The author paints a very accurate picture of the dilemma faced by commanding officers (COs) and other shipboard leaders. How do we marry the day-to-day management and often mundane tasks of shipboard life with war-fighting readiness? How do we inculcate among our crews and our most junior sailors that their effort and attention to detail with the seemingly unimportant can contribute to the ship’s warfighting prowess?
I propose a different approach, one that bridges the gap between the CO’s vision of a lethal and ready ship to the most junior seaman’s day-to-day life: Teach them we are striving for excellence in everything we do. A junior sailor’s appetite for big-picture visions and understanding of the complex world will not materialize until he or she matures substantially. Teach instead the standard of achieving excellence. They can understand it, and they can see dividends paid for their performance. And the ship reaps all the desired benefits of a high-functioning crew that drives its combat capability.
—TMCS Thomas Harris, USN
First Lieutenant Alman’s call for the study of history to demonstrate the Navy’s importance is valuable. However, his assessment that the “Navy’s offensive contribution” to the European theater of operation in World War II was “limited to providing escorts, transports, and gunfire support to invading forces” misses the broader historical picture of the Navy’s role in the Atlantic and European theaters.
Unfortunately, the Navy does not get the full credit it deserves for the varied missions it performed there. In the Atlantic, hunter-killer groups, administratively under U.S. Tenth Fleet, undertook offensive operations to prevent German U-boats from not only attacking convoys, but also causing havoc near the East Coast. Naval assets were also called on to combat this menace from forward bases in Iceland, Greenland, and the United Kingdom.
The many war planners and intelligence officers who worked thankless jobs sitting behind desks day after day saw the fruits of their labor in Operations Torch, Husky, Avalanche, Shingle, Overlord, Dragoon, and Plunder.
In Europe, warships of the U.S. Eighth Fleet conducted countless offensive surface actions against the German and Italian fleets, preventing them from controlling the vitally important Mediterranean Sea. During the D-Day landings in June 1944, Navy beach battalions and underwater demolition teams were some of the first groups to wade ashore on Omaha and Utah Beaches, sustaining heavy casualties to remove obstacles and clear the way for soldiers and materiel to get into the fight. The exploits of Task Unit 127.2.8, which brought some of the first Americans into Cherbourg, have been well documented. Finally, beginning in 1943, the dozen-plus Naval Reserve officers assigned to the Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section worked tirelessly to locate, preserve, save, and repatriate innumerable items of Europe’s great cultural heritage.
While these actions are some of the most notable, the Navy undertook many others still untold. Since the many recent World War II anniversaries, more historical scholarship has documented the Navy’s efforts outside the Pacific. But more needs to be done. Victory in Europe was not achieved by the Army alone, nor can the successful outcome be measured in a vacuum. Both services’ contributions have to be taken—and studied—together. Only then can there be a comprehensive understanding of what it took to achieve absolute victory over Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
—Jared D. Johnson, Naval History and Heritage Command
Thank you to Captain Clarity for his well-written and considerate critique of my essay. His response helped me realize that I was insufficiently explicit in my recommendations for “remote war college.” I should have called it “full-time remote war college.” I envision a program delivered to remote cohorts in fleet concentration areas, requiring complete professional focus free from a regular “day job” in the fleet—precisely the framework used during the pandemic. Students would detach from their fleet units and receive FitReps from the Naval War College in a fashion similar to multiple established programs with civilian universities and private enterprises (see NavAdmin 133/23). This structure would definitively answer concerns about student attention being split between their studies and the demands of a “real boss.”
I developed this proposal during my tour as an O-5 detailer with Navy Personnel Command’s (PERS’s) Aviation Distribution Division (PERS-43) and I can assure Captain Clarity that the overwhelming reason our constituents frequently declined the opportunity to attend NWC was the associated likelihood of “having to move twice in a year.” In my experience, PERS wasn’t the cause of lackluster interest in the NWC’s in-residence curriculum.
Captain Clarity offers another criticism that does bear some truth: The Navy’s promotion boards do not typically value war college completion as much as the other services. However, it is important to clarify what Navy boards historically do value when selecting unrestricted line officers for the next senior grade: performance during milestone sea-duty tours.
An honest argument to (further) elevate the NWC’s importance during promotion boards must include a consideration of what would correspondingly be devalued. Critics might advocate for a post-command O-5 to be passed over for promotion in favor of a NWC graduate who never held command, but that would be a dangerous precedent that would run counter to our seagoing heritage.
I would also ask critics to directly address my recommendation to allow students to choose between moving to Newport for their studies and remaining in their current duty stations to complete the course with a geographic cohort. I completed a Naval Postgraduate School executive MBA in such fashion and can attest to the utility of remote cohorts. If in-residence Naval War College is so beneficial, why not test my proposal by allowing officers to “vote with their feet?”
