C.Captain - thanks for the background… This makes a lot of sense.
I’d like to ask for a Hold Fire, Break Engage, Cease Fire on my comments above. I want to offer this forum an apology and better explain my position - without personal attacks. The underlying premise of C.Captain’s comments do make sense. And I’m sorry that there is such a rift between the “Navee” and maritime community. I’ve spent my whole career trying to close this gap and can assure you - I am not the enemy and acknowledge that there is at least an equal amount of arrogance on the side of the Navy.
A large part of my frustration has been based on defending the Navy when I feel warranted within the mariner community, and at the same time defending the mariner community within the Navy when I feel warranted. Both sides operate from stereotypes that are just inaccurate or outdated, but reinforced within two echo chambers.
“Anything gray - stay away” - vs - “Asleep at the helm.”
I do appreciate many of the points in this forum - I agree with much of it. I also disagree with a lot it. Many of the comments in here come from folks who never knew the Navy, some of them with dated exposure to the Navy, and clearly some with more current information but who are really jaded… and to those - I’m very sorry you had a bad experience in the service. There are bad leaders out there. And, as I said much, of the criticism hurts because I know its true.
On the subject of guys getting fired and compensation… Retirement is not a grantee. Humility is a quality I respect and I would never presume to be given anything. Many of my classmates who sail make much much much more money than I do, and some scraped by. For the folks relieved/fired - “Show Cause” - justify why you should receive your pay and rank when you separate is a very real thing. Sea lawyer it up all you want based on your experiences… I reported to a ship after a CO, XO, and CMC had been relieved. The CO was reduced in rank and retired without the opportunity to “coast” any longer than needed for SECNAV to sign the papers, and he lost many of his benefits (not all, he was retired to his last honorable rank - wiping out any benefits he would have received from the time of his misconduct onward - a significant chunk of pay and future potential. He was allowed to keep most of the benefits he would have had prior to his misconduct). Further, his SWO Pin was removed (for real… his designator was switched to remove all of his quals - and while this may seem ceremonial - if this officer tried to go to the USCG for a license based on sea time as a qualified OOD - he would be ineligible because his OOD quals were revoked). There will be those who argued that he should have lost everything - maybe so, but that’s not how our legal system works. The XO (an O4) was also reduced in rank and not allowed to coast to retirement - just out - as an O3 - with a General Discharge. I don’t know how the CMC’s retirement was impacted, but he was also out of the Navy within six months.
By the way - to the guy who said I went away from the forum without refuting comments - I was put in Hack by Team gCaptain for apparently exceeding the number of posts allowed in a period of time and had to take a knee for 24 hrs… I seem to have been allowed back in.
CChick001 - I agree wholeheartedly with revisiting STCW qualification for anyone wishing to qualify as an OOD. This isn’t a new topic. I sat on a panel back in the early 2000’s where Naval Surface Forces invited SWO leadership to meet with SSOs (MMR at the time) and those of us who were SWOs with unlimited licenses… The meetings were good but didn’t go far enough in my opinion - though I understand why. The Navy reviewed STCW requirements and evaluated the benefit of each - and not just SCTW but all of the prerequisites for an Unlimited 3/M. The outcome was mixed. In the case of some training like Medical, SOLAS, Firefighting, etc the Navy’s assessment (and I agree) was that the Navy’s training well exceeded that of STCW/USCG licensing… so those training areas were not adopted as they would be a step in the wrong direction. In other areas there was absolutely no doubt mariner training was far superior - Navigation and Seamanship were a glaring difference. The reality of the cost came down to money and time vs reward - if you want to make a 3/M - you need three years of training prior to reporting to the ship as OOD… The decision was to link certain billets to STCW training but not across the aboard. DCAs got better stability and trim training, Navigators got better navigation training based on STCW requirements, etc… but tailored to Navy needs. In the third category, the Navy absolutely agreed with STCW and USCG training for all bridge watchstanders. Two highlights were BRM/CRM and Rules of the Road. I took BRM and ARPA as a Divo with my whole bridge team at Marine Safety International alongside civilian mariners during the classroom portion. Unfortunately, the labs, simulators and break out sessions were different based on liability. The companies issuing SCTW certificates would not grant USN personnel certificates without being paid for the liability they assume in doing so. This was based on the additional training mariners got in the course that didn’t pertain to warships - particularly related to the scope of radar equipment taught (basically, mariners serve on a wide variety of ships with a wide variety of capabilities and limitations and thus have to know a wider variety of systems in use. In contrast the Navy reduced the variety of equipment down to a fairly standard bridge configuration and the Navy simply couldn’t afford to pay for training that didn’t pertain to its ships.) Since then, the Navy audits SCTW courses and cherry-picks those subjects which it feels apply to the Navy and ignores those that do not… The BRM is incorporated into SWOS - which while good because its largely the same - it also loses the added benefit of interaction with mariners as classmates in a Navy only class. Debate from the mariner community over where that STCW line is drawn is healthy - perhaps more STCW is needed - even if it doesn’t directly apply. One of the outcomes from that meeting was to adopt the Rules exam directly from the USCG database. Since that time every SWO takes the same test you do, with the exception of the handful of rules that have been removed that apply to the Western Rivers and areas where a warship would never go… I think this was a good step, but I would have liked to have seen the Navy go further. This exam is given every time you go to SWOS - Divio, DH, XO/CO, Major Command - which is about every five years (in line with license renewal). But it falls short in other ways, for example the Navy’s focus is on passing the exam more than teaching the background behind the rules. The maritime academies teach several terms of maritime law (at least the did for me) - with case studies related to each of these rules - providing more depth. I’d like to see more of that level of training - to provide the “why” not just the memorized answer.
