In a typical deployment, a ship participates in several maneuvers—for example Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn—as well as many smaller actions and daily Fifth and Sixth Fleet functions with joint and coalition partners. As I write this, my ship is participating in counter-piracy operations with a Pakistani ship and a German P-3. For my submission of two six-month deployments as commanding officer, a potential 24 credits, the initial feedback is that I should expect no credit.
I have always encouraged sharp department heads to pursue a joint education and tour as soon as possible. But “hot runners” are almost always steered toward SWO-centric or front-office jobs to build equity for CO/XO selection with the promise of a joint tour later. Surely there are viable joint billets for post-department-head officers that will allow them to grow professionally while remaining on course in their careers. Even then, getting JQO credit is an arduous process; a straightforward application for a completed individual-augmentee tour in Afghanistan can take up to 18 months to be approved.
Naval officers could reduce the amount of time in assignments out of their warfighting specialty if the following policies were implemented right now so that they could receive credit for what they are already doing.
• Training : Submit all Navy training courses related to joint operations, force protection, and leadership to the JFCOM J7 for inclusion in the JKO approved-course list.
• Exercises : Require fleet and combatant command staffs to submit all exercises and operations with joint and coalition objectives to the JFCOM J7 for inclusion in the joint-exercises list. Many have been rejected at some time or another. Instead, recommend that they be resubmitted for review with an emphasis on the joint and coalition nature of the exercise objectives.
• Operations : Engage with JFCOM to match the description of strike-group and independent deployed operations with the definition of what constitutes “Joint Matters,” so that it is consistent with the Naval Operational Concept 2010. The Navy should also demonstrate that its normal joint and coalition operations meet the criteria for month-to-month joint-experience credit.
• Joint tours : Make joint duty the default career-enhancing post-department-head tour for all line officers. Revise the requirements to receive CO or XO assignments so that they reward joint tours. They can go to another officer billet as a second tour before proceeding to XO, but there is no better time in an officer’s career than the first 0-4 shore tour to accumulate these credits.
The JQO process is a huge step in the right direction. But it has clearly left the Navy playing catch-up with the other services. The Army and Air Force cannot perform their core missions without integration into a joint environment. Thus, they have become experts at garnering JQO points every time they deploy. They have also broken the code on submission of their own training and exercises for JQO credit—the Navy has not. A few simple administrative steps, with no need to change the nature of Navy training, exercises, or operations, could truly be a game-changer.