Home » Budget Industry » New Surface Forces Instruction Restricts Who Can Earn a SWO Pin

New Surface Forces Instruction Restricts Who Can Earn a SWO Pin

Capt. John F. Meier, then commanding officer USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), and Susan Ford Bales, ship’s sponsor, pin on Lt. j.g. Nicole Oliver’s surface warfare officer device, held inside the ship’s in-port cabin in 2016. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated to specify that there are no restrictions on who an individual ship commander could qualify as an officer of the deck.

The Navy is tightening up who can be qualified as a surface warfare officer and reserving time on the bridge for officers who are on a path to command warships, the commander of Naval Surface Force told USNI News this week.

Faced with a limited amount of bridge time for new surface officers, Vice Adm. Richard Brown issued an extensive set of new instructions with the restrictions that would keep limited duty officers, chief warrant officers and senior enlisted from obtaining a SWO pin, he told USNI News this week.

“What we are really going after is increasing at-sea experience in ships,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Part of increasing that experience is getting the reps and sets in the pilothouse driving ships. If you have other designators… competing for time in the pilothouse to earn their OOD letter — which is the prerequisite for SWO qualifications – then that really goes against what I’m trying to do in the surface force.”

U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer Insignia

In the past, limited duty officers and chief warrant officers – experts in a specific technical specialty – were allowed to earn a SWO qualification but would never eventually command a warship.

“To put it in aviation language, a maintenance LDO in an aviation squadron doesn’t go up to the skipper in the squadron and say ‘Hey, skipper I need to bring this F-18 up for a couple of spins so I can get my wings of gold.’ It just doesn’t happen,” Brown said.
“I’m removing that pressure from commanding officers where they feel they have to let chief petty officers or limited duty officers to stand these valuable and scare bridge times to earn their OOD letters to eventually get their SWO qualifications.”

The decision was contained in an extensive instruction issued earlier this week that tightens up the path for officers on the track for command of a warship at sea. In addition, the instruction eliminates a time limit to earning a SWO pin and arguably makes it easier to revoke the qualification.

Brown said there would be exceptions made for smaller vessels like mine countermeasures ship and Cyclone-class patrol craft for commanders to qualify other sailors for officer watch duty.

The instruction also formally outlined a revised SWO career path that includes more schooling for junior officers before they report to their first ships and additional evaluations for SWOs throughout their careers that were announced to the fleet last month.

“We must be realistic in confronting the systemic shortfalls that they revealed in core proficiencies across the junior qualified members of the force. We as a community can and must tackle our deficiencies and ensure there is meaningful experience behind our qualification letters,” Brown wrote in his June 6 message.

The new outlook on SWO training is part of the aftermath of the two fatal collisions in the Western Pacific of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) that killed 17 sailors. Two internal Navy reviews found the sailors on both bridges lacked training and bridge experience and recommended changes in how sailors were trained in basic seamanship and navigation.

Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces/Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet on April 12, 2018. US Navy Photo

The emphasis on time at sea and also follows an evaluation of 164 qualified officers of the deck throughout the fleet that found only 29 of those tested passed with no concerns.

“In the review and the aftermath of 2017, I really believe that we lost our way in who we allowed to earn those critical qualifications,” Brown said. “Fifteen years from now when you see an officer wearing a SWO pin, you’re going to know that that officer was at one point on track for command at sea. You’ll know it wasn’t a qualification that was obtained because you needed it for a promotion board.”

The restrictions on the qualification comes as the surface force has been swamped with junior officers vying to get their SWO qualifications with up to a dozen or more ensigns aboard a ship and fewer opportunities to stand watch.

“You have a bottom heavy force, a considerable number of ensigns that need to get trained,” former guided-missile destroyer commander Bryan McGrath told USNI News on Thursday. “There are not alot of variables that can be [changed] in this equation and this is one of them. This is a scarcity issue and this is a reasonable response.”

  • Sons of Liberty

    Dam right

    • Curtis Conway

      The Authority for SWO designation should lie with those who have the most to lose, and that decision should be kept as low as possible in the Chain of Command. A SWO pin may be called ‘Water Wings’ by some, but the only Air Force officers who even begin to assume the responsibilities of the SWO fly huge, heavy, bombers and transports with large crews. A fighter pilot throwing the dice in a fast aircraft doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to the responsibility held by bomber pilots and crews. After all, very near 1/4 million paid the ultimate price performing daylight bombing over Europe in WWII (movie 12 O’Clock High applies). I have NEVER understood the fighter pilot lead USAF, and the SWO led US Navy is required to shoulder much more responsibilities. Erosion of that message, and reality is the genesis of our SWO PROBLEM today. “Retired” up there is right!

