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Are stories of the SWO community valid?

wink

VS NFO. Blue and Gold Officer
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
Is it really that bad as an SWO? I get that this is an aviation oriented site, but these comments appear to make SWO the very bottom of the barrel.

After all, isn't SWO the backbone of the Navy? Is all the apparent backstabbing and politics that is present in SWO due to the fact that most in that community are there because they were not selected or washed out of other designators? If so, I don't think it's very encouraging to join a community filled with frustration and resentment. That would explain all the negative comments, I guess.
Not saying all the comments on SWO from us aviators are invalid, but consider the source. Most of us who have been to sea have a basis for our opinions, but we are not SWOs, Supply Corps Officers, or Submariners for a reason. There are some SWOs on AW. I'd suggest their opinion should hold more weight than mine.
 

wink

VS NFO. Blue and Gold Officer
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
One could also say that Non-SWOs, as outside observes, have equal or greater weight. But one doesn't have to say that.
I have ridden a horse, visited a ranch, and been to a rodeo. I don't think I know a thing worthwhile about being a cowboy or ranching.

Outside observers are always the idiots making uninformed comments on aviation in the media. We don't appreciate that, do we?
 

N4Life

Member
There is a difference between an outside observer and a uniformed "expert".

As an outside observer, we don’t talk about the technical side of the SWO community. I don’t have a clue on the proper method to overtake a ship at a given heading while in a 15 foot swell, or how to run a 600psi D-type steam engine; that’s not my job. But the leadership and management of our Sailor or cultural practices is something we have in common, and we can comment on/question. As an outside observer, I am not constrained with ‘this is the culture’ or ‘it’s how we have always done it’.

To keep with your horse analogy, someone who barrel races can’t comment on how to win a steeplechase, but they can make comments on the raising and treatment of horses.
 

BigRed389

Registered User
None
I'm no longer a SWO. That said I'm still involved with the SWO community, particularly on the warfighting development side of things. I will say that if I had joined maybe 4 years later than I did, I may have stayed SWO. The bonus went up and they've started a lot of programs to improve warfighting capability (which is what i cared about most). Somehow my timing wound up where all (no seriously, ALL) the new improvements were always just started past when I was eligible.

Things still aren't ideal, but they are a LOT better than they were when I wrote my previous posts on this thread. Shifty leadership has been held accountable, and they are putting real money into warfighting and integration with the Navy as a whole. The new AEGIS ships are beasts, and the SWO community is getting its teeth back. Shipboard life is always going to be rough, but you'll at least be training at threats "worth" sending billion dollar ships at. You'll never get the bro culture I see from my aviation or SEAL/EOD buds though, so adjust expectations on that, but the investment in training and professionalism has been going up a LOT.
 

Hair Warrior

New Member
As an outsider, it appears that SWO offers some fantastic leadership opportunities for JOs. One SWO O3 I know got into VBSS and made it a whole lateral specialty for himself. He loved it. He's at NPS now for a master's. There aren't many jobs in the world that pay you a full salary and BAH to get a top notch grad degree under those palm trees.

That said, the SWO community has some growing pains before it gets back to the "good ole days of JO leadership" like PT-109 and LTJG Kennedy. There are a few Cyclone class command-at-sea billets available for O4 SWOs - a couple of whom have been fired for various reasons. Farsi island seems to have exposed some lack-of-trust issues that exacerbated some ineffective training for JO SWOs and NCOs in the surface/riverine communities.

Bottom line: YMMV
 
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Uncle Fester

Robot Pimp
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
I was a SWO as a young'un, then went Air and never looked back. My exposure to the community since then (cruises on CV/Ns and frigates) has led me to believe that it hasn't changed much - but - they're going in the right direction. Becoming more tactically minded. A Shoe two-star I worked for recently said that they want to do like the aviation community does and tap their best hot-runners to become instructors. As Hair mentioned, Farsi Island may do good things in the long run toward getting the Shoes away from a "no one below O-4 can make decisions" mindset. Time will tell.
 

azguy

Well-Known Member
None
That said, the SWO community has some growing pains before it gets back to the "good ole days of JO leadership" like PT-109 and LTJG Kennedy. There are a few Cyclone class command-at-sea billets available for O4 SWOs - a couple of whom have been fired for various reasons.
This is an interesting point - SWOs have long taken pride in handing out command at sea pins to LTs and LCDRs. With the MCMs and PCs sundowning in the next few years, there are serious questions about how we will maintain this deeply rooted practice of "Early Command." I've heard of making a LT a "Commodore" of a Mk VI squadron; definitely not the same as commanding your own ship. Also, I find it ultimately unlikely as SWO leadership seems pretty adamant about getting out of the riverine business.
 

azguy

Well-Known Member
None
I'll echo BigRed's sentiments above (I'm late to this party, I know)...

