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Nobody Asked Me But…Warrior Training Must Be the Highest Priority

By Lieutenant Commander Randall Bowdish, U.S. Navy

At the unit level many other demands compete with training in a zerosum struggle for time: maintenance must be accomplished, watches stood, stores loaded, and evaluations written. There also is competition for time within the training realm. Maintenance and in-rate training, equal opportunity, safety, hearing protection, electrical safety, physical fitness, and general military training all compete with warfighter training.

Exacerbating this competition for training time is that much of the goodcitizen training is required by instruction while much of the warfighting training is not. For example, sexual harassment, hearing conservation, and electrical safety training are all required to be conducted annually. However, no such requirement exists for tactical training, at least, not by instruction. It is understood that training will be conducted to maintain warfighting skills, yet it is not mandated.

Another problem is that additional training requirements continue to be levied from a variety of upper-echelon commands without a concomitant cancellation of previous topics. The already bloated required training list continues to grow without regard to the fixed amount of time a ship can devote to training. Ships are left with an option either of allocating more time to training at the expense of something else, or of prioritizing their training. Given a fixed amount of time, this may mean that some training will not be accomplished. With so much of the good-citizen training—as opposed to warfighting training—mandatory, it is easy to get the impression that warfighting training is secondary or optional. If nothing else, it causes greater imbalance between warfighting and non-warfighting training.

The Navy needs a training clearinghouse to establish and enforce a ratio of warfighting to non-warfighting training. New training requirements must pass the zero-sum test, only being added to fleet requirements if it has more value than an existing training requirement. The new training requirement then replaces it on the required training list.

We must maintain the balance between the warrior and the gentleman. Winston Churchill once said, "But after all, when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite." Perhaps that is the essence of the delicate balance John Paul Jones was seeking.

Lieutenant Commander Bowdish is a Federal Executive Fellow at RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA. His most recent sea tour was as Executive Officer of the Hawes (FFG-53).



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