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        SWO led US Navy? CNO is a submariner. VCNO is a naval aviator. SECNAV is a former Marine aviator.

        • Curtis Conway

          I could not say it out loud. Thank you for pointing out the most GLARING problem in the US Navy today! When you hire a Brain Surgeon, do you hire one who does it as a collateral duty?

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I am not sure I would use “SWO” and “brain surgeon” in the same sentence!

            A potential problem is that the SWO community takes about anyone – and in my experience isn’t the designator of choice for most newly commissioned ensigns.

            Perhaps there should be some sort of quality spread to ensure top candidates from USNA and NROTC get detailed SWO?

          • Curtis Conway

            LOL – Brain surgeons get more sleep. Concerning the SWO career paths, I thought I read about the US Navy making adjustments in the officer career paths to compensate for this. The problem of which you speak has always been a problem, once aviation took to being so popular. The only aviators I really get excited about command Bird Farms. They have to do the SWO deal on the fast track and do a Heavy tour, or at least they used to.

          • Curtis Conway

            One of the problems with the SWO program is the fact that the US Navy took ‘the’ problem “…A potential problem is that the SWO community takes about anyone…” . . . and made it worse by further devaluing the SWO community qualifications regimen, and making it much easier to earn (no . . . receive), with little or NO experience underway, under the tutelage of a Qualified SWO Commander, and stringent training/ qualification program run by a Qualified Senior Watch Officer taskmaster. The first underway assignment should be met with no SWO pin, but be a CANDIDATE ONLY! Prove you earned it, then show you have the character, and performance to hang onto it. MERITOCRACY Gentlemen!

  • Ed L

    From article; In the past, limited duty officers and chief warrant officers – experts in a specific technical specialty – were allowed to earn a SWO qualification but would never eventually command a warship.
    Well Now those LDO’s and Warrants from deck and ops will have to wait for an openings to stand OOD & JOOD. Which wouldn’t be long. Standing 3 section underway gets tiring very fast (2 bridge 1 cic) Remember The Officers now restricted to engineering can’t stand bridge watches. So that’s at least 6 not available. Back in the 70’s and 80’s on the gators I was on the bridge watch Officers were usually in 5 section underway. The Warrants, LDO’s and sometime BM or QMC’s would fill the slots. Heck as a BM1 I would stand an occasional JOOD in unrestricted waters. My mouth got me in trouble so I stopped at first. Some people didn’t like honesty

    • Alan Gideon

      As an Ensign in the good ship Niagara Falls, I learned an awful lot from the LDOs and Warrants under whom I stood JOOD watches, and credit the teamwork and resource management learned there with my ability to make several critical decisions when standing my own OOD watches.

  • Ed L

    So how many Officers unrestricted line will be available for bridge and CIC after you take the Engineers, Warrants and LDO’s away 9? 12?

    • Curtis Conway

      This is starting to sound like knee-jerk over reaction. The CO should be the determining factor. Many an engineer, DCA, EOOW became great deck officers and did the job well. Makes for a tighter crew that all appreciate the disparate disciplines on the ship, and make accomplishing the mission easier with higher efficiency ratings. We want well qualified commanders who train well qualified crews. Looks like the “SWO get no sleep” crew is back at it.

    • Chelsea Bria

      This really depends on what class of ship you’re asking about. If you’re talking DDG’s and CG’s (I’m a DDG SWO LT myself), then you’re only taking 1-2 officers away from the Bridge. Right now – on the DDG I’m station aboard – we have about 25 officers standing watch between the Bridge and CIC (that’s 4 full watch sections plus a couple of us standing strictly combat and engineering watches), due to the fact (talked about in the article above) that the Naval Officer ranks are so bottom heavy.

  • Pete Novick

    “Faced with a limited amount of bridge time for new surface officers, Vice Adm. Richard Brown issued an extensive set of new instructions with the restrictions that would keep limited duty officers, chief warrant officers and senior enlisted from obtaining a SWO pin, he told USNI News this week.”

    Dumb or dumber?

    While serving as CHENG in a Yokosuka-based DDG back in the day, arguably the best OOD we had was a senior chief ET. I watched him safely anchor the ship in Shimoda in 25 mph crosswinds, drive under the Shimonoseki Bridge (separating Honshu from Kyushu) in heavy traffic and pouring rain at midnight (that route cuts the transit time to Chinhae in half), etc. etc.

