In 1874, Captain Stephen B. Luce, who was serving at the Boston Navy Yard, authored the first article in the first Proceedings. He had presented his paper at the Institute’s second meeting and had had a role in setting up apprentice training for seamen and petty officers after the war:
If, then, the native American seaman is a valuable person, and if, as we all admit, the class is rapidly disappearing, is it not our plain duty to set ourselves earnestly to work to rear them? . . . To establish a school of seamen for the Navy alone, however, would be as unwise as illiberal and short-sighted. Any scheme for the benefit of our seamen must include all, both those of the national and those of the commercial marine.
Asked at the meeting how he proposed to implement his plan, he said:
The first thing for us to do is to get Congress to give us an allowance of at least one thousand boys over and above our present complement of seamen; the act, in granting them, to specify that they are to be trained for the purpose of being seamen and petty-officers in the Navy; and at least three vessels should be commissioned in our principal ports, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the act.
The following year, Congress enacted legislation to support state-sponsored merchant marine training in ships and under officers provided by the Navy. Additional legislation was enacted that year to authorize the enlistment of 750 naval apprentices. From the first issue of Proceedings came two quick achievements—the Institute was out of the blocks fast.
In 1878, with Institute Vice President and Navy Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan in the Chair, the Institute announced the creation of an annual Prize Essay Contest to encourage the best authors to engage in the most informed, authoritative writing. The subject of the first contest was “Naval Education of: I. Officers” and “II. Men,” with the winning essay to be limited to 48 printed Proceedings pages.
Navy Lieutenant Commander Allan D. Brown won that first year with his essay “Qui non proficit, deficit”—He who does not advance goes backward. Second prize was awarded to Commander Mahan for “Essayons,” which ran 30 pages and opened: “In considering the question of Naval Education for officers and men it is necessary to put clearly before us two things—1st, the material upon which we shall have to begin; 2d, what it is that we wish to make out of that material.”
Commodore Stephen B. Luce’s address “War Schools” was published in Proceedings in December 1883 and was the substantive highlight of the Naval Institute’s tenth year. In October 1948, the Naval Institute’s 75th year, Lieutenant Commander W. H. Russell would write of this address:
So, now that we had the beginnings of an enlisted force, armor, powerful machinery, effective naval rifles, and steel ships, [Luce] felt it was time to qualify our officers to handle them in battle. He . . . [described] the three advanced schools for Army officers, and concluded with the blunt suggestion that a naval school be established to prepare officers “for the great business of their lives—the practical operation of war.” . . . As a direct result of the article, Secretary of the Navy Chandler issued a general order (October 1884) establishing a Naval War College . . . with Commodore S. B. Luce as its first President. The first class reported in 1885.
Mahan would defend “The Practical Character of the Naval War College” in an April 1893 Proceedings article against course-of-study detractors.
At a more tactical level, Proceedings offered other training and education for officers and sailors of the growing fleet. In January 1894, Proceedings published three well-illustrated guides on “Street Riot Drill” (Lieutenant W. F. Fulham); “Wall Scaling” (Lieutenant W. J. Maxwell); and “Sword Exercise” for the Navy (Naval Academy Professor and Swordmaster A. J. Corbesier). The series concluded, “NOTICE—Copies of the ‘Street Riot Drill, Wall Scaling, and Corbesier’s Sword Exercise,’ bound together in pamphlet form, may be purchased from the U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Md. Price 30 cents.”
“Today all the great naval services are forced to develop and train their own personnel, for no longer can the merchant service of any country be depended upon to supply as of old either quarter-deck or the forecastle,” Lieutenant Edward L. Beach wrote in “The Training-Ship.” “The mission of the training-ship is to bring the apprentice for the first time in working contact with the sea, to drill him in ways of usefulness, to teach him sea customs and Navy discipline. . . . Where the character of the apprentice is admirably developed, much information at the same time will have been acquired, for the development of character and acquirement of information are always coincident.”
