The United States Army Signal Corps (USASC) develops, tests, provides, and manages communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined arms forces. It was established in 1860, the brainchild of United States Army Major Albert J. Myer, and has had an important role from the American Civil War through to the current day. Over its history, it had the initial responsibility for a number of functions and new technologies that are currently managed by other organizations, including military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation.
The birth of the Lithographer rating (LI) in 1948 was due to the realization that the technology of the time had eliminated the need for several specialized professions. Specifically, the new rating combined the rating of Printer, two service ratings in the Printer rating (Lithographers and Offset Process) and the Specialist rating of Photographic Specialist.
Similarly, the Lithographer rating’s disestablishment in 2006 was the direct result of the transformation of printing and publishing not only through digital computer technology, but also the emergence of multimedia as the predominant method of information dissemination.
For many people, the word “lithograph” conjures quaint images of Currier and Ives prints, but that was a far cry from what Navy Lithographers were producing by the time the 21st century had gotten under way. Sailors serving in the Lithographer rating used both lithographic and digital processes for replication of graphic and print documentation, and were well-versed in the capabilities of desktop publishing. Although they operated offset presses, they also worked with digital-duplication equipment and high-speed copiers. On one hand, they could handle process camera operations, a technology that was first employed in the 1890s; on the other, they were intimately familiar with electronic pre-press and publishing systems.
As part of a move to make the Navy’s rating system more reflective of real-life media operations, the Lithographer rating was merged along with Illustrator Draftsman (DM), Photographer’s Mate (PH), and Journalist (JO) into newly established rating of Mass Communication (MC) Specialist. Although the conversion of Sailors in these ratings to the MC rating was automatic, Navy Lithographers and others who preferred not to continue their careers in the Mass Communication Specialist rating were given the opportunity to request lateral conversion to a Career Reenlistment Object 1 or 2 rating for which they qualified.