    The Navy has way, way too much talent in the LDO, CWO and senior enlisted ranks, and to waste it with a knee-jerk decision like this simply not smart.

    We won the Cold War at sea with many of these fine sailors standing at the centerline pelorus.

    • proudrino

      Back in the day, the fleet was large enough that junior officers had plenty of opportunity for at-sea training and experience. That isn’t the case in 2018. Unless and until senior enlisted are eligible and command at sea, their “bridge time” is a secondary priority no matter how talented the individual. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction. It is an attempt to fix a systemic problem. And for the record, the Cold War was over by the time SWO qualification opened up beyond the 1100 designators (not to be confused with the ESWS program).

      • Ed L

        I was enlisted I was one of the first Petty Officers in out phib group (5 of ) to obtain the ESWS quail within the first year it was introduced when the engineering cover almost half the qualifications. About 6 months after that the engineering portion was relaxed. They dropped the part where one had to draw and label the steam cycle, lube oil and electrical distribution systems. They were just needed to be explained

      • M Yates

        I think you’re mistaken. I was commissioned before the cold war ended and there was never a discussion as to me getting my SWO pin on the DDG I was assigned to. There weren’t enough LDOs (3) to affect the qualification of 1160s and I certainly didn’t stand as many bridge watches and they did since my primary duty kept me in CIC standing AAWC.
        This is certainly an over reaction and it won’t solve the lack of training of ensigns sent to the fleet.

        • Curtis Conway

          Once upon a time the Surface Warfare Officer Qualification was a standard, level of competence, demonstrated skills, and watches stood competently. More than one engineer, supply type, and others accomplished it. It took some extra work on their part, and they had to work hard, lose some sleep, and gain valuable experience that also went in FITREP write-ups, and carried weight. This ‘Letter of the Law’ designator system business is a bunch of hooey to throw wrenches in the works, and prevent those who should truly have the responsibility (ship’s C.O.) from exercising their prerogatives, which is the rightful (Traditional) place to put that level of responsibility. Senior Watch Officers usually make the best C.O.s and X.O.s if the ship is not small enough to require that level of responsibility already.

    • Epictetus

      I don’t read that the new instruction prevents anyone (LDO, Warrant, Supply, etc.) from standing OOD – they are just restricted from receiving the SWO qualification. I’ve had some outstanding enlisted and RL OOD/CICWO and even TAOs and nothing here prevents that moving forward. Granted, one can argue that it is implied, but it certainly isn’t explicitly forbidden.

      • M Yates

        If the purpose is to limit the bridge time to 1160s, how would a LDO qualify as OOD? And, if they can qualify as OOD, what prevents a LDO from completing the rest of the SWO qualification?
        I earned my OOD and SWO as a LDO, but did stand most of my watches in CIC. And on my last two ships as TAO on deployments. I wonder how many COs will want a non OOD qualified TAO. Kind of limits where the CO will use senior LDOs.

        • Epictetus

          I read the instruction give priority to 1160s, but I don’t see anything in there that makes OOD exclusively for 1160/1110s. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t believe that was the intent. As for what prevents an LDO/CWO from completing SWO, the answer is this new instruction does. I believe the CO still has the ability to assign and qualify LDO/CWO, and enlisted, as OODs, but that’s the new glass ceiling for non-1160/1110s.

          I don’t think the intent of this is to stifle the LDO/CWO community. I think it is meant to give a bit of exclusivity to the SWO community similar to what other warfare communities have as well as focus the priorities of time on deck to the professional SWOs.

          • M Yates

            What you apparently missed is this – “Faced with a limited amount of bridge time for new surface officers, Vice Adm. Richard Brown issued an extensive set of new instructions with the restrictions that would keep limited duty officers, chief warrant officers and senior enlisted from obtaining a SWO pin, he told USNI News this week.”

            If there is a limited amount of bridge time, the intent of this instruction is to have that bridge time used by surface officers, excluding LDOs and CWOs. I get aviators, an LDO or CWO in those communities can’t be pilots. I don’t know how subs work – can LDO/CWOs in subs get a pin? I don’t know why not, but don’t know.

            Again, if a LDO/CWO can get OOD qual’d, what’s the point of stifling the rest of a SWO qual? Just to be exclusive? So the LDO/CWOs are no longer surface officers – that will do wonders follow on sea tours. I certainly wouldn’t have volunteered for #2 and 3. I’d stayed on shore.

