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Are stories of the SWO community valid?

DoubleOswo7

Active Member
It's sad that this thread has turned into a SWO bashing. And worse, it's discouraging others from the field.

For some reason that's why I want it so bad... because others say its hard. Many other reasons but the fact that I see all this negative talk wants me to stand up and get it done.
 

DoubleOswo7

Active Member
This is huge. I definitely got on a ship with a good combo and am happy with where I'm at right now. But I also think the going into with a can do positive attitude has helped me adapt quickly. I think too many come on board with whiny bitch attitudes especially when someone expects them to do actual work. But I've definitely been fortunate since my transition. STRIKE! is where it's at.
How are you doing now? I'm waiting to enter SWO now. I feel strongly that your are right. I see the negative stuff however I have been through some tough times and am willing to tackle this challenge
 

Aquonox

Just rolling along
None
I've been on a couple of ships for a short period of time. SWO can be either really cool or really crappy. I went on a cruiser for a short while and the command atmosphere was horrible. Lazy officers, enlisted who disrespected the CoC, etc. It really turned me off to the community.
However, I also visited a different ship (happened to be a DDG), and it was the opposite. Very motivated enlisted, very knowledgeable and professional officers, etc.

So it is a hit or miss depending on the command (as is with many communities, units, squadrons). Quite a few of my friends who went SWO are enjoying it. YMMV.
 

Spekkio

He bowls overhand.
Sorry about the threadjack but I believe that this just might be the best place to paste this link regarding the low SWO retention. I am an OC hopeful on the July board and have been doing some serious research. Just thought that I would share this great study done at the Naval Postgraduate School.
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a476863.pdf
I wouldn't call it 'great' -- it repeated the same paragraphs like 4x.


It's an interesting study but I take issue with the 360 degree reviews being the solution. Throughout our history there have been military leaders who made history books, but who's subordinate Officers and SNCOs hated at the time.

You can be both, but a focus on making everyone feel loved at the expense of tactical expertise would not be good for our national defense.

Beyond that, the report makes no specific recommendations to address any retention issues outside of leadership. They just have a bullet point that essentially says it'd be great if we could fix the other stuff,which is not particularly insightful or useful,and anyone with a brain could have probably reasonably guessed that family strain contributes to retention. Considering the report found that the #1 cause for a JO to leave was family-related issues, I find it odd that the recommendations revolve solely around developing better leadership (a term that is undefined in the report).
 

webmaster

The Grass is Greener!
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
That thread was in the public current news thread.

Not that that really matters. Throwing stones at guys that just lost one of their own... Not cool.

Going to clean up some posts, not wading into it. Have a beer and watch some college football. Raise a glass and send well wishes to those that have lost one of their own.
 

enlUSMC

It's SWOtastic
That thread was in the public current news thread.

Not that that really matters. Throwing stones at guys that just lost one of their own... Not cool.

Going to clean up some posts, not wading into it. Have a beer and watch some college football. Raise a glass and send well wishes to those that have lost one of their own.
Roger that, but some guy calls me a dumbass, I'm going to respond. That's it.
 

webmaster

The Grass is Greener!
pilot
Site Admin
Contributor
Roger that, but some guy calls me a dumbass, I'm going to respond. That's it.
I hear what your saying. Just giving some perspective that it was an initial sarcastic post and it all escalated. Perspective that you have a bunch of naval aviators that lost a friend. As a marine I am sure you can understand.

Not criticizing either of you. Just cleaning up and defusing.
 
Reactions: m26

enlUSMC

It's SWOtastic
Recent correspondence with a separating SWO of 30 years:

"in some respects SWOs are the bastard step children. Aviators look cool get big bucks; Nukes are smart as hell, get big bucks. The perception for some inside and outside of the community is that a lot of SWOs settled. Also, it is hard work in difficult, unpredictable circumstances. You will have difficult bosses and folks who make things difficult for you........but at the end of the day, you will be working alongside the best young people in the world, and you will be doing something critical to keeping our Nation safe.

Become the best ship handler and navigator on the ship, be the best at damage control, get your quals done early no matter how much work it takes, but most of all be a great boss to your young Sailors - get them promoted, support them, hold them accountable - even in the little things, but don't be super critical......I have loved every minute of my time in the Navy, and you will to."
 

Uncle Fester

Robot Pimp
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
It's not that being a Shoe is intrinsically hard. Running around carrying telephone poles at BUD/S is hard, for a reason. Academics in flight school or nuke school are hard, for a reason. Being a Shoe is not hard for a reason...it's a culture that makes things more difficult and painful than necessary, just for the sake of being difficult. Some of that is not the fault of the guys on the ships - the inspection/mx that has to be crammed into every in-port period is insane, but that's mandated by forces offboard. But some of the self-inflicted pain I've seen Shoes put on themselves boggles my mind no matter how many times I've seen it.

I said once when someone mentioned welcomed the "challenge" and "difficulty" of being a SWO: it's like running a marathon with your shoelaces tied to your dick. Just because it's difficult and painful doesn't mean it's worth it.
 
