Words of Advice:

"We have it totally under control. It's one person coming from China. It's going to be just fine." -- Donald Trump, 1/22/2020

“We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here..and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama."
-- Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, 2/25/20

"I don't take responsibility for anything." --Donald Trump, 3/13/20

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Navy Surface Warfare Officer Training: Now Open the Band-Aid Box!

First, read this. I'm not going to quote from it, just comment on it.

It's good that the baby SWOs are going to get some training on how to run a radar set. But really, if they're standing Officer of the Deck watches underway and they don't already know how to do that, it's a serious problem.

Back in the day, sure, SWOS-Basic didn't teach how to work a SPA-4 radar repeater. But we learned pretty quickly in standing Junior OOD watches. I had one evil-ish OOD who would detune the JOOD's radar repeater. I gather that things are lot more complex, now, so formal training is a good thing.

Here is my biggest beef: They're doing that by expanding radar repeater operation training from one hour to 11 hours. That means that ten hours of training on something else just went bye-bye. The Navy is only allotting nine weeks for basic SWO training. And that training is not done prior to the junior officers reporting aboard for their first sea tours. They're already there when they get a slot to mini-SWOS. It's not unheard of for a command to yank its JOs out of mini-SWOS for an urgent need on the ship. They can do that because the JOs are at mini-SWOS on temporary orders, their home commands still own their asses.

Training used to be sixteen weeks for SWOS Basic. That was sixteen weeks of roughly 37 hours a week in the classroom, or in simulators, or even out on YPs in Narragansett Bay. Baby SWOs would go out for several hours at a time on YPs, doing things from multi-ship maneuvering drills to sea and anchor details. They stood every watch from helmsman to OOD, albeit under the watchful eyes of a Chief Bosun's Mate, a Chief Quartermaster and a SWO-qualified LT. The concept was that a OOD on a ship couldn't effectively supervise the watch team unless the OOD had hands-on experience doing those jobs.

(Mind you, there were additional specialty training schools, depending on the division officer job that they were assigned. Collateral duties, in rare circumstances, also had training schools or courses.)

Training for all baby SWOs (as well as prospective Department Heads, XOs and COs) was carried out by the Surface Warfare Officers School Command in Newport, RI. That ensured that every officer reporting to sea duty in the Fleet had been trained in the same way and to the same standard. Yes, there were some guys who were duds. I knew a few of them. But almost every junior SWO who wanted to become qualified made it. Because they all had the basic training they needed; all they lacked was underway seasoning. Which almost all got (except for the poor bastards sent to aircraft carriers).

As I said, that was sixteen weeks of receiving instruction at a firehose flow rate, in a world where high-tech was Link 11, Talos was on its way out and some of the Terriers and Tartars were still beam-riders. Harpoon missiles were new; how to use them was not the stuff of ensigns. Some things were simpler back then. Some weren't.

Training is expensive. Beancounters hate it. That's why the Most Supreme Beancounter Since McNamara, Rumsfeld, eliminated SWOS Basic in 2003, replacing a sixteen week course with a box of 21 CDs. That was an abject failure, and, so it seems, has been mini-SWOS.

The Navy sends submariners and aviators to dedicated schools prior to sending them to sea. The reasons for the wisdom of doing that should be obvious to even the most casual observer. Sending minimally-trained junior officers to surface ships is proving to have a very high cost in both ships and lives.

Big Navy needs to get a clue and stop trying to patch this problem. They need to go back to doing training right. The story of why training is necessary is being written in blood. And the real tragedy is this: It didn't have to be that way.



Borepatch said...

Bean counters should be keel haulled. Under the Pentagon.


CenterPuke88 said...

Nah, bean counters should be in their place, monitoring programs and costs to support the leaders, not making decisions. As for fixing the problem, it seems likely that won’t happem anytime soon as we strive for the mythical 335 ship fleet, from a current total of about 275 and (in reality) the sailors for a couple of dozen less. As for the 9 additional hours of training on radar, I’d love to see what they deleted to make room for it. With current simulator technology, there has to be a better way to train for these conditions and situations...it just takes dollars from operations, something they are loathe to do.

3383 said...

So, rearranging the deck chairs.

Leo Knight said...

It's been pointed out before, but it bears repeating: if things are falling apart now, in peacetime, what happens in a real shooting war? Things could get... interesting.

Deadstick said...

"except for the poor bastards sent to aircraft carriers"

CenterPuke88 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CenterPuke88 said...

What peacetime? We have low intensity warfare all over the Middle East right now, with the Iraqi/Afghan shit having slowed somewhat, but being far from over. After Vietnam we had some peace, then Ronnie started playing in our own back yard, toying with Libya, and helping the Afghans...maybe a short break before Kuwait/Iraq, since then...

Comrade Misfit said...

Deadstick, because most of them spend their time in engineering and do the bare minimum of bridge watches. They're competing for watch time with aviators who are trying to build their qualifications so they can one day be CO of a carrier.

I knew a guy who was a JO on a non-nuke carrier. He told me, proudly, that he had 30 hours of time as an OOD underway. He asked me how much time I had. I shrugged, said we didn't keep track, but between 40 and 60 hours a week, times a lot of weeks.

But there's a lot I could add.

Comrade Misfit said...

CP88, yes, the optempo is fairly intense. The Navy keeps getting tasked with commitments and there are not enough ships. I've only known of only one CO who said "no can do, boss" and refused to sail.

You don't make it up the ranks of flag officers by telling your bosses "no can do".

Comrade Misfit said...


Comrade Misfit said...

We could get to 355 ships, if there really was a consensus and a national willingness to do so. The only way that we can reduce the operational tempo to a sustainable level and meet all the commitments that the Big Bosses think that we should meet is to have more ships.

And not any of those crappy LCSs.

For the present, we are engaged in the nautical equivalent to eating our seed corn.

CenterPuke88 said...

Any thoughts on the three non-LCS FFG(X) candidates, Comrade?