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Are stories of the SWO community valid?

Flash

SEVAL/ECMO
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
...SWOs are ship drivers and fighters...or at least, they're supposed to be. You should at least be able to drive the damn ship competently. And yes, to the point where the Captain can hand off conning alongside to one of the DHs and JOs and he should just sit in his chair, being captain-y.

Then send them to their first ship for 12-18 months and don't give them any divvo duties
. Their focus should be on qualifications and learning what's what around the boat. Assign them to a second-tour divvo as a running mate/mentor/whatever. It's a probationary period...at the end of that 12-18 months, they should be fully qualified and pinned, or let go with a non-attain. Then they roll to another boat for a 24-month tour and then and only then do they really need to start worrying about Divvo bullshit. I really would like to see the community shift their focus from being bureaucrats afloat to professional, tactically-minded mariners.
In another thread about this very subject some time ago I referenced an article from Proceedings written by a LT who had done a PEP tour with the Royal Navy and from his description the Brits do much of that already. I don't know what their initial training is but they did do a stint on a ship where they primarily learned shiphandling, I think for 6-8 months, and then went on to another ship to learn Navy stuff. They also had to pass an international test/standard for shiphandling. I believe the Brits also split their deck and engineering officers as well.

Of course they also send their aviators on no kidding SWO tours and their carrier CO's don't have to be aviators so it isn't all roses with them!
 

Duc'-guy25

Well-Known Member
pilot
If I could design the 'new SWO' track, I would have SWOS be a four-month course before reporting aboard and have it focus exclusively on sailor skills - shiphandling, seamanship, engineering, and nautical knowledge. That's what really needs to be taught, because you're taking dudes in off the street that are still struggling with the whole port-starboard thing. Lots of time in the simulator or underway on YPs or similar. And here's the real important part - if guys aren't meeting standards, they get kicked the fuck out. I saw people who were rolling through their sixth or seventh class at Newport because they kept flunking tests. Goes without saying no one was getting graded or evaluated on their shiphandling. There needs to be a sense of esprit de corps if the Shoe side is ever going to get better, and it has to start with a sense that what you do is professionally challenging and that knowing the basics of your profession and doing it well are valued.

SWOs are ship drivers and fighters...or at least, they're supposed to be. You should at least be able to drive the damn ship competently. And yes, to the point where the Captain can hand off conning alongside to one of the DHs and JOs and he should just sit in his chair, being captain-y.
I think thats something everyone can get onboard with and agree with...except the people at the level that could make it happen.

But we were so short on qualified OOD's the CO put him on the watch bill to avoid being in OOD port/stbd all cruise. He had a 5 knot mind driving a 30 knot ship. As impossible as it seems, it really happened.
Story time. This is EVERYWHERE. Not just in the SWO community. I was the senior watch officer on my last USNS even though one of my "junior" watch officers had 20 years of experience. There were several times walking up on to the bridge to grab a cup of coffee that I thought I was going to go to jail for witnessing a collision. I couldn't get to the phone any faster to dial up the captains stateroom with "Sir, you need to be up here now." This was also the same guy that was calling in a pile of rocks as a Japanese task force during the day (new CPA limits were established at this point) and trying to do sun lines with land 2 miles off to each side. Stupid people are everywhere, its the motivated ones you've got to watch out for though.
 

Spekkio

He bowls overhand.
In 4 years on ships, I saw the CO actually take "the conn" one time and it's because he was practicing his man overboard skillz. Don't take one comment from a dude on the interweb and assume it is a universal truth. From what I know about subs, I think SWO JOs get much more opportunity to drive than our bubblehead counterparts.
If you're talking on the surface, yes, of course you do. We only surface to transit into or out of port. If you're talking about conning the ship, it depends on the CO and timing. One thing we have that you don't is a requirement to qualify EOOW and eventually qualify engineer. Duce-guy's sentiment that officers should be more specialized is not unique - there are guys who liked the engineering stuff and wish they could just become an expert in that area of submarining, and there are guys who wish they could just focus on navigation/tactics without worrying about NR training requirements. It is what it is though. But we also have a 6-month school that focuses on preparing people to know the basics of standing watch in the cone.

The cool thing about SWO, to me, is that early leadership. Whether leading a VBSS team like I did, or running ASW for the ship, like BigRed, there are many specialized schools we go to in order to learn to do a specific job. A DDG has a sh-load of firepower and sensor capability to support the Air/SUW/ASW/Strike-TLAM/ISR warfare areas that you can't send a kid to school for 2 years to become proficient at it all, like you can for a pilot. SWOs work into being experts at that stuff over the course of years.
Again, you're confusing experience/expertise with basic knowledge. No one can reasonably expect people to become warfare experts at a TRACOM. What you can expect is a solid grasp of the basics of the ship's operations, which seems to not be obtained by many SWOs because of all the other B.S. filling their time.

