Surface warfare officers are borrowing a lesson from naval aviators and will now keep a logbook of their time underway throughout their career, according to a new Navy instruction obtained by USNI News.
Now, when new ensigns report to the Basic Division Officer Course they will now be issued a “Surface Warfare Mariner Skills Logbook” in which they will record everything from bridge time to underway replenishments and ultimately create a database for surface forces to analyze in the development of future training. The logbooks will also be distributed to all SWOs already in the fleet.
“Both unqualified and qualified [surface warfare officers] will be issued a hard copy Mariner Skills Logbook,” read the instruction. “They are personally responsible to use and maintain the logbook throughout their careers and begin tracking their experiences upon receipt of the logbooks and this instruction at their commands.”
The logbooks will not only serve the individual sailor but also feed into a larger database to inform future training.
“Documenting bridge time, simulator time, and special evolutions is necessary to tailor future training and ensure that an officer has been provided the at-sea opportunity necessary to develop mariner skills proficiency,” reads the instruction from commander of U.S. Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Richard Brown and U.S. Naval Surface Force Atlantic commander Rear Adm. Jesse Wilson.
“Over time, the logbook will allow the surface warfare community to conduct the trend and data analysis necessary to link experience with proficiency. The logbook is an initial step toward that goal and will provide a tool to aid the SWO community in addressing the challenges of building and maintaining necessary levels of performance and readiness.”
The logbook recommendation is one of more than a 100 of surface warfare fixes that were identified in the aftermath of the fatal collisions of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) in 2017 that killed 17 sailors total.
A transferable record of skills and experience is a key component of U.S. naval aviation and allied forces like the U.K. Royal Navy.
U.S. surface warfare, by comparison, was lax in recording skills following initial certification, found two reviews into the surface navy after the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.
“Vice Adm. Brown has made it clear that our top priority is to produce the most experienced and capable commanding officers as possible,” SURFOR spokesman Cmdr. Patrick Evans told USNI News. “We do this by increasing experience at sea in ships, documenting that experience in the logbook, and using that information to tailor future training and track progress and experience of those officers throughout their careers.”
The logbook requirement, which was included in the recently passed Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, joins other implemented Navy initiatives meant to improve basic mariner skills the service has found lacking in the wake of the 2017 reviews .
In June, the service announced a retooled surface officer career path that put an emphasis on mariner skills, after an evaluation found major gaps in the qualifications of certified officers of the deck. Also this summer, the Navy began putting money behind the recommendations to refresh surface forces training. The $64 million was included in the service’s Fiscal Year 2018 reprogramming request that includes money for new maritime training schoolhouses on the East and West coasts, money for Automatic Identification System laptops, development money for a next-generation surface search radar and the money to reestablish U.S. 2nd Fleet in Norfolk, Va.
Additional changes to the surface warfare officer path and training are expected to be included in the release as part of the Navy’s of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget early next year.