"...Can Spoil Your Whole Day."
By Lieutenant Jeffrey Rees, U.S. Navy
Commander Ozimek's excellent Professional Note on operational risk management in Proceedings is required reading for all supervisors on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).
The concept became an integral part of our turnaround training and safety program when we left the yard last November. In addition, we analyze seagoing accident reports in an ongoing effort to improve our own bridge teams. I was struck by similarities between aviation and ship accidents, particularly concerning human factors and communication. Even though the Navy holds individuals accountable for mishaps, I wonder if we are doing all we can to prevent accidents at sea.
As a naval aviator, I received extensive training in aircrew coordination, a spinoff from the cockpit resource management program employed by commercial aviation following a series of major airline accidents in the late 1970s and early 1980s that were attributed to pilot and human factors. The industry determined that significant cockpit communication problems contributed directly to several of these accidents and settled on cockpit resource management as way to solve the problem. The results have been encouraging.
In the Navy, aircrew coordination is introduced during flight training, and air crews receive refresher training throughout their careers. There is a consensus among professional pilots that such training has improved the safety record of both commercial and military aviation. Every major commercial airline worldwide, the U.S. armed forces, and the U.S. Coast Guard use it. Can a similar program tailored to the bridge watch team reduce accidents at sea?
The Exxon Valdez tanker accident in Alaska generated a concerted effort in the commercial shipping industry to analyze bridge team performance and look for ways to improve it. A program called Bridge Resource Management evolved, and its similarity to cockpit resource management is no coincidence—both programs were started by a civilian pilot training company called Flight Safety International. The commercial shipping industry realized that communication and crew coordination were essential on the bridge to ensure safe passage. Analysis of accident data indicated that technical knowledge was the primary causal factor in only 20% of accidents at sea and groundings, but that human factors accounted for 80%.
Flight Safety recognized that good communications and situational awareness are essential to safe operation on board ships in precisely the same way they are in the cockpit of a multiplace aircraft or between lead and wingman in the single-seat business, and developed a training syllabus. Marine Safety International, part of Flight Safety, currently provides simulator and classroom training to many commercial shipping companies (and Navy bridge crews) in several locations, including San Diego. The course addresses critical nontechnical aspects of bridge team performance such as communication, human factors, accident analysis, and sound decision making—which are not included in the current Personal Qualification Standard system onboard Navy ships. Using the current aircrew coordination syllabus as a basis, Marine Safety could provide a complete and comprehensive training package in a single day of classes.
Bridge resource management should be an additional tool used to complement operational risk management for reducing the number of groundings and collisions at sea. It focuses the bridge team on one goal: safe passage from point A to point B. At a minimum, it should address crew coordination and human factors through training in the following areas:
Situational awareness. Bridge teams must maintain excellent situational awareness throughout all watches and evolutions. Complacency during "routine" evolutions can lead to disaster. Officers of the Deck must be trained to recognize the signs of a bridge team that is becoming complacent during a watch. Further, bridge teams must be capable of fusing all available information into a rational, safe decision on a course of action. The study of several accidents in which situational awareness broke down should be an integral part of training.
Error chains. In aviation we have learned that every accident results from a series of preventable steps. An alert bridge team can recognize the developing danger and intervene at an intermediate step to break the chain. Once again, accident analysis can be a valuable tool in learning how the error chain begins, and how it can be recognized and broken.
Communication barriers and skills. This is the most important area for the surface Navy. Naval aviation has recognized that professional courtesy carried too far can affect timely communication from junior personnel who observe an error chain or dangerous situation developing. The list of aviation accidents attributed to this single area is extensive. The challenge is to develop a bridge environment where every member of the team is completely confident that he can speak up when he sees an unsafe situation developing. In aviation, we use a fallback position in the gravest of situations; if a crew member states that a situation is "stupid" and needs further evaluation, the aircraft commander is obligated to reassess the current course of action.
A similar system could work on the bridge. The bridge team must feet comfortable providing input if an error chain is observed. The overbearing officer of the deck (OOD), executive officer, or commanding officer who shuts down communication on the bridge is setting up the ship for disaster. Bridge resource management must address communication problems: negative commands, poor pass-down, non-standard phraseology, difference in rank or experience, personality conflicts, task fixation, task overload, gender, culture, and attitude. In addition, it must teach the skills required for good communication: active listening, requiring feedback, standard phraseology, appropriate attitude, appropriate decibel level, and fostering an environment that encourages communication. It must address the dynamics of group performance and decision making in light of the following considerations:
- How can an OOD get the most efficient performance out of a watch team?