There's a reason that we get taken off the boat for 3 months to go to PNEO, which is essentially an empty cubicle to study tech manuals and operating procedures, and it's because it's not possible to obtain the level of knowledge required while your bosses are constantly pinging you for whatever random admin flavor BS of the day.

The place to focus for new SWOs is ship driving. Honestly, as fun as that is, it's very very easy, compared to landing an aircraft on a ship. I think that sending an ENS to school for 6 months just to learn to drive the ship would be overkill- in 6 months, I could teach a mildly retarded Ape to park a DDG or bring it alongside on oiler. There needs to be something though, and I think the 2-3 month BDOC, which has evolved a lot in the last few years, is helping a lot.
So swerd's opinion is you can't trust a JO to do complex shipdriving evolutions because they lack experience, and your opinion is that shipdriving is so easy that 6 months of dedicated training is overkill? I think that you're grossly understating the complexities of driving a ship, particularly in high transit areas. Even if what you said were true - then after 6 months, a new ENS can show up and get his OOD qual in a week or two and start standing watch. So what's the problem?
 

azguy

Well-Known Member
None
If you're talking on the surface, yes, of course you do. We only surface to transit into or out of port. If you're talking about conning the ship, it depends on the CO and timing.
This is what I was getting at. My understanding is that DHs stand most, if not all, special evolution OOD watches on subs. On a surface ship, it's 99% Divos. We do EOOW as well, but due to the difference in plants we're able to knock it out much quicker.

Again, you're confusing experience/expertise with basic knowledge. No one can reasonably expect people to become warfare experts at a TRACOM. What you can expect is a solid grasp of the basics of the ship's operations, which seems to not be obtained by many SWOs because of all the other B.S. filling their time.
You're talking out of both sides of your mouth here... Window lickers aside, most SWOs do become very proficient in most warfare areas onboard, assuming they stay on the same platform for both tours. At the same time, there's no way to get a guy even close enough to qualifying in any watch station in CIC while in the TRACOM. Sure, it's great to have a general idea, that's what BDOC is for.

So swerd's opinion is you can't trust a JO to do complex shipdriving evolutions because they lack experience, and your opinion is that shipdriving is so easy that 6 months of dedicated training is overkill? I think that you're grossly understating the complexities of driving a ship, particularly in high transit areas.
Ah, thank you for you astute analysis of shiphandling. 6 months inport will teach a JO nothing about driving; my comment was in reference to 6 months on cruise, driving every day. If you can't learn it in that amount of time (and some people can't), you never will.
 

Duc'-guy25

Well-Known Member
pilot
Ah, thank you for you astute analysis of shiphandling. 6 months inport will teach a JO nothing about driving; my comment was in reference to 6 months on cruise, driving every day. If you can't learn it in that amount of time (and some people can't), you never will.
Just to make this clear so I don't feel like a window licker. Can you teach someone to get the ship from A to B in six months at sea without hitting something. Absolutely. And yes if they can't pick it up after that they have no business being near a ship. Are you going to master the art of ship handling in 6 months. Not likely. It isn't hard, but I would argue it does take a decent amount of time to be comfortable in any situation. I just don't want to feel like 'tard considering I spent 4 years at college for this... granted it was a fairly in depth 4 years that included a decent amount of time at sea and I would argue I can do the deck officer thingy better than 99% of the SWOs out there. I'm probably contradicting myself from earlier but its just for my own ego ;)
 
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Duc'-guy25

Well-Known Member
pilot
We only surface to transit into or out of port.
Oh and for the sub warfare story of the day.... Years ago a sub JG came and did a brief for my battalion...someone asked him what his favorite part of the job was. He replied, "Conning the ship on the surface in the morning, it is just so great seeing the sun come up and driving the boat up there." Being the smart a$$ midshipman I was, I poked back "Picked the wrong warfare didn't you, sir?" The look on his face was priceless.
 

azguy

Well-Known Member
None
Just to make this clear so I don't feel like a window licker. Can you teach someone to get the ship from A to B in six months at sea without hitting something. Absolutely. And yes if they can't pick it up after that they have no business being near a ship. Are you going to master the art of ship handling in 6 months. Not likely. It isn't hard, but I would argue it does take a decent amount of time to be comfortable in any situation. I just don't want to feel like 'tard considering I spent 4 years at college for this... granted it was a fairly in depth 4 years that included a decent amount of time at sea and I would argue I can do the deck officer thingy better than 99% of the SWOs out there. I'm probably contradicting myself from earlier but its just for my own ego ;)
My comment is specific to SWOs. That is, taking warships to sea and operating them proficiently and safely. Not saying that MMA guys are wrong, you're working within a different set of constraints that don't apply to us; we just don't need the level of depth you guys do in your four years. Days work in navigation, splicing line, cargo loading, etc- being proficient at that makes you a better mariner in an abstract sense, but it doesn't make you a better ship driver, and certainly not a better SWO.
 

