Adopt the Coast Guard Academy's Feedback System
By Midshipmen Kristen Keelor and Paul Mallory, U.S. Naval Academy
In 2008, we spent a semester at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, as service academy exchange cadets. Many similarities exist between it and the U.S. Naval Academy, but we experienced
one major difference: second-class cadets at the Coast Guard Academy receive 360-degree feedback twice per semester. Because this is a valuable element in the development of officers, we propose a change that would incorporate feedback from subordinates and provide a quantitative evaluation report, in addition to maintaining the current system of aptitude ranking.
Midshipmen are graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy without an understanding of their leadership styles. This is because the feedback system needs to be redesigned to provide more depth. The new system could be modeled along lines of that of the Coast Guard Academy, to include candid 360-degree feedback, as well as a separate formal system to determine the student's performance grade.
As Things Are Now
Currently at the Naval Academy, the feedback system consists of counseling every six weeks. In this squad counseling, the leader officially advises the subordinate midshipmen on their performance in the areas of company participation, grades, physical mission, extracurricular activities, and adjustments to military life. These counseling sessions are like informal conversations between squad members, often providing little advice on how to follow and lead.
In addition, all midshipmen rank others in their own company. This involves evenly placing individuals into one of five different subsets: top fifth, second fifth, and so on until all midshipmen are evenly dispersed. The person ranking the others also decides who, in her or his opinion, are the top and bottom three performers. Comments are required for these latter, and optional comments may be added to others. The rankings are averaged, along with the company officer ranking, and submitted for a performance grade for the semester.
A Two-Part Organizational Design
In the new proposed system, the first part would be, as in the Coast Guard Academy, 360-degree feedback twice a semester. This would be only a means of providing information to students on their performance. It would not be included in the performance grade. This would be addressed in the second part, which would retain the current ranking system applied only at the end of the semester.
The 360-degree part would be completely anonymous, providing midshipmen with a general overview. A computer program could be developed to assist and make this process user-friendly. The program would generate names randomly and select ten from within each individual's company, with at least two from each class. Ten general questions could be posed, along with an open-comments section at the end of each question.
The questions would require the evaluator to rank performance on a scale of one to five. They would be drawn from the ten main areas of the end-of-semester evaluation report: communication, responsibility, teamwork, leadership, commitment, proactivity, competence, development, application of core values, and health/physical mission.
The second part of the new system, similar to current ranking and performance grading, would include a score from a new evaluation report. This would be modeled after the E1-E6 Evaluation Report, slightly modified to incorporate midshipmen-specific topics.
The rankings already established in the current system would account for 75 percent of the total grade, with the other 25 percent coming from the new evaluation report. This part of the feedback, more formal, can be reviewed by the company officer.
If midshipmen had awareness early in their careers of their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, they would have greater potential as well as the time to improve their performance. At senior levels, more in tune with their own styles, they would be better able to manage the brigade. The long-term benefit would not stop there. Increased self-knowledge throughout the brigade would be useful to everyone, including plebes.
In this improved feedback system, the second class would likely be the largest initial stakeholder. This year is when midshipmen have their first real leadership experience. It is also the first time midshipmen have the ability to integrate their natural skills with the knowledge developed in the classroom throughout the first two years. The twice-per-semester 360 feedback would also give the second class the opportunity to adjust their "enacted values" so that they better represent their "espoused values."
Finally, plebes are directly affected by the leadership ability of their second class, which, by learning from their mistakes earlier, could apply different strategies to benefit the freshmen. The plebes, in learning from the upperclassmen's mistakes, would apply this knowledge when they became second classmen. Thus, a system of continuous improvement would be established.
Implementing this proposed system would, of course, have its challenges. However, the effort would provide needed feedback from subordinates and improve the current performance-ranking system. Changing the system would provide the Naval Academy with better midshipmen performance as well as the potential for better officers in the Navy.
Improving Shipboard L&R
By Captain Ron Seiple, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Would you rather take a littoral combat ship into hostile inshore waters and launch interdiction or special operations forces while the ship maintains speed, or would you prefer to come to a stop before conducting the operation? The answer is simple, but the former option was not previously possible. Now a new tactical approach has been developed to launch and recover (L&R) payloads from underway ships at speed. In 2006, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsored my company, Creative Technology Applications, Inc. (of which I am the president and chief executive officer), to develop a system called Soft Rail. It replaces the davit-and-crane approach.