- What characteristics of a bridge team contribute to or detract from the ultimate goal of safe passage?
- How do group dynamics affect crisis response?
- How do groups work to solve problems?
Making decisions. The ability to fuse information and make rational decisions is rarely a natural skill. It is more often leaned through experience and practice. Active participation by the entire bridge team leads to synergy where the group-derived decision is better than that of any single individual. Bridge resource management should address both proper decision making and barriers to it, such as quality of information, communication, fatigue, stress, the fog of war, distractions, and get home-itis (it doesn't just happen in aircraft.)
Bridge resource management is the next logical step in the goal of reducing accidents at sea. It offers a proved approach to improve bridge crew situational awareness, recognize and intervene in error chains, promote good communications, and enhance the ability of a bridge team to make sound decisions. We all recognize current fiscal constraints. Nevertheless, the Navy simply cannot afford groundings and collisions at sea. Bridge resource management is way to prevent them.
Lieutenant Rees, a P-3 pilot, is the Assistant Strike Officer on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). He has qualified as a Junior Officer of the Deck Underway.
Personnel Turbulence in the 31st MEU
By Staff Sergeant Bryan Spiritus, U.S. Marine Corps
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rf(Special Operations Capable) on Okinawa has spent a lot of time at sea since it was reestablished in November 1992. During my tour with the unit's aviation combat element, from April 1993 to August 1995, more than 1,100 Marines passed through our ranks at Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM)262, during four cycles. They were products of the unit deployment program (UDP), augments, or one-year unaccompanied permanent change of station (PCS) tours with the squadron.
While the qualification process of a MEU(SOC) is essentially the same Marine Corps wide, the problems associated with the aviation combat element of the 31 st MEU are different from those of our stateside counterparts. We do not deploy on board ship for six months at a time, but neither do we have six months to train as a team. Unlike the Ground Combat Element, which trains together for months prior to being deployed to Okinawa under the UDP program, we have had as little as three weeks to prepare for the demanding MEU(SOC) qualification process.
It is an arduous, fast-paced process that requires extensive coordination and preparation to ensure that aircrew training is complete, and that maintenance crews have the tools, parts, and support equipment required to maintain 29 aircraft. In addition, Marine Corps ground training, i.e.. rifle-pistol requalification, physical fitness tests, trips to the gas chamber, etc., must be completed prior to deploying. A short preparation time, followed by the MEU(SOC) qualification process and subsequent deployment, leads only to a quick standdown to accommodate rotation dates. Within weeks, another group of detachments and augments arrive to start the process again.
There are specific problems. Because CH-46 maintenance personnel and aircrew are on one-year unaccompanied tours, collateral duty inspectors often are being replaced by Marines only recently out of school—and night-vision goggle (NVG)- and terrain-flight (TERF)-qualified crew chiefs are being replaced by recently arrived Marines who are only 60% qualified. The instability is further manifested when pilots are shuffled from collateral duty to collateral duty to accommodate senior officers joining HMM-262 from other squadrons. In four cycles with the 31 st MEU(SOC), the squadron changed aircraft maintenance officers eight times (although the same captain filled the billet three times between cycles.)
Do these problems need fixing—or, based on the unit's success to date, should we leave well enough alone?
I believe we should resolve them. The unit's success has come at the expense of unit cohesion that is vital should the 31st MEU(SOC) be called into action. The constant turnover, from the lance corporal turning the wrench to the senior officer serving as a department head, detracts from the familiarity that results in safer flying by experienced aircrews, and safer and smarter maintenance performed by trained mechanics and technicians.
The most important problems involve personnel and squadron placement and organization. Continuity in key officer and senior enlisted billets is crucial. The commanding officer, operations officer, aircraft maintenance officer, maintenance material control officer, quality assurance chief, and maintenance material control chief should be assigned and retained in their billets for at least 18 months. This would retain invaluable experience for at least two MEU(SOC) deployment cycles.
Next, first-term Marines should be assigned overseas for a minimum of 18 months. When a young Marine is assigned overseas directly from school for a one-year tour, he will normally spend from 30 days to 6 months out of the shop on mess duty, or in corrosion control or phase crew. The additional time will permit him to be fully trained and will make the Marine a more valuable asset upon rotation home.
