Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sharing the tactical lessons

Maybe we don't do it because we're really tired...

There has been a few posts in the blogosphere wondering why junior officers and enlisted aren't doing more tactical blogging on the SIPR and JWICS networks.

I like the question, but as a guy who has been there, I can tell you exactly why you aren't seeing it:

1. SENIOR LEADERS DON'T REWARD IT. Yup, they don't. When was the last time you saw a CAPT or Admiral give a NAM to a JO that came up with a great idea? Or a Petty Officer? We've gotten away from rewarding achievement to End of Tour awards...which, since they are normally based on rank, means why bother putting in the extra effort? You can't get a better FITREP as an O-1 or O-2, and if you aren't going to get rewarded, you're simply expending effort and getting nothing in the end.

2. TACTICAL LEADERS ARE WORE DOWN BY BUREAUCRACY. What took me the longest amount of time to do on a submarine? Organize maintenance and process EVALs. Both of these I was never trained on. I spent 2 weeks in a leadership school though, which was a complete waste of time. Had I been taught about EVALs and maintenance, I might have saved a lot more time, which could have been spent on sharing and developing tactics.

3. ROBOTS DESIRED, NOT THINKERS. As a JO, you were best off if you had a good chief that ran your division so that you could get qualified fast. But after that, you were likely placed as the DIVO of a division (or an assistant department head) and stuck where you couldn't make decisions. You were micromanaged by your department head, who was micromanaged by your XO. Really, until you're an XO or CO, you have very little freedom of thought or how to organize the Sailors that work for you. I hear this echoed in the SWO community as well.

We have really smart people working in the Navy. Junior Petty Officer and Junior Officers can offer a lot of new ideas and improve on our tactics, techniques and procedures. But we treat them like robots and don't provide the right incentives. Why are we surprised then? Why does it take a massive SWO and SUB bonus to keep people in the Navy? The money compensates (only barely) for their misery in being locked into jobs that where they SHOULD be allowed to make a difference, but are instead treated inhumanly.

If we really want the robust tactical dialog:

1. USE LEADERSHIP CLASSES EFFECTIVELY. Right now the junior level leadership classes are a waste of time. If the classes trained people how to use Intelink, how to write Wikimedia code, how to write a good EVAL, and how to run OMMS-NG, etc., that training would reduce the administrative overhead and give junior leaders more time to focus on tactical thinking. The Navy's bureaucracy isn't going away, so we may as well train our future leaders how to effectively use the bureaucracy, so that they don't waste more than 15% of their day on administrative tasks.

2. REWARD INITIATIVE. NWDC recently conducted a massive online game to try and find new ideas for fighting in the electro-magnetic spectrum ( Did the top player get a cudos, a coin, a FITREP bullet, or anything career enhancing for participating in the program? Doubt it. He likely did it from the goodness of his heart, but if we continually don't reward our junior personnel's initiative, we shouldn't be surprised when they simply don't bother. Even if it's something as simple as an email from leadership thanking them for their help, that means a lot. It's recognition for their hard work.

Every time one of my Sailors busts their butt to get something done, I do something for that Sailor. Whether it's a 48 hour liberty chit, a coin, or even just getting them a handshake from the CO, it's something, and it lets them know that I recognize what they did is important and value it. Not everyone needs a NAM, but let's face it: liberty and handshakes are free. Why be stingy?

Right now, the only people we will see blogging about tactics are folks that have the time, care, and don't have an intensive workload. If we want to lower the entry bar, we need to place more value on our Sailor's time and make it easier to enter data, using the tools we already have in place.