In my experience, the SWO community focuses on administrative tasks to the point of losing sight of the overall picture. The ship can feel like a floating paperwork factory at times, and then you might do something like a relatively rare gun shoot and realize, "oh, yeah, this is why we are here."
 

pmasters

Member
Its telling that roughly ~70% of SWOs quit at their first available opportunity. And that includes priors who have much less time to go until retirement. If I remember that study right I believe we had about 72% attrition for the last available FY. I would love to see the percentage of non-prior SWOs that hit the ole' dusty trail ASAP.

For the new guys, take the observations into account. I know I had a lot of similar thoughts before joining SWO. Here's a few things that I thought and that I see most new SWOs thinking as well. Allow me my best shot and shattering some illusions.

1. Join the Navy see the World
- Maybe at best. Some ships get some cool port calls, most do not. My experience turned into join the Navy see Bahrain a lot. Also, overnight liberty often doesn't happen, and when you're in a foreign port you should expect to spend at least every 3rd day on the ship and have plenty of restrictions. I did a lot of traveling prior to the Navy and Navy travel via port calls is terrible in comparison. However, some people do genuinely luck out and get some good deployments.

2. The challenge will make it more rewarding.
- Read UncleFester's analysis above. Then read it again. SWO often feels like the most complicated nothing you've ever done. It will be challenging to deal with grossly incompetent bosses. Juggling four seperate inspection groups composed of Senior Chiefs lumbering towards retirement all armed with a highly dubious level of knowledge and holding equally dubious checksheets in their noses is not easy. It is also not even remotely rewarding. On rare occassions you will do something cool - like track submarines or land marines or board a vessel. But that will be about .005% of the time and you likely will not be directly involved. Be prepared to spend most of your time accomplishing tasks whose worthwhileness you will find very difficult to justify.

3. It can't be that bad
- Oh yes it can. It might not be but it can. JO SWOs have a hugely, overwhelmingly negative opinion of the SWO community. Its implicit in almost every conversation you have on the subject. Most people who decided to stay in for DH do so thinking 'I can make it better,' and hopefully they do. There's hardly anyone that seriously maintains that the SWO community is an efficient, knowledgeable and well-run organization. All the stories of all the pointless yelling and maltreatment and confusion and poor organization are not untrue stories. 'SWOs eat their young' isn't just a joke people say for fun. That is actually a representative description of how SWO life ends up unfolding told by people who were there and saw it. When you listen to SWOs tell sea-stories almost all of them involve someone getting chewed out for something they didn't deserve. That says a lot... Sometimes you luck out and get a really good ship, most times you don't.

Like most departing SWOs I could write a nice manifesto on all the bull. Not that it was all bad. I got to play around with some really cool sensors, match wits with some submarine captains, seriously and positively influence the guys and gals who worked for me, etc. But for the new guys, when making a serious and hopefully rational decision about the next 4-5 years of your career, dismissing these negative descriptions of the SWO community with useless slogans like 'I want to do it BECAUSE its hard' or other such nonsense will not help you out.
 

Spekkio

He bowls overhand.
It sounds like the SWO community is similar to the sub community in one regard: You should expect that your responsibilities as a JO are going to be very limited in scope and mostly revolve around maintaining paperwork programs.

The Chiefs manage the people in the division, and the CO/XO/DHs will be the A-team on watch during any evolution that one would consider remotely interesting while you stand in the corner with a clip board. There are some rare exceptions, but for the most part the Navy isn't going to let a person who can count his qualification time in months and has almost no formal schooling on shipdriving to conn a multi-billion dollar asset without close supervision from the CO, and certainly not during anything that one could call a tough situation. This can be very demoralizing for people who have an image of officers being given a lot of responsbility: you go through all sorts of trouble, lack of sleep, etc., and the second that something 'cool' comes up you're told to go stand in the corner with a checklist. All you have to show for your hard work is some pretty binders to show off for inspections.

Contrast this with the aviation community where the Navy puts JOs through ~2 years of school precisely because they're going to be flying multi-million dollar assets and potentially making safety decisions all by their lonesome.

Now, as for why SWO JOs report sleeping less than our DHs despite standing 1/2 the amount of watch? Can't answer that one.
 
Last edited:

surfnturf88

New Member
Its telling that roughly ~70% of SWOs quit at their first available opportunity. And that includes priors who have much less time to go until retirement. If I remember that study right I believe we had about 72% attrition for the last available FY. I would love to see the percentage of non-prior SWOs that hit the ole' dusty trail ASAP.

For the new guys, take the observations into account. I know I had a lot of similar thoughts before joining SWO. Here's a few things that I thought and that I see most new SWOs thinking as well. Allow me my best shot and shattering some illusions.

1. Join the Navy see the World
- Maybe at best. Some ships get some cool port calls, most do not. My experience turned into join the Navy see Bahrain a lot. Also, overnight liberty often doesn't happen, and when you're in a foreign port you should expect to spend at least every 3rd day on the ship and have plenty of restrictions. I did a lot of traveling prior to the Navy and Navy travel via port calls is terrible in comparison. However, some people do genuinely luck out and get some good deployments.