Married corporals with special designations should be authorized three-year accompanied tours. They would serve as collateral duty inspectors and qualified crew chiefs. In addition, all staff non-commissioned officers and officers should be assigned to a three-year tour regardless of marital status. Today, they often are assigned critical jobs for their one-year tour or are augmented from
another squadron for six months or less, which causes added stress to an already constantly changing environment.
As an aside, all MEUs—not just the 31st—would benefit from a policy that assigned secondary Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) to identify qualified aerial observers/gunners and collateral duty inspectors/quality assurance representatives. Given the demands of flying at night with night-vision goggles and the critical nature of flight safety, such a policy would make it easier for planners to distribute qualified individuals throughout the Corps.
Concerning squadron location and organization, HMM-262 and HMM-265 might be assigned as permanent composite squadrons and redesignated HMM262(REIN) and HMM-265(REIN). This would entail:
- Splitting up Marine Aircraft Group 36's CH-53, UH-IN, and AH-IW assets between the two squadrons
- Assigning the Marines required to maintain these aircraft directly to the composite squadrons on permanent change of station orders
- Assigning an AV-8B squadron to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and continuing six-month detachments to the MEU
Doing this would alleviate many of the logistical and administrative problems encountered by continuously assembling and disassembling a composite team.
Some of these ideas have been mentioned before as solutions to the problems of providing an Okinawa-based aviation combat element for the MEU. They have not lost their validity with time. Tailoring them to meet financial, administrative, and logistical constraints will ensure an aviation team that can provide battalion landing teams the support they deserve for years to come.
Staff Sergeant Spiritus is assigned to the Marine Security Force Company, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. He served as a CH-46E avionics collateral duty quality assurance representative, aerial observer/gunner, and plane captain on four deployment cycles with the 31st MEU(SOC) from 1993 to 1995.
Outsourcing Is Not a Panacea
By Commander Dan King, CEC, U.S. Navy
In its scramble to find solutions to recapitalize the Navy in an era of decreasing budgets and increasing costs, the senior Navy leadership seems to have locked onto outsourcing much of the shore establishment.
The strategy has been promoted in several different publications, such as the infomercial "Manage the Shore Smarter" (Proceedings, August 1995) or the recent Navy Times article, "DoD Panel Sees Savings in Privatizing Support Jobs," (4 November 1996). Both pieces purport that major cost savings are to be achieved by large-scale outsourcing of virtually all support functions: training, medical, supply, public works, and security, to name but a few.
But outsourcing is neither a panacea nor a means by which the senior Navy leadership can wish away the reality of increasing costs. Since the Navy rarely knows its true cost of doing business, the lure of outsourcing leads policy makers to assume that any contractor must be cheaper than in-house government performance—until they see the contractor's costs at the bid meeting The current approach is so broadly conceived that it will demoralize the work force and waste thousands of work years in contracting out studies targeted toward areas with little potential for cost reduction.
The Navy may need to outsource many functions, but let's make sure we understand up front what might happen. Outsourcing often results in:
- Cost transfer, not cost reduction. Many outsourcing actions merely transfer the cost of performance to a contractor, without any reduction in total cost. While such transfers might help shrink the size of the federal work force, they will not generate additional money for fleet recapitalization. Often, particularly in geographical or functional areas where government employees are paid less than the private sector, outsourcing can increase costs.
- Less control. Ask any shore station commanding officer who receives services from base support contractors if he has ever been told, "Sorry, that is not in the contract," or "It will cost extra." They may add that outsourcing has not improved their ability to run the base. If the fleet feels that some portions of the shore establishment are unresponsive now, wait until they see outsourcing.
- No management improvement. The assumption that contractor management is more enlightened and efficient than Navy leadership is a canard. Most large base support contractors are replete with former military personnel who have retired and now make a living doing what they used to do in uniform, only for a contractor. Small contractors, particularly, often have far less talented management. Generally speaking, outsourcing merely buys you the same caliber personnel you already have—if you are lucky.
Outsourcing is not a cost-reduction strategy—it is a decision on the way work is done. If the Navy wants to save money, it needs a broader strategy. For sustainable cost reduction, the Navy needs a menu of initiatives to increase and promote shore establishment efficiency. This menu should include competition, improved procurement and financial practices, and modified personnel policies.
The only reason outsourcing initiatives save money is that they apply competitive pressures to otherwise monopolistic activities. There is no question that competition is healthy; it drives efficiency. The question is how to use it to achieve our cost- reduction goals.