In truth, I did not expect much support for my proposal to come from Newport. There are significant vested interests who likely fear a change to the brick-and-mortar status quo. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support my essay received from officers (and spouses) around the fleet who agree that “two moves in a year” is too much to ask, especially now that we definitively know that NWC can be conducted remotely.
—CAPT Matt Wright, USN
Thank you to Lieutenant Sicheri for his contribution to this important discussion. The first obligation of anyone standing conning officer or officer-of-the-deck (OOD) watches is the safety of the ship. To that end, we should seek out best-of-world class training and qualification standards, use them, and require their compliance before any new or additional duties are assigned to that officer. Anything else is dereliction of duty—not necessarily of the junior officer at the wrong end of the long green table, but of the flag officers and captains responsible for establishing and maintaining watchstanding standards.
—LCDR Alan K. Gideon, USN (Ret.)
There are bonding opportunities beneath the surface at the NWC that may not be readily apparent, but now-Captain Wright is correct that a “nine-month good deal” can lose its appeal when balancing spouse careers and children’s education.
Lieutenant Sicheri argues for centralized training for young surface warfare officers (SWOs) in Newport. The juxtaposition of one article arguing for depopulating the on-site NWC student body and another calling for more officers to come to Newport is striking. Unfortunately, a solution that follows JPME I coursework with surface warfare training to allow junior officers to spend more than nine months may not be the ideal match. It is critical to get those junior officers into the fleet to gain their sea legs. However, opportunities to create back-to-back tours in Newport could be part of a solution.
Online education programs are gaining acceptance in a world of greater competing demands. Indeed, at the outbreak of the pandemic, the U.S. Naval Academy quickly adapted, and midshipmen continued their classes from homes across the country. Yet, even though no vaccination for COVID-19 had been developed, the academy’s leaders determined it was worth the risk to bring in the class of 2024 and then have the remainder of the brigade return. The Annapolis experience entails much more than academic education.
Can the same be said for the Newport experience?
—CDR David F. Winkler, USN (Ret.)
To clarify a few things:
1. The OOD Phase 1 course is six weeks long.
2. Surface Warfare Schools Command (SWSC) classes are commonly held from 0730–1630, including one hour for lunch.
In the interest of standardization, I suggest allowing the schoolhouse to sign off on 300-level personnel qualification standard (PQS) line items that are not ship or class specific. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this would be effective, because ships are not properly implementing the PQS program (see “Fix the Navy’s Flawed PQS Program,” February 2023) or maintaining standards the schoolhouse sets.
Centralizing training will help eliminate differences that appear between learning sites, but processes in place already address this. Moving all SWO training back to Newport would require massive capital investment outside the SWSC campus to house all the students. Hotel rooms are hard enough to come by in Newport, especially during the summer.
Like Lieutenant Sicheri, I support a larger investment in training up front, akin to the six-month-long Surface Warfare Officers School Division Officer Course. However, I also support refresher training between sea tours to rebaseline SWOs and correct any deficiencies before they report to their second sea tours.
It is not feasible to expect SWSC to fulfill the Coast Guard mate/assistant engineer licensing requirements in six months. (The maritime academies need four years.) In addition, licensing SWOs would detract from the training they need in other areas, e.g., maritime warfare and operations.
Requiring a prospective SWO to pass a go/no-go mariner skills assessment to qualify as a SWO would be a good way to help standardize the qualification process. And requiring one such test between division officer tours would still be necessary to identify bad habits and determine watchstanding experience trends.
—LT Anthony Carrillo, USN
Captain Brereton’s article is confusing. He lists the Belgorod as one of “a fleet of specialized deep-submersible submarines . . . [that] threaten seabed infrastructure . . . including the cables carrying most of the world’s telecommunications traffic and key energy pipelines.”
But the Belgorod is not a “deep-submersible” for those purposes. Rather, she is an enlarged Project 949/Oscar II nuclear-powered submarine that carries Poseidon strategic attack nuclear drones.
There are other errors and misconceptions of Russian and U.S. submarines in the article. Among the more significant is the author’s statement, “The United States vied with the Soviet Navy for dominance of the Atlantic sea lines of communication.” “Dominance” of the Atlantic was never a mission for the Soviet submarine force. Indeed, even severing the sea lanes between the United States and Western Europe was never its primary mission. And, of course, no Soviet surface fleet was constructed or planned to dominate the sea lanes.
While citing Chinese long-range, submarine-launched cruise missiles, the author makes no mention of how those missiles could be targeted. The list goes on.