Most ships must come to a crawl for L&R. This approach not only takes time, it puts the ship in a wallowing condition and, in high sea states, makes it impossible to conduct such operations safely. The need for versatile, quick, and safe L&R capability is long overdue. Soft Rail may provide this tool. It is so versatile that it can be used with minimal changes for the launch and recovery of boats, rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), unmanned underwater vehicles, SEAL delivery vehicles, interdiction craft, and perhaps even large unmanned aerial vehicles.
Many attempts have been made to use better davits or cranes with complex motion-compensation systems, but they have not resulted in significant safety enhancements or cost reductions.
The Soft Rail Solution
The Soft Rail prototype, designed to increase L&R capability and safety, was tested off Hawaii in 2007. It demonstrated that payloads can safely and easily be launched and recovered in significant sea states with all hands on board the craft and while the ship continues at speeds of 10-25 knots.
In collaboration with the Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences, Creative Technology Applications designed, developed, and tested Soft Rail. It solves the L&R problem by taking advantage of the calm waters found beneath the surface interface. Because the ship remains under way, it is more stable—no wallowing. These factors significantly reduce motions in the deployment and recovery process. In effect, a stable situation is created even in heavy seas states. L&R operations are further improved by conducting the air-to-water platform interface in the more stable area of the ship's wake.
Engineering and Testing
The key engineering element is the Depressor/drogue device (D/d), which is a modified Isaac trawl or depressor stabilizer and a drogue system. The 2007 test prototype featured a simple net as the drogue. Future improvements may eliminate this net, but the basic system will remain the same. The D/d deploys around 10-25 meters beneath the surface interface behind the ship. The depressor looks much like a wing, with canted winglets that resist rolling. The ship tows the D/d with two cables affixed to the fantail; the drogue part establishes drag and creates tension on the two lines. This is what makes the lines become rigid rails—hence the name Soft Rail.
In the system test, a RHIB rode down the stiff lines on a small, trailer-like device affixed to the rails by rollers. The cable tension, which is based on payload weight, was about a 3:1 ratio. The payload entered the water and was immediately released. On recovery, the trailer was lowered on the Soft Rails into the water; then the RHIB drove up on the trailer and was quickly attached. The system's winch then hauled it on board in less than 30 seconds.
Tests were conducted at steep angles to show that Soft Rail could successfully launch from high or low decks. For these tests, the 210-foot SEAL support ship the C Commando, a Chouest Ship, was used. The C Commando could maintain a speed of only 11 knots, and, because Soft Rail cable tension is directly related to a ship's speed, this limited our launch payload capability. Nevertheless, the Soft Rail system worked. About a dozen deployments and recoveries were conducted, every one successful. Soft Rail proved to be stable, cost-effective, simple, fast, and safe.
The two rigid Soft Rail cables trailing from the fantail are made of ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene, and are sized for expected payloads. For example, 1.5-in.-diameter lines provide a sufficient safety factor to deploy payloads up to 25,000 pounds. With cable tension maintained through the ship's forward speed combined with drag from the towed D/d, a smooth ride is provided for the deployed platform, which is suspended on a sling or trailer hung by caged rollers on the cables. Entering the water in the smooth "sweet spot" of the ship's wake, the platform and is launched immediately.
During the 2008 test, in high sea-state 2 conditions, the crew was comfortable and able to move around easily in the combat craft while it was being launched on the Soft Rail. This is in stark contrast to the safety boat's high instability during L&R using the ship's crane. The test recovery was equally as simple and fast. The crew lowered the sled to the water's surface, and, similar to recovering a boat onto a trailer at a boat ramp, the craft approached and powered its way onto the sled, then attached. In less than 30 seconds, the crew rapidly and safely hoisted the craft up the cable—with all hands still on board.
Multiple Uses at Low Cost
Soft Rail has the ability to L&R a variety of payload sizes, weights, and types. Typically, it does not require reconfiguration. One of its most imaginative applications is the surface L&R of the SEAL delivery vehicle, a wet combat submersible insertion tool. Others include the launch and recovery of unmanned underwater vehicles, mine-neutralization systems, and man-overboard rescue craft. The L&R of a larger unmanned aerial vehicle is also being examined, as the Soft Rail in a shallow-angle configuration could extend several hundred feet aft. This would provide a takeoff-and-landing capability.
The system can be containerized for clandestine L&R from containerships or other platforms. It can serve as a quick launch for a small rescue vessel from a cruise ship, or even from large Navy ships. Incorporating Soft Rail on the littoral combat ship and the joint high-speed vessel would expand mission capabilities and offer cost savings. The Soft Rail prototype cost less than $300,000 to design, manufacture, and test—a fraction of the cost of traditional L&R systems. It uses commercial fishing-industry handling-system technology that has been proven over time.