The Navy's choice for instilling competition outsourcing is the old, but not so venerable, Commercial Activities (CA) program, which relies on a one-time competition between government personnel and contractors who perform the same function. The Navy's entire outsourcing drive appears to be based on studies showing that the past CA competitions saved anywhere from 20% to 30% in a given function—and it is these data that have the Navy hoping that similar savings will be achieved this time around. The problem with basing the new costsaving targets on those conclusions is that the "easy picking" savings came from functions that lost the competitions and have already been outsourced.
The remaining in-house Navy functions beat the commercial competition last time and thus are far less fertile ground for major savings. The CA competitions are most appropriate for functions comprised of small, high-volume, recurring tasks. The problem with CA competitions is that they can happen only once every five or ten years. This is a "crash-diet" approach to competition.
The Navy must find a way to inject competition into its operations on a continuous, ongoing basis. Continuous competition would have Navy personnel competing against contractors on a regular basis. This type of competition is most effective for functions comprised of medium to large tasks performed on a more occasional basis. Although most large project work in the Navy is performed by contract, examples would include both medium-size maintenance projects or in-house designs and studies.
Using this approach, contractors and Navy organizations would submit proposals and the best-value proposal would win. Like a contractor, the Navy would have to size its work force to the level it could sustain competitively. The shore establishment needs help from the Navy's senior leadership to overcome the policy and contractual hurdles that currently hamper such competition.
Efforts to streamline federal acquisition and contracting regulations, while sincere, have involved bandages, rather than radical surgery. The Navy and the Department of Defense would be well served by pushing for procurement reform that eliminates using defense acquisition as a social program, and treats it like a business. If the Navy wants the shore establishment to run like a business, give it the same tools!
The Navy lacks the commercial sector's sophisticated systems for budgeting, cost control, and financial reporting. Small wonder that we seldom know the true cost of doing things. The pressure every year to spend lest one lose budget authority the next year often drives financial decisions in the shore establishment and the seagoing Navy. It would be a great step forward if funds could be accrued so that smarter investments could be made at the appropriate times. In addition, the Navy should change its system of financial accountability to eliminate the need for an army of accountants every time funds change hands. Since the Navy financial system is not likely to be an outsourcing candidate, such reform would be well worth the investment.
Despite the current outsourcing initiative, the Navy will always have civilian employees. Improved civilian personnel policies and regulations could generate significant productivity increases and savings. On the whole, Navy civilian employees are dedicated, talented workers. For the minority that are not, better tools are needed to eliminate non-performers and keep the best people, regardless of seniority, and to allow the work force to adjust to the workload. With this type of help, the Navy civilian work force would be more efficient, cost effective, and have higher morale. Again, give the shore establishment the tools it needs.
Some of these changes no doubt would be difficult to make; some of the policy and regulatory issues go beyond what the Navy alone can control. But as total quality leadership has taught us, real improvement comes only from tackling and improving the core processes.
My concern is that the senior Navy leadership is trying to take the easy way out by promoting only outsourcing and not investing the time needed to pursue some of the other needed reforms or to develop more innovative approaches to really drive down shore infrastructure costs. Rarely is a one-sided approach wise. We can outsource if we must, but we must not be misled into thinking that it will take us to a shore-establishment utopia.
Commander King is the Business Manager of the Navy Public Works Center, Great Lakes, and the prospective Commanding Officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five. He holds a masters degree in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mine Warfare—The Next Step(s)
By Commander Anthony M. Kurta, U.S. Navy
The Navy has officially designated Ingleside, Texas, as the Mine Warfare Center of Excellence, and indeed it is. The time has come, however, for Ingleside to become the breeding ground for mine warfare excellence, vice the proving ground, and to forward-deploy the majority of the mine countermeasures ships to support theater commanders-inchief and to operate with the fleet and our allies on a routine basis.
Our former Chief of Naval Operations, when referring to mainstreaming mine warfare, was describing an outside-in process to introduce technology into all fleet units, giving them the capability to conduct some forms of mine countermeasures (MCM). To integrate mine countermeasures with the fleet, however, we also must incorporate an "inside-out" strategy that exploits the expertise already resident in our MCM forces. We must ensure this expertise flows from these forces "out" to the rest of the Fleet, but we can do this only by forward-deploying MCM ships. This is the way to mainstream mine warfare.