Rear Admiral Caspar F. Goodrich addressed the higher end of training in his January 1909 article “The School of the Captain”:
Has it ever struck my colleagues that, having gone thus far and having fitted those of lower positions for as satisfactory a performance of their duties as it is possible to obtain, we have halted at the final step and have failed to crown our scheme by the establishment of schools for the captain and the admiral? . . . We must train the aspirants systematically and uniformly, we must introduce the invaluable feature of competition, and we must weed out remorselessly the man who, after a fair trial, is found to be constitutionally deficient in nerve, in quickness of perception, or in that indefinable something which is imperatively demanded on a ship’s bridge on occasions of emergency.
In 1910, in what would be one of his final, invaluable contributions to Proceedings prior to his death in 1917, Rear Admiral Luce eloquently picked up the thread of his 1874 article, publishing “Naval Training II.” “The training service culminated in the training squadron of 1883,” he wrote. “Notwithstanding the years of labor devoted to bringing it up to a high point of efficiency, that service has now ‘melted into thin air.’ . . . The three or four months spent in camp, or in barracks, has done little to prepare the apprentice seaman for duty on board ship. . . . A system of naval training that does not recognize the prime necessity of reconciling the recruit to ship life from the very beginning fails in its most essential requisite.”
In “Fifteen Days for Training,” naval reservist Lieutenant Ralph Kelly described in 1924 receiving orders for active-duty training in the engineering department of the new aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV-1):
On the Langley, the officers welcomed me as if I were to be permanently attached to the ship. The engineer officer freely gave me his time, both in and out of hours, in instructing me. . . . The usual type of Naval Reserve Cruise is made on small or obsolete types of craft, with an all reserve personnel, and under anything but service conditions. . . . No one can say that this type of cruise trains a man to report on board a modern naval ship in time of emergency.
Also in 1924, retired Marine Major General George Barnett wrote, in “Sea Training of Marine Officers,” of a need not only for Marines to learn shipboard duties, but also for Navy and Marine Corps personnel to train together:
There is a tendency among some Marine officers to regard sea duty as a rather irksome duty with which they must put up. Certain educative steps should be taken by the Corps to correct these ideas, for the spirit between the Navy and Marine Corps should be that of the highest co-operation, and a feeling of mutual admiration and respect should exist. . . . All the officers who are to be sent to the fleet . . . should be given an extensive course in naval gunnery, particularly the practical end, such as spotting, group control, the construction of splash diagrams, and ballistics.
In the early 1900s, naval training gained a third dimension, as Captain James J. Raby wrote in September 1925. A former Navy Yard at Pensacola, Florida, had been converted in 1914 for training heavier-than-air aviators. “Classes of aviation students are ordered here twice yearly, about the first of January and of July.
The candidates are selected from young line officers and Marine officers who volunteer. . . . After a month of ground school . . . the first training a student receives is in a seaplane known as the N-9, a double-seater dual-control plane that flies comparatively slowly, and is as safe as an airplane can be. . . . After a successful check, the student solos for thirty hours. . . . The successful student now, after six strenuous months, becomes a qualified naval aviator and is permitted to wear his much-coveted wings.
In 1925, the study of aeronautics was made an integral part of the Naval Academy course of study, with midshipmen first class receiving in-the-air flight training and physical examinations to determine if they would be qualified to go to flight school.
Avenues for naval education expanded in 1925 with national legislation creating the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), with inaugural units established at half a dozen universities. Captain Chester W. Nimitz, who as a lieutenant had published his first Proceedings article in 1912, was the first commanding officer of the unit at Berkeley. He gave his assessment of NROTC in 1928:
The graduates . . . will be young men of great energy, strong determination, and high character, because it will take just those qualities to make the college student accept the extra workload and see it through. A [Naval Academy] midshipman devotes about seventeen hours each week to classroom recitations. During a similar period of each year, naval reserve students must spend approximately the same number of hours on recitations and lectures, and in addition, the three or five hours per week on naval subjects. . . . Has the government made a wise investment in the establishment of the Naval ROTC? We think that in the passage of time this question will be answered in the affirmative.
Even so, in May 1936, Robert D. Heinl Jr., a future Marine officer then in Yale University’s NROTC program, wrote that, to most of the Navy, NROTC’s purpose and even existence remained a mystery:
Last summer, I performed training duty. . . . There was one question [consistently] asked of me: “Just what is the Naval ROTC? How does it function? What are its methods, its aims, and its scope?” It did not surprise me to find that there were many officers who scarcely had heard of [its] existence. There were some who, while vaguely aware of it, had not a large conception of its work. To a few, it represented a sort of semi-civilian dilettante form of naval training. To others, it was a welcome surprise.
