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Nobody Asked Me But…Cease Fire on SWOS!

By Lieutenant Michael W. Little, U.S. Navy

Some argue that post-division officer tour lieutenants lack the maturity, expertise, and perspective to teach division officer students. This is nonsense. Post-commanding officers train prospective-commanding officers, post-executive officers train prospective-executive officers, post-department heads train future department heads, and post-division officers train future division officers. It is the right way—and it is a continuum of education based upon the surface navy's corporate knowledge.

A common criticism of SWOSDOC is that its objective-based curriculum lacks student-teacher interaction. Adult students do not learn or master skills by being lectured to. The self-motivated students who focus on mastering the material have the most success in the course. Students who cannot do this usually struggle because of the course's fast and unforgiving pace. Increasing classroom interaction will require the implementation of sound fundamental adult educational practices, and a clear vision of what the additional interaction might entail.

Why has this debate resurfaced on tactics, division officer training, and warrior skills? The majority of the fleet feedback received by SWOS indicates that the Division Officer Course is on track. Within the surface community is there a lack of understanding with regard to the true role of the fleet division officer? That is what the written bombardment indicates. Division officers are a resilient group of men and women who are charged with training the troops within their division, maintaining weapons and machinery, and ensuring that their people are taken care of. These chores—sometimes tedious and neither glamorous nor tactically oriented—are nevertheless fundamental to the Navy's mission. If sailors go untrained, if machinery and weapons do not work on demand or as designed, and if personnel problems go unchecked, things inevitably go deadly wrong. Managing programs such as the personnel qualification standards and the performance measurement system, and taking care of people is the division officer's job. These are the programs the Division Officer Course prepares the new division officer to execute effectively. Division officers need to learn their jobs, learn ship systems, and learn about their people first. Tactical skills will come in time.

A plaque in Callaghan Hall reads: "What will always be required to destroy the enemy is a strong sense of offense, an iron will, and tactical excellence. To accept less is to court defeat. Our thinking, our education, and our training must concentrate on carrying the fight to the enemy. There rarely should be an occasion that prompts tactical discussion on other than the method of attack. Every Surface Naval Officer must embrace this philosophy, retaining its purity and its purpose, or we fail in our charge." Let us not fail in our charge as a community to recognize SWOSDOC for what it is: a school based upon the fundamentals of a proud and honorable profession. Let the fleet combatants educate and train division officers on tactics and let SWOSDOC continue to lay the foundation for future surface warriors, so that they can carry the fight to the enemy when called to do so.

Lieutenant Little has been an instructor at SWOS-DOC for two years, and is the prospective First Lieutenant for the Pearl Harbor (LSD-52).



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