          • Curtis Conway

            Commander’s Intent Clarification? How about it? THAT is ONE ALNAV!

      • Matthew Ruud Perry

        Why in the world would an LDO or CWO want to stand OOD/CICWO or TAO and not get the applicable pin to culminate the qual. The only reason they are on the bridge at all is because everyone in the community has been told for decades that you will not be selected for control grade without a gold pin. I think carriers are going to be screwed for bridge manning and that there will be a whole lot of officers not standing any underway watch in the near future.

    • Curtis Conway

      The Ivy League Academic Elite has reared its ugly head again . . . HUH!? It’s like Enlisted Pilots in the USAF is a non-starter. We have CIC Supervisors that have a ‘better handle’ on the ‘tactical picture’ MOST OF THE TIME because the “O”s are concentrated on paperwork, until we have to employ weapons.

    • Curtis Conway

      That first sentence is indicative of just Who Is In Charge of our Navy today, and are part of the problem. Now if those Limited Duty Officers, Chief Warrant Officers and Senior Enlisted were qualified using the same methodologies that got us in this predicament in the first place, then sure . . . Vice Adm. Brown has a good idea. However, the person with the most to loose is the Commanding Officer of the Ship, and THAT is where that level of authority should lie. It’s his/her ship. The C.O. signed for it. The C.O. is responsible. The erosion of this responsibility, so less qualified individuals could take command, has put us in this place, in the first place. High Standards Gentlemen, not the lowest bar you can get away with, which has been the legacy of this whole exercise . . . that has cost us lives. Defend the country with that logic that failed so miserably?

  • Western

    Regardless of career path, I would want my OOD to serve some watches in engineering especially, but all other divisions as well.
    Anyone in the bridge that gives maneuvering orders to the engine room needs comprehensive understanding of what takes place when the command is given.
    If you think about it, you would want your engineering team to understand bridge evolutions, and know how the ship behaves at all bells, and in a variety of conditions.
    A good captain will have a well balanced crew of skills, knowledge and qualifications. If it is just about punching a ticket, then we are losing focus on what is important.

    • proudrino

      That’s why Paragraph 6(c) of the instruction includes demonstrated proficiency as an engineering watchstander and Paragraph 7 requires completion of SWO Engineering PQS.

      • Michael Einbinder

        I can see the t-shirts now: “I got qualified and all I got was this lousy AQD.” Assuming there’s actually an AQD for every little thing, and not just the overarching things like SWO and OOD.

        • proudrino

          Hey! Why not? Back in the day you couldn’t wear the blue sweater until you had your SWO qualification.

  • proudrino

    “SWO qualification is the responsibility of every 116X designated officer and is a critical milestone in our community’s training and qualification process.”

    The above statement is not true of limited duty officers, chief warrant officers and senior enlisted. They have their own critical milestones and career progression requirements. For that reason, I can’t side with those bemoaning the “lack of opportunity” for senior enlisted to qualify as a SWO. The incidents of the past couple years prove that the Navy is not doing its job in producing a cadre of commissioned officers who are capable of professional seamanship and, ultimately, command at sea. The top priority, when it comes to SWO qualification, has to be the 116Xs. As was the case in the distant past when I became a SWO.

    • Michael Einbinder

      That sounds just fine, until you have W3s competing for W4, some of whom have SWO pins and some who don’t. And on a CVN (which falls under CNAF, not surface navy..), there is a distinct lack of available SWOs to drive the ship. It’s mostly warrants, LDOs, and aviators. The SWOs are all down in reactor and engineering, busy with other things.
      Until SWOs fix the career track and/or mindset that largely keeps them off the bridge between their JO and XO/CO tours, there’s going to be an experience problem. And until Big Navy rolls back the ridiculous number of “inspections,” “evaluations,” and other generic nonsense, there is going to be less time for COs to take their ships out for training that can’t be done in port, and NOBODY will get that experience.

      • proudrino

        In terms of your W3 competing for W4 reference. That isn’t the problem of the 116X/111X community. The promotion guidance for boards for W4 would need to explain that not every W3 will have the opportunity for SWO qualification and it shouldn’t be a criteria for selection.

        The instruction and VADM Brown’s comments don’t preclude senior enlisted or warrants from standing these watches. The policy merely puts priority on giving 116X officers the opportunity to succeed in a critical career milestone.

        • James B.

