In the wake of the recent collision, there has been much debate about experience and training in regards to the U.S. Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) community. Many Merchant Marine officers are commissioned in the USN Strategic Sealift Officer (SSO) program, some have gone SWO, and many prior USN sailors now sail in the merchant fleet as both officers and ratings (unlicensed), so there is experience on both sides, but I believe the vast majority of us really don’t have a practical understanding of sea time and training of the SWO community, and vice versa.
OOD (OICNW equivalent) qualification, general training, and actual time spent throughout a career standing that specific watch can vary by a wide margin. The ship itself, and how they train their SWOs is what has the most impact. Keep in mind that others may have had different experiences, and things change.
First first thing to understand is a typical naval ship schedule, and thus actually underway days. A typical naval ship has a 2 year work up and deployment cycle, where everything is based from. This includes the following generic cycle:
- 1 to 1.5 years training, qualifying, certifying, and material management of the ship to get it and the crew ready to deploy.
- Aprx 7 month deployment afterwords.
Before deployment, the ship is getting underway approximately 1 week per 2 months or so (unless in the ship yard), and obviously has port time when deployed.
Doing a little Math, my best estimate is approximately 60 (17months / 2 = 8.5 weeks = 60 days) underway days before deployment, and 190 (7months = 210 days - port time and maintenance) underway days deployed, equaling 250 (generous) total days underway out of two years, which is a typical 1st and 2nd division officer tour, as shown below.
Another thing to keep in mind is that underway, a naval ship will typically have 4 duty sections (watch sections).
SWOs in training (1160 designators) will be standing not only OOD, but precursor watch stations as CONN and JOOD (junior officer of the deck). Conn is self explanatory, and JOOD will be managing check list for different evolutions and helping out the OOD as needed. Other UI (under instruction) officers will be up there training, and getting signatures on their PQS (Personal Qualification Standards) towards a watch station (such as OOD).
Generally takes about 8 to 15 months. Faster if they are deployed, longer if they don’t. In its simplest form, it involves getting signatures (PQS) in a booklet for either performing something, or talking about it. Once one achieves all signatures, they will sit before a board. If they pass, they are qualified. Simple as that.
Other training related to OOD include the following schools:
B-DOC (Basic Division Officer Course): 2 months long, right after commissioning. Include 1 week of bridge simulator time, some power points over basic seamanship and rules of the road tests (that must be passed).
A-DOC (Advanced Division Officer Course: 2 months long, between first and second division officer tour. Similar training as above.
General timeline for a SWO:
- 2 year Division Officer (DIVO) tour <-- Standing OOD
- 2 year 2nd Division Officer tour <-- Possibly Standing OOD.
- 2 year shore tour
- 3 year (two 1.5 year) Department head tour
- Several year shore tour
- 2 year XO tour
- 2 year CO tour
In summery, you can see that OOD experience can be quiet limited in some circumstances. After 10months of being on a ship, an Ensign can be standing OOD after qualifying, considering the above. At best a second tour LTjg will be standing watch. There are good watch standers, and the Navy makes learning quick a priority, but it really is up to the individual on how much they take to heart, and the training the ship provides. How much experience does this translate to a Department Head (DH), Executive Officer (XO) or Commanding Officer (CO)?