I became a SWO in the late 00's and have witnessed a proverbial sea change in the community since then:

-We are operating the best ships of the line in the world right now. We've had some great platforms, weapons, and systems, come online recently with more to come in the near future. For all of the shit it gets, LCS is getting up-gunned and will pack a pretty nice punch for a small combatant. The latest DDG/CG technology is a massive leap forward (SM-6, NIFC-CA, MFTA, Mk 54, -60R, etc). This all makes an AEGIS warship a pretty nasty opponent for the bad guys, from the sea floor to space. None of this existed when I was an ENS...

-Shipboard culture is slowly improving. We're still SWOs, but it's the little things... Toxic leaders are treated like a cancer. Ships are adopting more common-sense "circadian" watch rotations that allow people to sleep better. Turns out, if you don't feel like a zombie, you're a more effective watch stander, you do a better job as a DIVO, and people tend to be less douchy to each other.

-New professional opportunities are pretty cool. Want to live in San Francisco and work at Twitter for a few years, or get a top-20 MBA, or go to grad school for 2 years in between your DIVO tours? You can do that now as a SWO (and a lot more). Also, a 40% increase in the DH bonus is nice. Again, all new stuff since I was an ENS...

-We've seen a significant shift in focus towards becoming more operational. Between WTI, PTO, SAO, SWATT, SWTC, etc- I get it, it's acronym soup, but the actual programs don't really matter to my point- the community has made significant investments to ensure that we are a very effective flighting force.

All this said, not making any SWO vs XXX community arguments here; just noting that it's a very interesting time in the surface community, especially as a JO.
 

Max the Mad Russian

Hands off Ukraine! Feet too
Wow. You too... The first sentense that Russian ensign first day aboard is usually hearing from the CO - "you're freak, you're dick, you're absolutely useless piece of shit, you're not an officer, you're even not the human being, and it will last until you prove opposite." Yes, this is speech from O-5/6 to O-1, and not from drill CPO to green rookie, especially on cruisers. "Soviet cruiser" is the floating prison, period. That is why I always preferred smaller ships...
Look, in our naval tradition all that stuff is originated from the feudal norms, never applicable to America. So in USN it cannot be so cruel, at least I hope so. But military is military, and as I already noted, West Point graduate John T. Reed has something to say: http://johntreed.myshopify.com/blogs/john-t-reed-s-blog-about-military-matters/68725763-articles-on-military-matters
and he has Naval followers as well, for example: http://dave.purdone.com/
 

AllAmerican75

Back to School!
None
I'll echo BigRed's sentiments above (I'm late to this party, I know)...
-We've seen a significant shift in focus towards becoming more operational. Between WTI, PTO, SAO, SWATT, SWTC, etc- I get it, it's acronym soup, but the actual programs don't really matter to my point- the community has made significant investments to ensure that we are a very effective flighting force.
Out of curiosity, what are these? I don't know if I've heard of them, or maybe I have; the amount of change in the SWO career path has been dizzying lately.

To hop on the bandwagon: The SWO community is improving from the bad old days of "STAB, STAB -- LOOK -- STAB, STAB." My first tour on an FFG lived up to almost every bad story you've ever heard of the SWO community: backstabbing JOs, toxic department heads, 5-and-dime watch rotations, 4 section duty all of the time, CO/XO who were screamers/throwers, etc.

My second tour on a PC was a full 180 degree shift, though. I was second-in-command, my CO gave me the leeway to execute orders and carry out the mission, and I had the great and good fortune to work with some gentlemen who I know will do great things towards turning the Surface community into what it needs to be. The only downside to the PC was that the work hours increased exponentially from my time on the Frigate but that's just how PC life is.

I continue to meet and work with great people in the SWO community who were mistreated as JOs and are actively trying to stop the vicious cycle and improve things. In just four short years the SWO community has made serious progress and is heading in the right direction. Not to say that you won't have a few bad days, or that there aren't some schmucks lurking around, but it's getting better and dudes and dudettes who are entering the community as ensigns now are far better off than I was. Also, training through BDOC and ADOC has also improved things immeasurably, so you won't be as lost when you get to the ship. All in all, if you want a job where you will immediately be handed a group of Sailors to lead, a weapons system to employ, and plenty of travel, SWO is not a bad way to go. And even if you decide that it's not what you want to do for the rest of your career, there are plenty of more specialized communities like Engineering Duty, Human Resources, Information Professional, Information Warfare, Intel, Finance, Foreign Area Officer, and Public Affairs, who recruit significantly from the SWO ranks.
 
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