          Unless the promotion precept had a bold, all-caps NO CREDIT for the qual, it will remain a nice-to-have, which will then become a must-have.

          Look at OOD quals for aviators: it used to be a nice-to-have for O-5s who might get tracked towards CVNs, so now we have O-4 DHs spending time on deployment to earn the qual, and the real motivators are O-3s on afloat staffs.

          Extra quals are taken as a signal of motivation, even if they have zero use or benefit to either the Navy or the officer earning it.

    • dsharil

      It would sure help the LDO/CWO at promotion boards if they had expended the effort to obtain a SWO qualification. My roommate on the DD-950 was an LDO Supply Officer (pre SWO days) got qualified as an OOD(fleet-underway) and was the GQ OOD; this also partly had an influence on his promotion boards and he was selected for Commander (O-5) which they were not many LDO Supply types that were selected for O-5!

  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    It boggles my mind hoq poorly the SWO community has been managing itself for the last few decades. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

    – Eliminated SWOS to save money – resulting in minimal basic training prior to reporting to first ship.
    – Overreliance on computer-based training to learn basic seamanship.
    – No personal logbooks – even though aviation has been doing this for almost 100 years.
    – No rest requirements – even though effects of sleep deprivation are well understood.

    Now we’re learning that COs were handing out SWO pins to CWOs and LDOs at the expense of actual SWOs getting at-sea experience. They have been doing this to themselves.

    I’m starting to think the SWO community needs to take a step back and look at their entire pipeline with an eye towards safety and combat readiness. Much like naval aviation did in the late 1950s – which resulted in the highly-effective NATOPS program.

    • Lazarus

      There are no enough LDO’s and Warrants on any ship to seriously disrupt the SWO training program and I doubt any CO just “gave away” a SWO pin to anyone, or else there would be an investigation (and there have been such in the rare cases when that was suspected.)
      Agree the SWO community has no central operating ethos like NATOPS and probably needs one.

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        My understanding is wardrooms are already overcapacity (IIRC: 30+ officers on DDGs) – which means limited opportunities for JO training and proficiency. Qualifying LDOs/CWOs seems like it should be a secondary concern to ensuring actual SWOs get real experience.

        Judging by the clown schools that were the MCCAIN and FITZ watch teams (and recent spot-check of SWOs across the Fleet) it sounds like “SWO Training Programs” may exist in name only. I’d note that that principal folks on the MCAIN and FITZ bridge teams had their SWO pins.

        I am glad we agree that SWOdom needs something like NATOPS. The bigger question is why the SWO leadership has been so slow to enact things that other communities have been doing for decades. Like crew rest, log books, etc. Why does it take two Class A mishaps to do things that are frankly common sense?

        There seems to be a bigger cultural problem with the SWO community that needs to be recognized and fixed first. Frankly: the SWO community looks and feels broken.

        • dsharil

          I have also heard that they have an excess of officers on the DDG’s which has restricted watch standing time on the bridge. Perhaps if the USN decides to follow the British way of having Deck officers and Engineering officers that this might alleviate some of the lack of bridge time. The rest of your points are well taken.

        • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

          Follow the money. Surface forces, personnel being this discussion, suffer the first swing of the budget axe.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            OK. But how much of that is self-inflicted pain? The surface forces threw billions of dollars towards modernization projects that haven’t exactly panned out (CG(X), DDG(X) and LCS).

            One might argue that when the budget axe fell – some or all of that money might’ve been better invested in personnel, training and readiness for today’s fleet.

          • Duane

            Without new ships replacing old, worn out, and obsolete ships, it is all an academic argument anyway.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I wouldn’t call either FTZ or JSM old, worn out, or obsolete. At least not prior to their collisions.

            The problem is management. When presented with budget challenges, the Surface Navy chose to hollow out the existing force to pay for (dubiously useful) future ships like LCS and DDG(X).

          • Lazarus

            No, not the case. The surface force, like all aspects of the Navy has been the subject of significant budget reductions since the end of the Cold War. All combat arms of the fleet are fairly hollow on close examination.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            The Cold War ended in 1991 which is longer than most O-6s have been in the Navy! A bit of a stretch to cite this as the proximate cause for today’s problems. Also: the Navy’s budget has generally increased since about 2000.

            It is not readily apparent to me that all the “combat arms” of the fleet are anywhere as hollow as the Surface Community.

            The Submarine Force seems to have managed itself fairly well in an era of “significant budget reductions”.