In the end, the senior folks in the room didn’t disagree but the extra cost could not be justified just to be able to point to an STCW certificate. They felt the training could be made as adequate, without paying for non-applicable training and liability cost. Again, its time to reevaluate those decisions and that is going on as we speak.
On this same subject, when Admiral Buzby (the new Maritime Administrator) was the CO of SWOS he revamped all of seamanship and navigation programs. Shiphandling and Rules are not taught by Navy personnel but by master mariners. All of the classroom and simulator training is done by you. There’s a core staff of full time mariners and a rotating pool of instructors who are sailing or are pilots.
With respect to the member of this forum suggesting the Navy turn shipdriving over to Warrant Officers like the Army. Hmm… The army offers direct commissions to Warrants. The Navy does not, but likely could. This would mean standing up a totally separate OCS/OTS just for shipdrivers and building a schoolhouse within the Navy to basically repeat what the maritime academies do, or recruit directly from maritime academies. Could the maritime academies handle the capacity of manning an additional 280-355 ships? How would a Navy schoolhouse that produces licensed officers impact the maritime unions? Would any of the warrants stick around after their service obligation to be stuck in the same job with no upward mobility, or would they jump ship into the maritime industry? Army makes the flying WO program work because there really aren’t that many helicopter jobs on the outside (not enough to make it a tempting alternative with a negative impact on their business model). On the other hand USAF is having a horrible time keeping guys in. You know, in large part - we already do this in the Navy… While my Chief Engineer was in charge of her department and called all the shots, the management of her direction and primary source of advice was executed by a Main Propulsion Assistant (WO/LDO) and my Top Snipe (Master Chief Gas Turbine). Both of these guys had more than 20 years and could be considered hawspipers by your standards. I had an LDO/WO (and a gapped master/senior chief) within Combat Systems Department as well. Perhaps the Navy should grow an LDO/WO billet from within the Operations Department with shipdriving and navigation experience to serve as a senior advisor type role for the bridge. I did have a Senior Chief Quartermaster who had 20 years of experience in navigation but no formal training in ship handling. Something else to look at.
To the airline pilot. - sort of a cheap shot to play the death card when talking about return on investment. I take your point, but pretty weak - I know the players involved here personally they are good friends, dedicated Americans, and good shipmates who lost their lives or careers (its not as simply as getting fired - these guy loved their crew and the crew loved them). All of these decisions involve risks and costs. The only safe place for a ship is leaning up against the pier. You assume risk every time your plane takes off. We have the risk/cost calculation out of order and it needs to be adjusted - that’s what this discussion is all about - how to improve a system we all agree is broken - with limited resources. Decision makers are going to have to make a call on how much is enough and it won’t ever be enough for the family of those Sailors who died. I think the Navy would love to make all OODs at least 3/Ms and all COs Masters, and all CHENGs Chiefs for that matter. So would the Coast Guard or any other Navy… The military does not require its pilots to be licensed. You don’t need an ATP to fly a C-40 or P-8, and you don’t have to be a test pilot, or an astronaut to fly an airliner. The question is about the appropriate level of training to do the job. The FAA, the military, and the airlines, have made a risk based decision that assumes more training than is currently required would drive down risk even more, but at an unacceptable cost. They set a benchmark that they believes works but that they can afford - a compromise. Adding more training, requiring more hours, to gain more knowledge and experience is going to cost a lot more money and time and it won’t ever eliminate all risk. The question is - how much more training is needed to significantly improve the Navy’s ability to safely execute its mission. And moreover - what type of training. The suggestions in this forum are wide, and it is unclear whether most would have any impact on the incidents FTZ or JSM. There are a lot of good ideas here that simply won’t be identified as root causes of any of these incidents. ***This sort of gets to my original post and frustration with the tone of this forum… It just seemed hypocritical to bash the Navy in these two recent collisions when no one even acknowledged the fact that two STCW crew also hit navy ships. This omission of a share in the blame, is what I identified as an “arrogance” on the part of mariners, that no one would even admit that any portion of the blame falls on the other side of the fence… all navy’s fault. The public debate as focused on crew size, the technology behind the SPY radar, maneuverability of the DDG, and lack of training, and so on. The talk of statistics and numbers can be played anyway you want… ‘well those incidents were not Americans under a US Flag, and the annual number of incidents involving the US Flag were limited to commercial fishermen, offshore oil resupply, and tugs and barges, and the only recent unlimited tonnage collissions involving big US ships were all really MSC or MSC charter (which is part of the Navy and well… part of the Navy)’, and so it really reminded me of a