Being able to safely launch and recover payloads from the new littoral combat ship while at speed and in high sea states could only enhance its mission capabilities. A system that could be easily retrofitted on Arleigh Burke destroyers as well as commercial containerships would increase the Navy's reach. When chasing pirates in the high seas into littoral regions, the ability to launch a fast interdiction craft without slowing would be a tremendous tactical advantage.
Soft Rail eliminates the davit pendulum effect and thus increases safety. It operates while the ship is under way, enhancing clandestine operations and lowering vulnerability. With its suitability for a wide range of payload sizes and weights, it lowers the cost of creating tailored systems and streamlining training. The same systems can be operated in many scenarios. It is simple, fairly easy to install, has a small footprint, and can launch or recover its payload in less than a minute, excluding system launch time.
One to two crewmembers, versus up to nine for other systems, are needed. Most important, Soft Rail is safe and stable. It has tremendous potential for combat and non-combat operations at sea. It is time to stop wallowing and move forward with this simple solution to an age-old at-sea challenge!
Submarine Self-Escape at 2,000 Feet
By Steve Cordell
As a child, I saw a movie about a submarine in distress; the crew escaped by being shot out of a torpedo tube—all but the last man, who had drawn the short straw. He perished, which has haunted me. Much later in life I developed a method (patented, but now in public domain) that reinforces irregular-shaped tubes with internal triangular strengtheners. This concept provides rescue for everyone within a watertight section that has an escape hatch.1 Three men at a time can self-release and exit through the hatch in an escape capsule. The chamber that holds it is flooded before the hatch can be opened, a process that is repeated until the last one to three survivors execute their escape.
The 2000 Russian Kursk disaster is relevant to R & D of this type. The sub rested at an angle in relatively deep water (500 feet), and the surface weather was frightful; further, and to many appallingly, a sovereignty question precluded timely rescue attempts with a manned vessel.2 But if such efforts had been made, as of course they should have been, it is even more problematic for survivors at 2,000 feet. These include weather conditions, the boat's attitude making a manned-craft rescue impossible, and lack of senior leadership to provide confidence and to guide the escape.
In ideal conditions (calm seas, boat attitude, tolerable survival spaces, etc.), a modern manned rescue module quickly arriving on station would be faster and safer. But since the U.S. Navy does not prefer external self-escape capsules such as those that were built onto the Kursk, self-escape under extreme conditions awaits a solution.3
The proposed capsule, designed for a depth of 2,000 feet, uses a metallic framework and other reinforcements. It has flexible Kevlar/titanium external walls, with a neoprene-type impregnation and cable reinforcement. Available space precludes stowing bulky safety equipment that would provide an easier and faster escape. Within stowage constraints, this proposal provides sufficient but untried escape possibilities.
The equipment, compactly stowed in knocked-down modules (most parts either folded or nested), has two parts: the interface chamber and the escape capsule. The chamber is quickly constructed during drills but is probably more difficult to construct in emergencies. It is attached inside the boat to a hatch flange. This solid, high-pressure-capable chamber is built in four major parts: the cylinder thirds and a bottom cap. After the first two cylinder parts are fastened to a hatch flange and mated with the bottom cap, they form one solid, open cylinder.
Adding the third cylinder part, a quasi-, almost full-length oval door, creates the closed cylinder when firmly held in place in the bottom cap and attached to the flange. A single-survivor mounting of this heavy part, with a reasonably good pressure seal, will be an engineering challenge. It will leak a minimum of water into the boat because full water tightness under pressure is unrealistic. In addition, a set of ultra-strong straps are firmly attached to the first two mounted cylinder thirds. These are cinched up in front of the third element by crew awaiting their turn (unless this is the last escape, in which case the man at the opening cinches them up in front of his door).
After each escape when the hatch has been re-battened down, the waiting crew rapidly empties the chamber into the boat by means of a large valve. Finally, for the mental well-being of the last evacuees (and the author), there is also a smaller valve in the event that the exiting of the capsule fails. This gives them a retry chance.
The escape capsule, already partially built when stowed, is finished and placed in the chamber. With the men in place, each one executes primary reinforcements before the final chamber part is mounted. The evacuee(s) wear specially designed pressure suits with full, separate helmets to partially compensate for the extreme water pressure. They have two small breathing bottles of different oxygen-gas mixtures, automatically switchable at predefined depths. The men, partially pressure-acclimated and stuffed into their tight spaces, carry out all final capsule reinforcements. One Sailor does all the special work, final flooding, and release.