            One might argue this is because:
            (a) N97 preserved their training, readiness and manpower accounts. No half-trained submariners or undermanned subs.
            (b) Submarine force modernization programs were based on evolutionary designs… vice transformational nonsense like LCS, DDG(X).

            My hunch is the Surface Community’s current problems are more about (mis)management and bad priorities than declining budgets.

          • Curtis Conway

            One manages material and money. You LEAD people, and that is usually by example.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            No. I meant managed from the budgetary standpoint. Money and materiel.

            Although I am sure a very interesting discussion could be had on leadership styles of SURFOR vs. SUBFOR.

          • Curtis Conway

            In a meritocracy the Subject Matter Experts are advanced up the chain. In other systems the politically correct or acceptable are promoted. Ringing any bells yet. George Washington is causing a seismic event in his grave. We have a USSTRATCOM that has never stood the nuclear watch (nuclear responsibility on his shoulders). The ‘powers that be’ very nearly placed an air force officer, who has NEVER served aboard a ship, as USPACCOM. Since the end of the Cold War things in the Chain of Command have gotten consistently worse in almost every respect w/r/t personnel leadership, and systems that require specific functionality, fidelity to those who serve there in, has been thrown aside. With friends like this we don’t need enemies. How else can the most capable CAS aircraft ever created be discarded? How can so much treasure be spent on building a vessel like the singled missioned LCS and call it a Surface Combatant, making so many rich, and weakening our Surface Fleet with every number added to it . . . instead of real frigates? We have people making decisions today who have discarded HiStory and replaced it with their best estimation driven by I know no what, and it is very nearly bringing this country to its knees on a moral and Spiritual level.

        • James B.

          A big personnel issue across the Navy is retention to Department Head. Losing too many officers between the JO sea tour and the DH board is a killer, because those officers have years of experience that can’t be recreated overnight.

          In aviation, retention bonuses are getting very generous, because fleet squadrons can’t qualify more junior pilots without a critical loss of quality. On the surface side, they haven’t figured that out, and are overloading ships with Ensigns in an attempt to make more DH-candidate LTs.

          • Guest

            Retention is the 800 lbs. gorilla they’re seemingly refusing to address. Rather than quality they’re pushing quantity, and with this decision, I’d suspect also negatively impacting the quality of the LDO/CWO community. Lose/lose/lose.

        • Lazarus

          I would be careful in calling the watch teams of FITZ and JSM “clown shows.”

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Lazarus: I actually called them a ‘clown school’, which is a step down from a ‘clown show’.

            Regardless: the performance of the JSM and FTZ watch teams should certainly call into question the efficacy of the “SWO training program”.

            Now add in the fact that only 29 of 164 OODs (17%) passed a recent seamanship spot check with “no concerns”.

            If only 17% of aviators passed their annual NATOPS check ride – you can bet that a lot of squadron and wing training officers would be looking for new jobs.

          • Lazarus

            Again, I suggest you exercise care in how you label people. Any group is subject to bad results depending on the test and lack of/time to prepare for it. I would not want to sit in judgment on aviators or submariners subjected to similar testing in the wake of an accident.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            My understanding is that the test covered seamanship and rules of the road. These seem like fundamental items that a professional seamen would commit to memory. It should be a bit concerning that only 17% passed with “no concerns”.

          • Curtis Conway

            In one of these cases the female OOD and CICWO were not getting along, so little or no communication was happening (e.g., no coordination in that DANGEROUS environment) . . . PROFESSIONALISM?! Lack of understanding of the GRAVITY of what they were doing? Had no idea how, or what to do? Which is it, or is it all of them? This is not a downer on the women, but it does demonstrate something the males rarely experienced in the same situations. I stood many a CIC watch with a CICWO and OOD that did not get along . . . but they still did their jobs, and performed their functions reliably, competently, and SAFELY.

        • Curtis Conway

          Navy Wide Problem. This is political, not just community.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Not sure about that. Actually – from what I’ve heard there are a shorfall of JOs in aviation squadrons.

          • Curtis Conway

            Having been in such a position, I can tell you that having senor people always provides options that having less experienced junior personnel will never provide.

  • Duane

    While this guidance makes sense in some ways, it misses the mark. From all of the systemic analyses of the two collisions last year, and numerous interviews from officers at CO level and down the chain of command, it appears that the biggest hindrances to getting and keeping ship handling skills have to do with the overwhelming paperwork demands on division officers, and due to extended multi year periods in the mid-career of an officer where they are entirely removed from standing bridge watches.