The author’s statement that the theater undersea warfare commander concept could “ensure control of the sea from the seabed up” leaves much to be desired based on the “facts” and concepts the author has put forth.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary is not often noticed as a force multiplier to our active service partners. Thanks to Commander Austin for his appreciation of and confidence in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and our professionalism, capabilities, and dedication. His recommendation to consider placing the Auxiliary on shore patrol as he focuses on today’s emerging threats by integrating homeland security with homeland defense makes sense.
I have been an Auxiliary pilot in Coast Guard District 11NR (Sector San Francisco), where we spend hours of patrol time over the Bay Area, along the California coast, harbors, and bays and across the vast San Joaquin Delta region and its two deep-water shipping channels.
Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviation is well versed in reconnaissance—although it is rarely referred to as such—as a primary part of our operations. There is always the need to reinforce a defense posture, and adding the Auxiliary would increase mission effectiveness, intensify awareness, and reinforce coastal security.
—ADSO-AVT Ron Darcey, USCGA
Lieutenant Chan raises an important point. Naval procurement cycles in Western nations deserve a closer look to be put right and put on their feet. They are in discussion in European navies, for sure—the modular MEKO vessels come to mind, but labeled as “lines,” not “classes.” Instead of building a bunch of ships every other decade, let’s think about creating lines that can be successively (spirally) modified.
If fleets were designed with the idea in mind to decommission early and transfer to allied and partner navies (who often cannot afford the immense costs of new ships), we would create a true 1,000-ship navy.
—Sebastian Bruns, Institute for Security Policy, Kiel University
Staff Sergeant Fiero’s article included several inaccuracies, and several citations did not substantiate her arguments.
For example, she asserts that Army teachers need a bachelor’s degree. The third-party source she cites refers to guidance for Department of Defense school teachers, not soldiers teaching professional military education (PME). Likewise, her argument for a probationary period is undermined by the source of the quotation, which is about the probationary period for DoD Senior Executive Service civilians, not DoD teachers.
The author inaccurately characterizes the prerequisites for becoming a faculty advisor. Contrary to her assertion that a high school education, adherence to height and weight standards, and possessing a high school diploma suffice, MarAdmin 106/22 outlines more comprehensive criteria.
Staff sergeants through master sergeants are potentially eligible for Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy (SNCOA) duty. To be selected, Marines must have completed the mandated PME for their current grade (or, at the very least, should aim to do so before their report date). Valid security clearance eligibility, meeting height and weight standards (or conforming to body fat percentage limits), and an interview with the local SNCOA director or deputy director are essential. Applicants also undergo a rigorous screening process involving a competitive interview, a board review, and an in-depth record assessment. Furthermore, successful candidates must complete the Faculty Advisor Course, as detailed in the Career Enlisted Management Education (CEME) screening checklist (2019).
Regarding curriculum developers’ responsibilities, Staff Sergeant Fiero’s contention that they need to be more engaged neglects the nature of their role and the methodology that underpins curriculum creation. As the CEME screening checklist makes clear, curriculum developers are responsible for crafting educational content for enlisted personnel through PME. Their approach follows the analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate (ADDIE) process, as outlined in NAVMC 1553.1A (2016). The specific tasks developers undertake hinge on their position within the ADDIE process. Communication with curriculum developers would have clarified that, while evaluations may be less frequent at the Camp Pendleton SNCOA, the curriculum developers carry out regular evaluation activities at the Quantico SNCOA.
Moreover, biweekly meetings convene curriculum developers and academics officers from all SNCOAs within the Marine Corps to facilitate discussions about the curriculum, identify discrepancies, and propose potential solutions.
—GySgt Michelle Rhea, deputy director, SNCOA Hawaii, and MSgt Mary Gilreath, master faculty advisor program manager, Quantico, USMC
In my article, I failed to recognize that the magazines on the America class are probably large enough to stow the small number of weapons (from among some 35 different types) that can be deployed from inside the F-35B’s bomb bay in “stealth mode.” Stealth—near invisibility to radar—is the aircraft’s revolutionary capability for the Navy. The Navy and Marine Corps have operated F-35s since 2015; they know how much or how little time it will take to resupply that small number of weapon types for the America class despite the doubts I expressed.
But don’t worry, the tremendous suite of 35 weapons for the F-35 variants will not be wasted. It will have a home on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs), whose magazines are 23 times larger than those of the America class. The CVNs operate the catapult-launched, arrested-recovery F-35C, which can deploy not only the few “stealth mode” weapons, but also—in “beast mode”—all the other types from underwing pylons, when battlespace dominance has been established and radar invisibility is no longer needed.
—CAPT Talbot Manvel, USN (Ret.)