Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's the officer's job to question why we do stuff

I came across this from a blogger I follow:

I think it's quite relevant since more than a few division officers have massive headaches with training.

My first thoughts when I hear the phrase "Navy Training" is:
- A room full of sailors watching a powerpoint
- A sailor sitting at a computer clicking away at NKO
- A sailor with a chief sitting next to him, hovering over a piece of equipment

Sadly, only one of those images can be classified as effective. I don't know how, but we've gotten to the point where we often tolerate ineffective training via powerpoint, when we could have way better training. Maybe it's because a powerpoint is easy to measure, easy to route for approval, and just plain easy. But in most's wrong.

Taking the easy route on training short-changes your sailors in the long term. It may be more difficult to get a setup in the engine room, or to schedule the bridge simulator at a schoolhouse, or to get time on the watchfloor when there isn't much going on...but it's worth every minute in the end when your sailors are better able to do their jobs.


  1. During my time in the Navy, trying to improve training and Big Navy training in particular, was one of my most frustrating failures.

    I found that much of "A" or even "C" school training in a rating was "check in the box." And the bureaucrats, instead of improving the quality of training, were always shooting to cut courses down to the bare bone. That was their indicator of success. I used to joke with a shipmate of mine that, in the future, rating schools will be completed in kindergarten, in between finger painting and milk and cookies. Sailors were not served well by this relentless drive towards efficiency instead of quality.

    The best example of worthless training, but successful bureaucracy was revealed to me when I was an XO at an NSGA back in the 90's. The fleet was having serious problems with the output from a critical piece of gear. Our admiral was very PO'd at the constant issues that just wouldn't go away. My skipper and I contended that this had to do with both operator error and poor knowledge of maintenance practices. I pinged the schoolhouse in P-cola about our concerns and, I am not exaggerating, the powers that be swore up and down that the maintainers were properly and fully trained in maintaining this gear. My command was a maintenance command, so I trekked on down to the "mat shop" and asked all the Sailors who had just come from this course what the training was like.

    To a man, they told me that the training on this gear consisted of the chief pointing at one in the corner and saying, "You'll learn how to maintain this in the Fleet."

    Training failure, bureaucratic success.

    Having said all that, the only way to really train is for a command to have a leadership chain which engaged and ready to pay the requisite attention to building an efficient fighting force. Filling in check boxes doesn't count. Chiefs and First Classes need to enforce and train to the standards set by the skipper and above. Failing that, we are failing our shipmates and our mission.

  2. Great post and great comment! We outsource way too much to "The Schoolhouse" and it continues to default to legacy curriculum (both content and delivery). We need to simultaneously help "The Schoolhouse" evolve and take back ownership of Professional Development, Operational Training, and Mentorship by making each a shared responsibility at the command level and a deliberate part of our day.