Ingleside as a Center of Excellence has contributed significantly to our ability to deploy MCM forces. Well known problems with engineering readiness and sustainability have been solved, for the most part. The consolidation of supply support at Fleet Industrial Support Center Detachment Ingleside has increased availability of repair parts, particularly for the Isotta Fraschini diesel engines. In addition, Ingleside's intermediate maintenance activity is now the single Navy rebuild facility for the Isotta Fraschini engine. The ships, parts, and technical expertise now are collocated—with obvious advantages—and mine warfare capabilities continue to grow as Osprey (MHC-51)-class coastal minehunters join the fleet and MH-53 Airborne Mine Countermeasures squadrons relocate to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, just across the bay from Ingleside. One significant and persistent problem remains, however: Ingleside and Corpus Christi are the wrong locations. Very few fleet units are homeported in the Gulf of Mexico; this, more than any other single factor, inhibits fleet integration. To participate in an exercise, the MCM ships must "deploy" to the East Coast, often a 50day endeavor. As a result, the ships rarely participate in large fleet exercises.
There is a two-part solution: Ingleside should become a breeding ground for mine warfare excellence—and the ships should be forward-deployed.
Ingleside has many advantages as a Center of Excellence:
- MCM Squadron One and Two staffs are tactical staffs allocated geographic areas of responsibility. Squadron One is responsible primarily for the Pacific and the Far East and exercises control over the USS Guardian (MCM-5) and the USS Patriot (MCM-7) in Japan. Squadron Two is responsible for the East Coast, the Atlantic, Europe, and the Persian Gulf area. The Ardent (MCM-12) and the Dexterous (MCM-13) report operationally to Squadron Two. The staffs direct all exercises and actual operations.
- The Mine Warfare Training Center has relocated from Charleston to Ingleside and conducts all training schools related to Mine Warfare, as well as directing the local Afloat Training Group (ATG) teams.
- The Ship Intermediate Maintenance Activity Ingleside is the single Navy overhaul point for Isotta Fraschini engines. In addition, expertise relating to all facets of MCM and MHC maintenance and repair is now resident—acquired from years of providing waterfront and fly away team service to the ships.
- Fleet Technical Support Center Atlantic Detachment Ingleside provides significant experience and expertise in MCM Combat Systems and engineering monitoring systems.
- Fleet Industrial Support Center Detachment Ingleside. has the most expertise in MCM supply.
- Mine Warfare Command located at NAS Corpus Christi, is the repository of mine warfare history, intelligence, tactics, and acts as the Immediate Superior in Command for the ships.
- Regional Support Group, Ingleside directly oversees maintenance and support for the MCMs and MHCs.
- Naval Station Ingleside is focused on supporting the mine warfare mission. A degaussing range will soon be built in the Ingleside area, obviating the need for transits to Charleston to check the ships' magnetic signature.
Taken as a whole, these commands represent the needed technical expertise to enhance mine warfare readiness throughout the Fleet, The MCM ships, however, need not all be in Ingleside to continue breeding mine warfare excellence.
The Navy's mine warfare triad (Surface MCM, Air MCM, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal [EOD]) has matured sufficiently to integrate and operate with the fleet. EOD is collocated with other Fleet units, but, except for the four forward-deployed ships, the surface and air forces are homeported in Ingleside and Corpus Christi. Barring occasional participation in fleet exercises and biennial NATO MCM exercises, all operate in the Gulf of Mexico. At least one reason for initially basing the ships together was to prevent them from being overwhelmed by larger ships on larger bases, which is a valid concern. Certainly, the concentration of the ships in Ingleside, and the resultant focus on solving the material and supply issues, has resulted in a a combat-ready, deployable, surface MCM force. Now is the time for the next step: forward-deployment.
The process of forward-deploying the Avenger (MCM-l)-class ships began in 1994, when the Guardian and the Patriot, while conducting a RimPac exercise, were ordered to Sasebo, Japan, where they would remain forward deployed. Rotational crews, arriving every six months from Ingleside, sustained the forward presence until February 1996, when permanently assigned crews arrived. The ships now are homeported in Sasebo. The rotational crew concept, used during World War II, the Korean War, and Desert Storm, was resurrected in different form in 1994. Eight crews are used to support six ships, two of which are forward deployed. Initially, the ships in Japan were supported this way. After they were assigned permanent crews, rotational crews began supporting the Ardent and Dexterous, which arrived in Bahrain in March 1996. The ships were lifted commercially to Bahrain, where they operate with the Fifth Fleet.
As Admiral Boorda said in the March-April 1996 issue of Surface Warfare Magazine:
If we are serious about our enduring role in forward presence and engagement, we should not have to wait days or weeks, if not longer, to execute our plans while our dedicated mine warfare forces . . . make the long transit from ConUS bases to overseas operating areas in order to locate and clear mines.