In 1929, the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Captain H. G. Hamlet, explained the academy’s rationale for training cadets on a “square-rigged sailing vessel with auxiliary power”:
As much of the practice cruise as practicable is made under sail. Handling the vessel under sail and going aloft in all weathers afford training in self-reliance, courage, resourcefulness, and teamwork that cannot be obtained in any other way.
This work on the practice vessel, together with boat work, handling launches, and small patrol vessels, supplemented by instructions in the traditions of the service, soon furnishes indubitable evidence as to those who can qualify under that part of the mission exacting “a liking for the sea and its lore,” and having a “high sense of honor, loyalty, and obedience.” Since above all a Coast Guard officer must be a thorough seaman, every energy is devoted to teaching the subject of seamanship.
The Merchant Marine and its personnel were frequent topics in Proceedings in the first half of the 20th century. The September 1932 article “The Education of Merchant Marine Officers” is a good example. Ten years before the establishment of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, the Superintendent of the New York State Merchant Marine Academy (today’s SUNY Maritime), retired Navy Captain J. H. Tomb, described what an academy for merchant mariners should do:
By detailing first-class cadets as master, mates, chief engineer, assistant engineers, and lower classmen for crew on deck and in the engine-room [of a training ship], with a licensed master in command and a licensed chief engineer in charge below, splendid experience would be obtained. Each first classman would plot course and position and carry on his navigation by bearings, soundings, log, radio bearings, and sights; and the cadets in the engine-room and fireroom would get up steam from cold boilers, warm up engines, and operate the machinery. . . . [Such an academy] would fill a great maritime need of vital national importance.
Navy training soared to giant new dimensions with the coming of World War II. Retired Captain William D. Puleston wrote in “The Naval Education System and the Education Officer” that the Navy was trying “to do in one year what it normally took six years in peacetime to do. This battle, as important as any on the sea, is being slowly but surely won.
Six years ago, on one of our battleships, for example, we had about 2,000 enlisted men. Of those 2,000, perhaps as many as 1,600 or 1,700 were old-timers in the Navy—career men. Today, of those same 1,700, the great majority are spread over the entire Navy as part of the new foundation. This means that the major portion of the present crew are new men that must be broken in and given experience in the shortest possible time in order that the battle efficiency of the ship be not decreased.
In their 1950 article “NAPS Comes of Age,” Commanders William P. Mack and H. F. Rommel gave an update on the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), which had been established informally in 1915 to help prepare midshipmen candidates for success at the Naval Academy. The authors quoted instructors, who after the first year wrote: “The returns far exceeded our expectations, and our success in being able to properly adjust the grey matter in the heads of those who aspired to be Midshipmen is a very signal one indeed.” Commanders Mack and Rommel concluded:
This school serves as a common mold and guide for enlisted men who enter commissioned status. . . . Now, more than ever, the enlisted man will find that, by industry and initiative, he may climb the long ladder from Seaman Recruit to Admiral. No longer does he require political connections for his appointment, or financial means for his academic preparation.
More than a year before the first nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was commissioned in 1954, Lieutenant Commander Dean L. Axene, her future executive officer—and first commander of the USS Thresher (SSN-593)—was training on the STR Mark I nuclear-power plant built in Arco, Idaho. The future crew was preparing for the revolutionary new assignment. “Their purpose at Arco,” he wrote in “‘School of the Boat’ for the Nautilus,”
though primarily to receive operational training to fit them for their later jobs on board the ship, was also to operate the prototype to obtain the scientific data and operational information needed before the Nautilus could be confidently carried to completion.
“Student naval aviators know they are involved in one of the most hazardous branches of aviation in the world,” Ensign David Sullivan wrote in May 1961 in “Student Aviators and Naval Aviation.”
How can [they] daily risk their lives in such a manner? Every student aviator knows the answer—training. The student knows that only a sound mind and a well conditioned body can withstand rigorous and trying operations. . . . Student officers agree that their first flight instructors are the ones they will remember the longest. If there is a single source from which career motivation begins, it is from the flight instructors.
