Rainbow of the Sea

Department of Defense | Aug. 2, 2023

By Press Operations

Sailors prepare to conduct operations from the flight deck of a ship with a rainbow in the background.

The Colors of the Crew

Blue, purple, green, yellow, red, brown and white not only serve as staple colors in the crayon box, but also play a vital role on flight decks of Navy aircraft carriers. These colors follow a code that lets sailors and other personnel know one another's responsibilities.

Crew members assigned to the USS Langley, the Navy's first aircraft carrier, started wearing colored jerseys in the early 1920s. The tradition continues today to ensure safety and order are maintained on the flight deck. 

With several duties aboard a ship, the colors enable crew members to distinguish, say, a pilot from a medic from a mechanic, allowing team members to focus on their specialty while working cohesively to achieve each mission.

BLUE

JOBS: plane handlers, aircraft elevators operators, tractor drivers, phone talkers

RESPONSIBILITIES: The blue jerseys operate motorized gear.

A look from above as sailors stand around equipment.
Sea of Blue Sailors stand by for a brief on the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Atlantic Ocean, Feb. 25, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hilgendorf
A sailor in a hard hat participates in a replenishment at sea.
Intense Focus Navy Seaman Mayla Ariasherrera belays a line aboard the USS Robert Smalls during a replenishment at sea with the USNS Wally Schirra in the Philippine Sea, June 7, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class RuKiyah Mack

PURPLE

JOBS: aviation fuels, known as "grapes" or "fuelies"

RESPONSIBILITIES: The purple jerseys refuel all aircraft and monitor all fuel onboard.

 

GREEN

JOBS: catapult and arresting gear personnel, air wing maintenance, ground support equipment, mass communication specialists, helicopter landing signals enlisted sailors

RESPONSIBILITIES: Green jerseys operate and maintain all aircraft launch and recovery equipment and perform all support equipment and aircraft-related maintenance. 

A sailor handles wires inside an aircraft frame.
Inside Job Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Koenig performs maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft aboard the USS Nimitz in the Philippine Sea, Dec. 29, 2022.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Calabrese
A seaman signals another ship.
Sending Signals Navy Seaman Kyle Bradshaw, assigned to the guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, signals 'replenishment complete' to the fast combat support ship USNS Arctic in the western Mediterranean Sea, April 11, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christine Montgomery
Two sailors in green uniforms work on oxygen equipment on the deck of a ship.
Equipment Inspection Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Huiqiong Huang, right, inspects a liquid oxygen converter while Petty Officer 3rd Class Lyric Mitchell inspects a parachute harness aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the South China Sea, Feb. 7, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Caitlin Flynn

YELLOW

JOBS: aircraft directors, catapult and arresting gear officers, air boss, mini-boss

RESPONSIBILITIES: The yellow jerseys are responsible for the movement of aircraft on the flight deck and in the hangar bay.

A sailor waves lights to direct a military aircraft on the flight deck of a ship at night.
Night Flight Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Guillermo Segura directs an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Philippine Sea, June 7, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Markus Castaneda
A sailor directs a helicopter on the deck of a ship.
Adriatic Ops Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David McGuffey, assigned to the USS Ramage, guides an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during takeoff in the Adriatic Sea, July 3, 2023. Ramage is part of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group and is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adriones Johnson

RED

JOBS: ordnancemen, crash and salvage crews, explosive ordnance disposal

RESPONSIBILITIES: The red jerseys load aircraft with bombs, missiles, mines and ammunition. They also create crash and salvage crews responsible for aircraft firefighting, rescue and salvage operations.

Two sailors work on a military aircraft inside a ship’s hangar bay.
Tune Up Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bishop Riley, left, and Petty Officer 2nd Class David Thomas conduct maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet in the hangar bay of the USS Gerald R. Ford in the Atlantic Ocean, May 15, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Newsome
Sailors stand next to forklifts as a helicopter flies above with a cable dropping supplies.
Rousing Reception A Sea Hawk helicopter delivers supplies to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower during a training exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, June 24, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Abbigail Beardsley
A sailor inspects missiles aboard a ship at sea.
Inspection Time Navy Seaman Carley Goodman inspects missiles on the USS Harry S. Truman in the Mediterranean Sea, Aug. 3, 2022.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Woods
Seven sailors put their arms around each other as they watch the sunset aboard a ship at sea.
Sunset Huddle Sailors watch the sunset aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower after an ammunition onload with the USNS Medgar Evers in the Atlantic Ocean, Feb. 7, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Asheka Lawrence-Reid

BROWN

JOBS: air wing plane captains

RESPONSIBILITIES: The brown jerseys maintain the safety and integrity of aircraft. They also man the cockpit during repositioning on the flight and hangar decks. 

A sailor wearing goggles cleans an aircraft.
Sea Ops A sailor cleans the canopy of an E/A-18G Growler aboard the USS Nimitz in the Philippine Sea, May 13, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Emma Burgess
Sailors carrying chains walk aboard a ship.
Sea Ops Sailors transport aircraft chains aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford in the Mediterranean Sea, June 16, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nolan Pennington
A sailor signals to an airborne helicopter from a ship at sea.
Signaling Sailor A sailor signals to an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz in the South China Sea, Feb. 4, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Calabrese

WHITE

JOBS: quality control, landing signal officers, air transfer officers, liquid oxygen crew, safety, medical administrative personnel 

RESPONSIBILITIES: The white jerseys consist of safety and medical personnel, catapult final checkers, catapult and arresting gear quality assurance inspectors and administrative personnel.

A sailor works on a helicopter.
Sea Ops Navy Lt. Brent Schwarz inspects the main rotors of an MH-60R Sea Hawk during a preflight check aboard the USS Oakland in the Natuna Sea, Feb. 26, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sang Kim
A sailor wearing white safety uniform stands on the deck of a ship with the mast up ahead and other sailors standing around.
Safety Watch Navy Cmdr. Matthew Sevier, safety officer observes F/A-18 Super Hornets on the flight deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford in the Adriatic Sea, July 8, 2023.
Photo By:Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Adonica Munoz