Spekkio

He bowls overhand.
This is what I was getting at. My understanding is that DHs stand most, if not all, special evolution OOD watches on subs. On a surface ship, it's 99% Divos. We do EOOW as well, but due to the difference in plants we're able to knock it out much quicker.
Surface OOD is almost exclusively stood by JOs except for when DHs need to do specific prac facs for command quals (unassisted landings and such).

'Special evolutions' submerged entail getting within a mile of an object you can't physically see, so yea, the DH is usually doing that with the CO standing next to him. Under more normal circumstances, it depends on the CO. Notice that I started my original comment with the communities being similar; was just pointing out how it's run, not that I necessarily agree with it. Most of my DHs said that they were given much more latitude as a JO than what my generation was given, it was just the community's reaction to try to reduce mishaps.

You're talking out of both sides of your mouth here... Window lickers aside, most SWOs do become very proficient in most warfare areas onboard, assuming they stay on the same platform for both tours.
I often have to ask several SWOs to get a confident, reliable answer on anything tactical. Simple questions like "what's your typical VLS loadout?" It seems to correlate more strongly to where they were assigned as a DIVO than anything else.

Ah, thank you for you astute analysis of shiphandling. 6 months inport will teach a JO nothing about driving; my comment was in reference to 6 months on cruise, driving every day. If you can't learn it in that amount of time (and some people can't), you never will.
Again, there are simulators that exist are robust enough to teach people the basics of shiphandling. The advantage of the trainer is that you can ramp up to more advanced situations without the risk of scraping paint on a real warship. The disadvantage is that it can't model every little detail of the real thing, but the goal should be to get new officers accustomed to how to gauge relative motion on the open water and make decisions in tougher contact situations, not learn every quirk of that specific ship.

Oh and for the sub warfare story of the day.... Years ago a sub JG came and did a brief for my battalion...someone asked him what his favorite part of the job was. He replied, "Conning the ship on the surface in the morning, it is just so great seeing the sun come up and driving the boat up there." Being the smart a$$ midshipman I was, I poked back "Picked the wrong warfare didn't you, sir?" The look on his face was priceless.
Good one. The big difference is that when you are surfaced on a sub standing OOD, it's just you, the lookout, and a cigar cruising along for 6 hours. It's a relaxing change of pace because no one is going to bother you for anything. CO is only going to come up if you call him because you're taking a contact inside 2 nm.

Then again, it can also be the worst of times in bad weather.
 
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azguy

Well-Known Member
None
Good one. The big difference is that when you are surfaced on a sub standing OOD, it's just you, the lookout, and a cigar cruising along for 6 hours. It's a relaxing change of pace because no one is going to bother you for anything. CO is only going to come up if you call him because you're taking a contact inside 2 nm.

Then again, it can also be the worst of times in bad weather.
+1

A nice, quiet bridge watch with a sunset and a fellow JO to bullshit with... those are some of my best memories of being at sea. On the other hand - if I'm being honest, a cold stormy night, with a hot cup of coffee, a full bell rung up, and a million radar contacts darting every which way, is even more fun.

Seriously, I would have loved to be a sub driver, if it weren't for all that pesky nuke shit :confused:
 

Duc'-guy25

Well-Known Member
pilot
Good one. The big difference is that when you are surfaced on a sub standing OOD, it's just you, the lookout, and a cigar cruising along for 6 hours. It's a relaxing change of pace because no one is going to bother you for anything. CO is only going to come up if you call him because you're taking a contact inside 2 nm.
You guys know this is how every watch is for USNS and merchant types right? There's not much better at sea than the morning watch on a quiet bridge and the cup of coffee. That is a fact.
Granted I would argue 2nm is a little overly cautious but I have had paranoid captains that wanted calls for 3nm... You better believe I called his ass up every chance I got until he changed that one..
 

Duc'-guy25

Well-Known Member
pilot
Yea not to revive this, but I just read through the CO's standing orders on CG I'm on and holy f**king hand holding...I've never seen standing orders that thick to a deck/bridge watch...
 

Charles Edward

New Member
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.
 

zippy

Freedom!
pilot
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.
The only happy SWOs I've met were the ones transitioning out of the community.

Boat life is NOT fun, I don't care what your designator is.
 
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