2. The challenge will make it more rewarding.
- Read UncleFester's analysis above. Then read it again. SWO often feels like the most complicated nothing you've ever done. It will be challenging to deal with grossly incompetent bosses. Juggling four seperate inspection groups composed of Senior Chiefs lumbering towards retirement all armed with a highly dubious level of knowledge and holding equally dubious checksheets in their noses is not easy. It is also not even remotely rewarding. On rare occassions you will do something cool - like track submarines or land marines or board a vessel. But that will be about .005% of the time and you likely will not be directly involved. Be prepared to spend most of your time accomplishing tasks whose worthwhileness you will find very difficult to justify.

3. It can't be that bad
- Oh yes it can. It might not be but it can. JO SWOs have a hugely, overwhelmingly negative opinion of the SWO community. Its implicit in almost every conversation you have on the subject. Most people who decided to stay in for DH do so thinking 'I can make it better,' and hopefully they do. There's hardly anyone that seriously maintains that the SWO community is an efficient, knowledgeable and well-run organization. All the stories of all the pointless yelling and maltreatment and confusion and poor organization are not untrue stories. 'SWOs eat their young' isn't just a joke people say for fun. That is actually a representative description of how SWO life ends up unfolding told by people who were there and saw it. When you listen to SWOs tell sea-stories almost all of them involve someone getting chewed out for something they didn't deserve. That says a lot... Sometimes you luck out and get a really good ship, most times you don't.

Like most departing SWOs I could write a nice manifesto on all the bull. Not that it was all bad. I got to play around with some really cool sensors, match wits with some submarine captains, seriously and positively influence the guys and gals who worked for me, etc. But for the new guys, when making a serious and hopefully rational decision about the next 4-5 years of your career, dismissing these negative descriptions of the SWO community with useless slogans like 'I want to do it BECAUSE its hard' or other such nonsense will not help you out.
I'm curious as to when SWO life started becoming miserable? I'm assuming it wasn't always this way. Also it seems like it all depends on what ship you go to. I've heard varying stories from different people that I know, from "this sucks" to "not as bad as it seems".
 

Duc'-guy25

Well-Known Member
pilot
It sounds like the SWO community is similar to the sub community in one regard: You should expect that your responsibilities as a JO are going to be very limited in scope and mostly revolve around maintaining paperwork programs.

The Chiefs manage the people in the division, and the CO/XO/DHs will be the A-team on watch during any evolution that one would consider remotely interesting while you stand in the corner with a clip board. There are some rare exceptions, but for the most part the Navy isn't going to let a person who can count his qualification time in months and has almost no formal schooling on shipdriving to conn a multi-billion dollar asset without close supervision from the CO, and certainly not during anything that one could call a tough situation. This can be very demoralizing for people who have an image of officers being given a lot of responsbility.

Now, as for why SWO JOs report sleeping less than our DHs despite standing 1/2 the amount of watch? Can't answer that one.
This is in no way meant to be SWO bashing my SWO amigos, as misguided as you are I still very much enjoy working with you dudes. Keep in mind this is just my view from where I'm sitting.

This is kind of one of the key things you have to remember about the SWO community....It's the only URL community that doesn't require any real training before you show up to your job... Essentially you have a kid fresh out of college that has pretty much never been on a ship and kind of thrusted into the situation. Not their fault, but at some point in time I would really like to see big navy decide to give brand new ensigns better training before they show up to the job. I honestly think a year long SWO school prior to reporting to an afloat command would dramatically improve shipboard operations in the surface fleet. I've seen the curriculum at Baby SWOS, and honestly, there is a lot of room for improvement. I've talked this over with a lot of JO's and a lot have agreed they wish they understood the basics of shipboard operations prior to reporting, because Baby SWOS barely skims the surface. (I had a 6 month ensign tell me about his 3 months of sea time once including his 2 months of MIDN cruise, wasted the beer in my mouth when I started laughing)

All in all, operating a ship isn't a particularly hard thing to do, however it does require a lot of knowledge and a lot of work to do it well. Given the tools, I really believe the JO's would be far more of an asset to their command (and less eating of the young would occur). There should be a point where if a DIVO is walking around during the day checking up on his guys he can actually understand what they are doing and be able to advise them on it. Granted a lot of this come with experience (thank god for CPO's), but the concept that the JO should be in his space doing paperwork, not being involved in evolutions, not understanding how an evolution works is absolutely ludicrous. If we saw the JO's leading more at the deck plate level I think there would be a lot better moral, and some ships do this and it's clearly evident.
 

Flash

SEVAL/ECMO
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
....It's the only URL community that doesn't require any real training before you show up to your job... Essentially you have a kid fresh out of college that has pretty much never been on a ship and kind of thrusted into the situation...
I am hard pressed to think of any officer specialty in any branch of the US military that is given as little initial training as SWOs in the Navy, period. Especially a 'warfare' specialty. Makes me wonder, what training do Coast Guard 'SWOs' (Cuttermen?) go through before reporting to their ships?
 
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