In their 1967 essay “Postgraduate Education and Promotion: A Significant Relationship?” Captain D. A. Paolucci and Lieutenant Commander F. I. Collins Jr. wrote, “One of the most important decisions faced by a young naval officer prior to his first shore tour is whether or not to seek postgraduate work.” Such an officer “searches for guidance from discussions with his contemporaries, from his commanding officer, from other senior officers, and from official and semiofficial publications. But what he gets is not guidance, only opinion, sometimes informed and sometimes uninformed.”
The authors subjected the issue to quantitative analysis of past and current selection board results. They reported, “the available statistics indicate that promotion-potential through the grade of captain—for both 11XX and 13XX officers—is enhanced by advanced education.” As for promotion to flag rank: “It appears that a refined analysis would show that flag selection is indeed enhanced by advanced education, and this enhancement will become more prevalent in future years.”
Learning from allies has long been a Proceedings objective for “advancing knowledge of sea power.” In June 1978’s “Operational Training in the Royal Navy,” retired Royal Navy Commander Joseph M. Palmer included a sketch of basic operational sea training:
Week Zero: Shakedown—an essential preliminary. Week One: Harbor—largely drill and check of material. Week Two: Sea—every kind of seagoing activity, warlike and otherwise, single ship or in company. Week Three: Sea—with aircraft, submarines, and RAF as required. Week Four: Harbor—including practice in such unusual jobs as aid to the Civil Power and Disaster Relief. Week Five: Mostly sea—including 36 hours at defense stations, possibly exercises in the deep waters of western English Channel. Week Six: Inspection.
“To this day, the naval service has always regarded the Naval War College with mixed feelings,” Commander Thomas Buell wrote in 1981. “Its heyday came between the two World Wars; aspiring naval officers went there then because they had the time and because they believed it provided the best way to prepare themselves intellectually for high command. Then World War II came . . . and after the war, it never again regained the status it had briefly enjoyed.
Surely, Luce and Mahan must be rolling over in their graves as history repeats itself. At a time when the Navy needs enlightened officers who are experts in the art of war, its senior leaders instead are learning skills once reserved for the engineering enlisted ratings. . . . Can we expect a future corps of jg officers who can light off a boiler but won’t know what to do with the ships once they are under way?
Lieutenant (junior grade) Sheila Scarborough wrote in October 1985’s “Noncombatant SWOs Can Be Warriors” about obstacles to obtaining surface warfare qualification for officers assigned to tenders, auxiliaries, and other noncombatants and offered solutions to improve the training that leads to it:
The best way to meet this training challenge is with hands-on experience. JOs unable to get such experience [on their own ships] are advised to cross-deck but are usually given no idea how to use such an opportunity. Women find it particularly difficult because of combatants’ operational commitments and space constraints. . . . Learning how to actually fight the ship is more difficult to teach on a tour, but it can be done and is worth the effort. One possibility is to man various CIC stations and run a fictitious battle problem for a day, cycling guest JOs through each station.
Lieutenant William Hoeft Jr.’s 1987 prize essay, “Topfish: Tactics First,” told readers that, just as aviators have TOPGUN, submariners need a “Topfish”—to develop and teach the tactics of combating multiple opponents simultaneously, officers will need “tactical fluency”
to assimilate rapidly changing situations quickly, to make the right choices early in an engagement, and to exploit opportunities. . . . The increasing sophistication of U.S. submarine sonar, fire control, and weapons systems will demand ever greater attention. . . . Qualification will become more difficult. . . . The increased ability of projected tactical systems to display voluminous data must be matched by a proportionate increase in the users’ ability to wade through the data quickly.
In a short July 1988 sidebar to “Blood on the Decks,” Commander Michael Baker, Medical Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve, wrote, “My ten years of Naval Reserve experience tell me that instead of preparing for a fight, reserve doctors have been training to perform physical examinations on healthy people and ‘mobilizing’ mountains of paper to justify their existence. . . .