    Also, reserving bridge watches for CO-track officers prevents cross-training for the 90+% of officers who will never stay in the Navy long enough to gain command, or who may make wonderful OODs but not so great COs, or who will spend most of their time in engineering, or handling weaps and such.

    I would classify this directive as requiring additional consideration.

  • airider

    Agree that prioritization should always be URLs…since this is their designated profession. That said, there are lots of good LDO’s and CWO’s out there that are already good watch standers and have the aptitude and attitude to be good OOD’s, regardless if they earn a SWO pin. CO’s discretion should always be the final say.

    • dsharil

      I agree 100%.

  • proudrino

    “I’m removing that pressure from commanding officers where they feel they have to let chief petty officers or limited duty officers to stand these valuable and scare bridge times to earn their OOD letters to eventually get their SWO qualifications.”

    I’m assuming “scare bridge times” is a typo. That being said, the current state competence in the SWO community leads one to believe that it is indeed scary when a Navy ship is underway.

  • Lazarus

    There is at best a tiny number of LDO’s and Warrants per ship in the fleet, aside from carriers. Do two or three surface LDO’s (on AEGIS ships often the CICO and STO, or at least that was the case,) and a Deck LDO’s/warrant or two on an amphib really take that much “stick time” away from 1160 watchstanders? I would like to see some proof presented by SURFPAC of that assertion. I doubt there is such proof. This move smacks of a kind of discrimination against the surface LDO/warrant arm. Is a similar move barring engineering LDO’s and warrants from standing Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) being contemplated?
    In a period when the surface force is struggling to restore the kind of effective training it had in the late Cold War (up to the mid 1990’s,) this decision seems as ill-conceived and advised as was the 2003 choice to make basic surface warfare school a self-training, CDROM-based course. I respectfully suggest that SURFPAC re-evaluate this decision.

  • CAPT Mongo

    This is , I fear, an error. Our young officers need to learn–including on the Bridge/In CIC–from our mature LDO and CWO cadre (Not to mention our Chiefs!). I certainly did. As a (not exactly on point) aside, during my second command tour, I slept best at night when my “Grey Team” (Who were all CPOs) was on watch. The JOOD was the Chief Cook–a natural ship handler. Yes I qualified all my JOs, partially by having them stand Under Instruction watches with the Grey Team. My CWO4 Bosun stood bridge watches too, as did my LDO First Lieutenant.

    • Duane

      Very good points.

      This guidance seems to suppose that the reason we have too few qualified SWOs is that we have too many candidates, which is counterintuitive. And that quality bridge time is the limiting factor in producing quality SWOs. In ships today that habitually sail under complement such that officers and crew are routunely overworked – as substantiated by hard data last year in the accident investigations – that also seems counterintuitive

      • proudrino

        The point you and many others are missing is that the SWO community (11XX designated officers) have a career path that leads to command at sea and major afloat command. All this instruction is doing is focusing on getting these individuals fully qualified and able to successfully reach those milestones. What is so darned hard to understand that this instruction is not an indictment of senior enlisted or LDOs standing OOD watches. After all those collisions and groundings THIS is a step in addressing serious systemic problems with the SWO community. Why can’t you support that?

    • Curtis Conway

      That same mature LDO and CWO cadre have been launching ‘Red Flares off’ ever since the SWO program (miss-characterized as ‘Water Wings’) was equated to Aviator Wings. Same message for Signalman Rating going away. This IS THE BIG . . . “I Told You So”, and no one was listening! Cost us (US) didn’t it?!

      The term ‘Elitist’ comes to mind, which usually excludes . . . Common Sense! Man has been navigating safely on the High Seas for millennia, and they did it using tried and true methodologies that have proven themselves down through the centuries. When the ship takes damage, the Ionized Atmosphere no longer supports radio navigation, or the equipment is broken or malfunctioning, this Mode-3 Method is how you ‘Safely Navigate The Ship’. Every SWO candidate should include a tablet of Maneuvering Broads, parallels and Compass/Divider. If the SWO candidate did not master these devices, then they have no business running the Bridge. I’m going to keep that individual under close supervision in Combat too.

      • CAPT Mongo

        You bet. Exactly right.

  • James Bowen

    I think that forbidding Warrant Officers and LDOs from earning officer warfare qualifications is a big mistake.

    • dsharil


  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    Yes, CWOs. Thanks. I fixed.

