As a naval aviator wrapping up my disassociated sea tour on board the USS Wasp (LHD-1), I was able to observe the world of the surface warfare officer (SWO) community—a view usually unseen by aviators on a ship. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to learn the basics of shiphandling and navigation, and eventually earned officer-of-the-deck (OOD) qualification. As a result I have a great appreciation for the skill and knowledge required of an effective OOD, especially during more challenging evolutions such as entering a foreign port or conducting a replenishment at sea.
As an outsider, I observed some things that an officer who grew up in the SWO community might not notice. Through no fault of their own, all SWOs arrive at their first commands with very little experience or standardized training. Imagine a new naval aviator receiving limited instruction and on-the-job training from fellow junior officers and then taking off in an MH-60S Seahawk or F/A-18E Super Hornet. This might overstate the comparison, but to an extent that is how the SWO community operates.