question that shows up on every FAA exam - I’m sure you’ll agree… related to aviation mishaps made by experienced pilots dealing with Aviation Decision Making - “anti-authority”, “Impulsivity”, “Macho”, etc, and most of all “Invulnerability” - that feeling that your training and experience is so great that ‘its never going to happen to me’, that you’d never get yourself into that spot and even if you did, your experience would get you out of the pickle. I interpreted the comments from mariners in forums like this one to be very much in line with the risky behaviors defined by the FAA as “invulnerability”. People asking “How could this ever happen” or saying the “Navy is so screwed up, this would never happen on my ship”. BS! It does happen - all the time… Like 700+ times last year. I was seeking some sense of humility, and didn’t get it. I got retrenchment. Like the original post that started this whole threat - the author said this was an “echo chamber”. And he is right in large part. There are a lot of great points in this thread, but like the answer you no doubt put on so many of your FAA exams… - you chose the multiple choice response that said the correct anti-dote was “It CAN happen to me, I am not invulnerable, all humans make mistakes.” I’m not reducing the overall outcome of these investigations to “shit happens, move on” - that’s a cheap shot… I just find it hypocritical for so many to believe incidents are isolated to the navy alone, without admitting that even with all the training - humans still forget to check the bridgewing before they turn, pilots forget to add the right about of flaps, people in this forum have made the same mistakes - there just didn’t happen to be a ship there when they turned.
I’ll close with this… I have incorporated licensed mariners into my warship as a department head, as XO and as CO because I firmly believe the Navy can learn a lot from Mariners - and Mariners can learn a lot from the Navy.
As a department head - I grabbed the Chief Mate on a Tyco Submarine Cable Ship in Honolulu and brought him underway for two weeks as an activated MMR. He provided the CO with three pages of notes on ways we could improve bridge watch-standing - and to my Captain’s credit he enacted all of them. But that Chief Mate also learned a great deal during his two weeks. In his words “he learned how to drive a ship”. I know that sounds insulting, I’m sorry. He said that in the ten years he had sailed he had never conned in and out of port or done a precision anchorage because the Master usually handles those duties. He had never been afforded the opportunity to just do man-overboard training - to which we went and grabbed Oscar and tossed him overboard (the aft lookout gave the alarm) and he drove for an hour - practicing Williamsons, Andersons, a Backing Y, Racetrack - two screws, one screw. Before he left after his two weeks he conned alongside the oiler, conned a precision anchorage, and drove back into Pearl Harbor taking us all the way to the pier.
As XO, with a little more authority, I was able to sponsor 22 SSOs providing a constant licensed officer presence on the ship - to include using SSOs on six month orders to temporarily fill the 1st Lt, Navigator, Repairs Officer and Electrical Officer billets. All of these officers brought their experience and biases to the ship. Most of them showed up with all the stereotypes displayed in this forum. I’d like to think most of them left with a very different appreciation for how and why the Navy is the way it is. They seem to have. I still stay in contact with many of them as they try to apply some of what they learned in their civilian shipping capacity. I can provide lots of examples of how they taught the ship and what they learned if anyone is so interested.
As CO, I was able to get the funding to turn my Repairs Officer billet into a full time SSO assignment - with a single officer on 18 month orders. My engineering department has a licensed marine engineer as a full time member of the crew. I used this billet to teach self-sufficiency and bottom line. The Navy wastes money throwing out things that can be fixed, and what it calls repair is largely “replacing components”. This program really got going when MARAD declared life on merchant ships sailing with you guys to be too dangerous for midshipmen based on sexual assault, bullying, and hazing (I may agree with the bullying). I inherited a bunch of KP midshipmen - who were not afraid to cut, weld, braise, and get dirty. Not only did this surprise my crew - it sparked a competition - lit a fire. If these “kids” can use a sextant, why can’t I? While the mids have gone back to the commercial fleet, the SSO remains. She will earn a SWO pin sometime next year - because I asked if we could rewrite the SWO Pin instruction to include SSOs who served on warships and the change was approved (should be out any day now). The results of the pilot program will be briefed to MSC and SURFOR next year. SURFOR knows its getting better results from the interaction mariners are having on the crew, and MSC knows it can use this program to provide mariners with an exposure to tactics, warfighting, foreign policy, etc that it believes it lacks in its CIVMAR community.
So, that’s it… If you wish to continue the debate, I’m all ears. I think you can see, I’m pretty passionate about linking up these two communities - as we can BOTH learn from each other. Id ask for a certain degree of professional courtesy, I have not intentionally insulted any one here… and certainly not facebook/linkedin stocked them… That’s just creepy. I won’t entertain petty cheap shots or personal attacks, but if you care to provide your advice on how to improve the Navy - I’d love to hear it.
Volley to you.