
A subset of escort duty is what is known as plane guard duty. One small boy is stationed less than a mile behind the carrier during flight operations to pick up anyone who falls in the water. It is intense and fast paced duty, but really important to overall safety.
The key to any successful military operation is establishing good communication between the organizations involved, and escort duty is no different. With it, all parties know what the others are doing. Without it, escort duty can devolve into chaos.
And this is where the Achilles heel of escort and plane guard duty begins, because while destroyers know exactly where the aircraft carriers are at all times, the aircraft carriers have no idea where the destroyers are, nor do they care. Escorts are annoying gnats to the capital ships’ bridge teams, and are not worth the effort it takes to notify them of any unplanned course changes. The only time the carrier regards the escorts as worth noticing at all is when they can be used to insert themselves in the path of incoming torpedoes.
But to many, being on a small boy is rewarding and challenging, and there is no other place they would rather be. They know their jobs are important even if the carriers don’t, and besides…
Someone has to pick up the trash, so it might as well be them.