After mobilization, the reserve doctors will be asked to provide medical support for forces operating in a hostile environment. They will be called upon to treat large numbers of serious casualties, on short notice, with limited support personnel and supplies. . . . If we will fight like we train, we had best train for a fight.
“Passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act has heightened the pressure to improve interoperability among the services,” Navy Lieutenant Commander Steve Burris wrote in February 1994 in “Training for the Fight.” “Training of our tactical air crews offers a unique opportunity to improve the war-fighting capability inside the Navy and Air Force. . . .
The Navy maintains an outstanding training site at NAS Fallon, Nevada. To the south lies the equally impressive complex at Nellis Air Force Base. The current volume of traffic required to meet the operational commitments of each site already ensures that there is no duplication of effort and quickly dismisses any benefit in physically consolidating the two sites. The support structure at each site, however, holds the key to savings and improved training.
In his turn-of-the-century, prize-winning essay “Digital Training Calls for Live Fires,” Marine Captain Charles Andrews addressed the new “digital battlefield” and its stealthy enemy, the computer virus:
How can the United States best make use of this tremendous technology, without retaining such an obvious vulnerability? The answer is live-fire digital training. . . . Train with live viruses. I once heard a data-systems officer complaining that “some idiot” had released a live virus during an exercise and that it had caused a major disruption. . . . My response was, “Good! I’ll bet that the data officer responsible for that system will never again be caught with inadequate virus scanning software.”
In April 2004’s “Training Paid Off in Iraqi Freedom,” Navy Commander Andrew L. Lewis noted that pilot training was the most significant factor in the combat effectiveness of F/A-18s in Iraq, especially during challenging evolutions such as air-to-air refueling, night landings, and time-sensitive-strike: “Our success during OIF was high. The reason is simple—our young aviators made few mistakes because they were well prepared. . . . [The Strike Fighter Weapons and Tactics] syllabus sets the bar high and forces us to train to worst-case scenarios, [which] translates very well to combat.”
On the surface navy front, Lieutenant Mitch McGuffie wrote in 2009, “My perspective on surface warfare training changed when I reported on board HMS Cornwall, a Royal Navy frigate, in November 2005 to start my two-year exchange as a bridge watchkeeper. Having just completed my division officer tour on a U.S. destroyer with one of the busiest operational schedules in the Pacific Fleet, I thought my transition to the Royal Navy would be fairly uneventful.”
He continued, “It didn’t take me long to discover that I was not the seasoned and accomplished bridge watchkeeper I had once thought. I was now being held to a much higher standard, serving alongside Royal Navy officers who had endured years of training and had been certified by the International Maritime Organization’s Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping.”
In his August 2011 article “Learning from Operation Able Manner,” Coast Guard Commander Richard J. Wester looked at successive at-sea mass-migration crises in the 1990s involving Cubans and Haitians fleeing their homelands for the United States, how each of the crises unfolded, and the Coast Guard’s response—how to learn, plan, and train to deal better with future crises.
“If the Navy continues to signal that it requires officers with advanced education to serve at higher levels,” Lieutenant Ryan Hilger wrote in 2011’s “Better Education Makes Better Officers,” “we should be affording officers the opportunity to pursue this option without having to do so as a second job.”
In a July 2020 online article, Michael Freeman and retired Marine Colonel Todd Lyons looked to the future of education in “Education Is the Technology the Navy Needs Most.” They argued that changes in the character of war—“warfare is becoming dramatically smaller, smarter, faster, and closer”—demand improvements in both the quantity and quality of education offered to future leaders:
Professional military education is not just studying dead Prussians or Civil War battles; it is understanding how forces have adapted to revolutionary changes in warfare and understanding the price of not innovating fast enough. We can no longer operate with curricula and programs that are exclusively focused on technology or policy and strategy. . . . Commanders have long known that units require training even while deployed to maintain and enhance combat effectiveness. In the future, commanders will have to integrate education into their deployment plans to keep up with the rapidly changing operational environment. . . . The Navy—indeed, all the armed forces—needs to be at the front of educational advancements, not at the back of the line.
Since the earliest days of Proceedings, training and education have been frequent topics in our pages, which makes sense given the open forum’s focus on advancing the knowledge of sea power. There is no doubt that the vibrant discussion will continue in the coming decades.