  • Steve H

    Misplaced & misguided. As a CWO before I became an LDO, I earned my SWO pin on a CGN. I stood watches mainly as TAO on my next three ships. I was selected over a 1110 CDR to be TAO during weapons quals on a preecomm LHD. I spent the ’91 Gulf War port & starboard as TAO. There is a lot of skill and knowledge down the tubes for the CO’s of ships going forward due to this change.
    Just an informational item; A Surface LDO/CWO can succeed to command at sea if they have a letter signed by their CO stating so. I had this letter in my record and was valid on follow on ships if not specially revoked by the current CO. Unless they revised that rag already.
    Go Navy, Beat Army!

    • dsharil

      I agree with your points. Especially the last one.

  • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

    Many commenters correctly note that many of the grey hairs are excellent watch standers and ship handlers. But that is not the point. The point is to Create new highly skilled watch standers and ship handlers. When LDO/CWO/Other makes a difficult event look easy, the neophyte has lost a chance to practice, and even be a little less proficient.

    As a middie, one of my primary instructors was a Gunny. Learned a lot. Grey hairs should get points for teaching, not just their enlisted subordinates, but also unskilled JOs. My USMC brother often relates how platoon SNCOs train platoon leaders.

    • Curtis Conway

      I had more than one Department Head who told me I was the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. CWO they had worked for. Any Ensign who treats his Chief with anything but the utmost of dignity and respect is going to have a rough career.

  • Too many pins, of all types. Use to be Submarine and Aviation, now everything else included. If you saw an officer with a star above his or her stripe(s) and they were unrestricted line you knew they could con a ship. Maybe we should take a page out of the Royal Navy and have distinct paths, Ship Handlers, Engineers, Combat systems, Admin, etc. Red between stripes for engineers, etc. The complexity of newer systems makes the well founded surface line officer’s qualifications much more complex. No need for an large ship engineering officer to be a qualified OOD and working on his or hers command at sea, etc.

    • robotiff

      The RN model makes sense to me … ship drivers are professional ship drivers/warfare officers, engineers are professional engineers etc. Awareness of what the others do is important and can be achieved as part of a training pipeline; it certainly doesn’t need them to complete in depth qualification regimes that suck up valuable time away from their core job. As a Marine Engineer (with no bridge/deck house qualifications) I used to sleep easily at night knowing the bridge operated under the direction of a very competent mariner in the form of a professional seaman/ship driving officer.

  • ADM64

    The fleet is small, big-ship heavy, and the officer corps is disproportionately large (especially at O6+). Due to an emphasis on balancing ship-shore time (in favor of the latter), the “career time-out” option, and many other similar initiatives, overall at-sea time – and at-sea time in ship handling positions – has declined greatly compared to that historically accepted for naval officers. Combine that with the deliberate replacement of traditional navigational tools with GPS and other forms of electronics, and you have a situation where large numbers of less-than-fully qualified officers will result. Who those officers are, whether including engineers, warrant officers and LDO’s is not the issue because all will suffer from this.

    I’m afraid that an observation of Admiral Rickover’s, namely that “excellence cannot be achieved with transients” is sadly all too true in the is context. Good seamanship requires at-sea time. It can’t be achieved if you spend only 1/3rd of your career at sea. It doesn’t matter how smart the person is. Far more honesty is required in terms of presenting what a naval career means at the recruitment stage because you can’t dabble at it.

  • vetww2

    Wail, duz this mene I godda learin how ta drav a ship? Wow, wodda idear. I godda 100% on my P,C, EXAM. Aint that ’nuff? Shucks, ennywaym dey ain’t got no bridges to drive ’em from.

  • Jeff McCullough

    So glad I was on a MSO in my day. It was a career killer but I got to drive the crap out of that ship as did all of the other officers and even enlisted who got their ESWS. The best JOOD I ever had was an SK1. So for those who are on track to make admiral, enjoy your cup of coffee on the bridge…the Navy just does not get it.

  • Richard Johnson

    VADM Richard Brown has been in charge of these jobs from 2012 to present according to his bio:

    Surface Warfare Officers School Command and commander, Naval Service Training Command. His most recent assignment was commander, Navy Personnel Command and deputy chief of Naval Personnel.

    He was in charge of both Officer and Enlisted training and distribution to the fleet for the past 8 years. He must have been the only guy left standing that could take the job as SURFOR. Nobody thinks or asks the question if he was part of the problem.

    USNI News just regurgitates press releases from these Admirals. No “reporter” actually asks them hard questions. This is typical of all DC area military press reporting. They like to report “news”, but there is zero questioning attitude or analysis about what is being published.