The MCM Triad permits our naval enabling forces to conduct their missions as outlined in "Forward. . . From the Sea." The lack of adequate on-site mine countermeasures forces during Operation Desert Storm significantly hampered our amphibious forces.
The next step, then, is to forward-deploy as many of the ships as possible to the world's mine warfare proving grounds. The two most dangerous areas, in terms of a mine threat, are the Korean Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, and the ships presently forward-deployed are insufficient to support theater missions during conflict. Forward deploying the majority of the remaining MCMs and properly configured MHCs offers the following advantages:
Fleet integration. The truth is, the MCMs, on average, are not yet operationally capable of effective fleet integration. Tactically, we seldom operate with the fleet. Many exercises are virtual, as the MCMs operate in the Gulf of Mexico, in constructive minefields, electronically linked with the rest of the exercise. Materially, the addition of reliable satellite communications antenna systems and JMCIS (Joint Maritime Command, Control, and Information System) is only now in progress. (In order to deploy the MHCs, significant upgrades to the communications suites are necessary. No satellite communications capability exists and JMCIS (Joint Maritime Command, Control, and Information System) and INMARSAT (International Maritime Satellite) are not installed. These ship alterations must be accomplished if the ships are to operate forward.
Proficiency in fleet operations is gained only through actual operations. MCMs presently forward-deployed do operate with the fleet and thus are better able to fulfill their wartime tasks—but there is no fleet in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mine warfare expertise. Forward-deploying the ships will, at least in the short term, force continuance of the rotational crew concept. The inherent problems with overseas homeporting will not be solved quickly or easily. More crews rotating through the forward-deployed ships, however, will result in better-trained, fleetexperienced crews that can spread their expertise, contributing to our goal of mainstreaming mine warfare. Recent combined exercises are rife with examples of fleet units operating in the midst of constructive minefields, while the mine forces were conducting mine hunting and mine-clearance operations. When they consume too much time, the mine fields are "constructively" declared cleared. Certainly, this is not training as we must fight.
Support to the theater commander-in-chief. In many scenarios, this necessarily includes being able to conduct mine countermeasures rapidly and effectively, which means that the CinC must have rapid access to trained MCM forces in sufficient numbers to accomplish the mission. Two surface MCM platforms just won't do.
Allied interoperability. Only our forward-deployed assets are gaining such valuable experience. We need to do better.
Deterrence. The continual presence of U.S. Navy MCM forces provides a visible and credible symbol of our resolve and acts as a deterrent to those who may attempt to disrupt the free flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz or shipping in the Western Pacific.
Operational complexity. Exercises and fleet operations necessarily become more complex when MCMs must be integrated. Exercise Foal Eagle 95 (conducted with the Republic of Korea Navy) contained a large MCM presence-feasible because the ships were in theater and the exercise was conducted in Korean waters. The Ardent recently participated in Sharem 115 in the Persian Gulf. Undersea warfare necessarily includes mine countermeasures, and the ready availability of an MCM ship enhanced the exercise.
MCM respect. Despite recent best efforts, repeat tours in mine warfare are not considered good for one's surface warfare career. Integrating mine warfare with fleet operations on a daily basis will raise the awareness level of the entire surface community. As surface warriors more fully appreciate just how necessary mine countermeasures are for enabling forces, tours in mine warfare will become more acceptable.
MCM nucleus. The permanent presence of significant MCM forces forwarddeployed theater provides a nucleus of excellence, operationally and at the staff level, around which the forces during conflict can coalesce and grow into an effective fighting force.
So, what about Ingleside? After all, we've poured a lot of money into this new facility. A reduction in the number of ships permanently stationed in Ingleside, however, need not lessen the influence of the Mine Warfare Center of Excellence. In fact, it is the logical next step in its development; Ingleside is here to stay, rightly so.
Its focus, however, must change from supporting the ships in Ingleside, to ensuring they are supported in the forward theater. In the end, this is exactly what we must do during conflict. Let us not wait—again—until the onset of hostilities to rediscover that our MCM forces are weeks, if not months, away from the scene. The only way to mainstream our MCM forces is to deploy them with the fleet.
Commander Kurta is the Assistant Surface Captain Assignment Officer at the Bureau of Personnel. He commanded MCM Rotational Crew Delta and has commanded the USS Sentry (MCM-3), USS Guardian (MCM-5), and the USS Warrior (MCM-10).