The Communications Department is charged with the responsibility for all external communications, visual, as well as radio. NEWPORT NEWS is frequently on the move, operating in conjunction with other ships, sister services, and on many occasions, armed forces of other countries. To accomplish its tasks the Department must speak to these forces. The voice of command is Communications. As the tempo and complexity of operations have increased over the years, so have the requirements for more rapid, more secure and more accurate communications. Although visual signals with flashing light and signal flags, semaphores and infra-red continue to play an important role in naval communications, the principle means of transmitting words from one command to another is radio. NEWPORT NEWS is equipped with the most modern transmitting, receiving, and teletype equipment available in the Navy today. Communication by voice, morse code, and teletype is accomplished by some 30 transmitters and 60 receivers which cover the entire radio frequency spectrum from a low 300 KHZ to the highest 400MHZ. The teletype equipment is capable of handling enough words to fill more than 5 one-thousand page novels in a 24-hour period. In fact, during the first deployment to WestPac, the Communications Department established a new high of 1,285 messages handled during one 24-hour radio day. This number also set a record for the Naval Communications Station in Cam Ranh Bay, South Viet Nam. Ther previous high had been established when Commander SECOND FLEET was embarked with a total number of 926 messages handled in one radio day. These messages may be transmitted or received in plain language or in a secure code system.
Not all the advances in naval communications have been made in radio alone. In order to accommodate this word-exchanging ability, new antenna systems are constantly being designed and installed to transmit powerful signals efficiently, without mutual interference, and to receive the weakest signals as clearly as possible.
The Communication Officer heads this group which is concerned with visual signalling, radio communications, and cryptography. There are five officers and 87 enlisted men including six chief petty officers. The enlisted rates assigned include signalmen, radiomen, and communications yeomen. Some of the radiomen have additional qualifications such as cryptography, cryptographic equipment repair and teletype repair.