Many of the commander billets as operations officers in larger ships are ideally suited for LDOs . . . only the absolute best and most qualified officers should be given the demanding job of running an operations department at sea.
Most surface operations limited duty officers (LDOs) serve their first sea tours as combat information center officers (CICOs) or electronic warfare officers (EWOs). Billets available for second sea tours are restrictive at best, and often repetitive in scope. Typical choices are follow-on tours as CICO on board ships or battle group staffs. There are no department head billets for surface operations LDOs at sea.
With “rightsizing” under way in the Navy, unrestricted line officers are not eager to give up department head assignments, which are necessary for continued advancement. A successful department head tour afloat is an absolute requirement for unrestricted line officers—though not for LDOs. Because this ticket cannot be left unpunched on the road to executive officer and eventually command at sea, LDOs soon become relegated to a supporting role.
Surface operations LDOs are line officers, as evidenced by the stars on their shoulder boards and dress blue uniform sleeves. Why not let officers who have been “limited” to the field of surface operations become operations officers at sea?
Surface operations LDOs can make excellent department heads. Many have already filled the void when the Ops Boss is away from the ship for an extended period or if he transferred unexpectedly. LDOs bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and leadership to a department.
The concept of using LDOs as department heads is not new. Many surface engineering LDOs presently serve in department head billets at sea. These officers serve in some of the most demanding jobs the Navy has to offer, and most perform exceptionally well.
Not all operations officer jobs should be converted to LDO billets, but certainly a few lieutenant and lieutenant commander department head slots could be filled with qualified surface operations LDOs.
Many of the commander billets as operations officers in larger ships are ideally suited for LDOs. In this time of shrinking fleets, only the absolute best and most qualified officers should be given the demanding job of running an operations department at sea. LDOs should be granted the opportunity to compete fairly for jobs for which they have been training their entire careers.
Lieutenant Dewey is a surface operations LDO and has served as a combat information center officer afloat. He is currently assigned as the Combat Direction Systems Branch Head at Fleet Combat.