Entering the Capsule
Capsules have three triangular channels for three men facing outward, which allows assembly of the reinforcement beams and rings that keep the flexible outer wall from crushing them. Solid, more pressure-resistant walls would be better, but they require more stowage space. The walls are pre-attached on one side and attached to the bottom cap with a heavy band before crew entry. All long reinforcements, as well as the spine of the capsule walls, are reinforced internally as in my patent specification.4
Before the final reinforcement, the men rotate into their positions and continuously increase their suit pressure. The lower and central bands, and the upper cap-band reinforcing seal, are then installed. Some minor leakage from all interfaces must be tolerated.
The capsule cells are then equally pressurized. There is space in front of the men for several ultra-high pressure bottles to top up their suit and capsule pressure, and for medical surface treatment. A small, foot-operated shutoff valve in the lower cap is available for external pressurizing, even for the last evacuee(s).
When the capsule and suit pressures are at their respective launch levels, the interface chamber is flooded. The flexible wall implodes onto the reinforcements when the chamber reaches its maximum pressure. The pressure may be painful, but in this way evacuees are not subjected to the full pressure of the deep. When the hatch is released by an evacuee, the capsule leaves the chamber. If it does not release on its own, a compressed spring (or springs) in the bottom cap is used for a kick-start.
This capsule is a simple device to serve as a concept prototype. Final design specification would include experts in deep-sea underwater manned equipment, such as respiratory physiologists and engineers of needed expertise.5 A simple, automatically released sea anchor (stowed in the bottom cap) retards the ascent. The final surface approach (at about 160 feet) is most dangerous because of the bends. Also, the flexible walls are then under neutral or reverse pressure. Partial solutions include automatic capsule and suit-pressure releases, and slowing ascent by release of a large sea anchor.
A 2003 patent describes an externally expanding escape capsule for 20 men that is unlikely to work at depths even much shallower than 2,000 ft. Recognizing a lack of available boat's power in the description, the patent even mentions optional expansion by hand pumping.6 In contrast, my proposal calls only for battery power to run emergency lighting.
The chamber must be engineered as a boat subsystem. There are submarine standards, and only non-radical changes should be expected. For example, no chamber-filling mechanism is described, since a modification of the hatch cover and/or piping is required. Also, simple, permanent guides are added where necessary to avoid obstructions.
One significant problem emerged as I (at five feet, 6 inches tall and "flyweight," in lightweight-boxing language) mocked up the capsule for the hatch. Two shipmates and I together need a 60-cm internal capsule diameter.7 Current escape hatches are larger, but adding to submarines' larger, bulkier escape equipment that requires assembly is unrealistic. Also, note that there are many tradeoffs for reinforcing rings and pre-attached, flexible walls (see numbers 4 and 8 in the figure).
For this heavy, robust, and modular equipment, only simple parts, devices, and methods should be considered. This is because what works during numerous drills may still fail at 2,000 feet. Finally, new lighter, stronger composite or cast non-metals seem to get a strength-to-weight advantage by use of thick walls, but they cannot be used for this application because of the meager stowage space.8
The size, material, and stowage compromises described in this proposal may seem harsh—until we remember the alternative.
2. S. Mufson and K. Sawyer, "Submariners' Worst Nightmare," Washington Post, 15 August 2000, www.highbeam.com/doc/1p30585355.
3. B. E. Trainor, "Rescue Capsule Saved Only 1," New York Times, 4 May 1989. "U.S. submarines not equipped with similar emergency devices."
4. S. Cordell, sheet 5, figure 5, angular stop mechanisms 12, 15; channel between evacuee walls.
5. J. Bookspan and E. Lanphier, "Acclimatization You Don't Want: CO2," www.scuba-doc.com/CO2acclim. Captain B. A. Cohen, Navy Medical Corps: "New Sub Equipment Will Save Lives," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 2003, 77. "Sub Escape Tests" by Navy medical officer, www.psubs.org/mlist/archive/0312/ms.
6. J. Whiteley, Inflatable Submarine Escape Capsule, International Patent WO 03/101828 A1, 11 December 2003, 1, 3; and 2, 3.
7. NASA-STD-3000 268pT Anthropometric Dimensional Data - American Male: Fig. 184.108.40.206-1. D. Dangling, "Luftwaffe 95th Percentile of Shoulder Breadth," Yale University Skeptical Inquirer, May-June 1999.
8. C. T. F. Ross, "Concept Design: Underwater Vehicle," University of Portsmouth, UK, 3 March 2006, www.sciencedirect.com.