Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

USS Hampton Investigation Report Released

Last fall, the Submarine Force was abuzz with discussion on the problems USS Hampton (SSN 767) had been having with nuclear integrity. Today, a heavily-redacted version of the official Command Investigation was published by the San Diego Union-Tribune today, and, as expected, laid a lot of the blame on the former CO. From the story:

Four officers and seven enlisted sailors have been disciplined as a result of the investigation, said spokeswoman Lt. Alli Myrick of Destroyer Squadron 11, the San Diego-based command that includes the Hampton. The squadron commander dismissed the submarine's commanding officer and chief engineer (sic)...
...A wider investigation also revealed dozens of integrity violations aboard the submarine, according to the report released yesterday. An officer whose name is redacted from the report alleged that he and others had falsified test scores or received answers in advance for exams to certify various officers...
...“Commander Portland set unachievable standards for his crew, was intolerant of failure and publicly berated personnel,” wrote Rear Adm. Joe Walsh, commander of the Hawaii-based Pacific Submarine Force.
These and other leadership lapses, Walsh said, “directly contributed to problems identified in this investigation . . . (and) his failure to identify these problems for over one year.”
Clearly, there were a lot of problems with the boat. Just as clearly, however, some of the problems mentioned in the Investigation are little more than "piling on"... things that you could find even among the most squared-away submarines (e.g. changing Fire Control solutions so you didn't have to report a contact). The majority of the report deals with Engingeering Department exams, especially qual exams. When I was Engineer, I was lucky enough in NewCon to have big classrooms where I could give proctored exams, and have exam banks from previous ships to give new exams out. Normally, though, it's just about impossible to give senior people requal exams that they haven't had a hand in preparing or reviewing; nevertheless, the report takes the boat to task for doing that.

One paragraph in particular jumped out at me. Although the identity of the subject is redacted, it looks like they're talking about the former Eng. Here's what they said:
"The ________ purposefully maintained an appearance of ignorance of the integrity violations happening in his departmect and on the ship to preserve culpable deniability."
That's gotta win some sort of award for best characterization ever in a Command Investigation. Rather than just say "The guy was a weasel", the investigator finds just the right buzzwords to make the guy look like an even bigger sh*tbag than he might actually be. BZ, [redacted]!

So what do you think? Was it overkill or a fair report? Will anything actually change in the Force because of the problems found on the Hampton? Will lessons actually be learned? I'm guardedly optimistic.

Update 0530 17 March: Here's the Navy Times story on the report.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I find my curiosity piqued by the redacted portions concerning paint removal. Must have been pretty serious if paint removal techniques had to be censored.

3/08/2008 1:05 PM

Anonymous Kyle said...

I can't see how this report could fully address the issues this boat had back aft without a discussion of what's going on with every other boat in the fleet and what goes on at NR. Bubblehead, I like your blog but if your trying to insinuate that you think cheating never happened in your department, then that is a little dissappointing.

3/08/2008 1:20 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Anon. -- I noticed that too, but I think it was in the "RAM" portion of the report, so it probably had something to do with that.

Kyle -- Sorry if you got that insinuation; I sure wasn't trying to say that my department was perfect. My point was, and remains, that space and personnel confines on a normal, operational boat make it essentially impossible to meet all the requirements; it's only on a newcon boat that you remotely have a chance of following all the rules to the letter.

3/08/2008 1:26 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Several reactions:

1. Ooooh! An ELT blasted off signatures for prac-facs on a qual card! Ooooh! There's a shocker!

2. ELT's blasted off check chem! Again another shocker!

3. Who really cares what sonar was doing? I mean, wasn't this all about zinc?

4. I can't wait for the unredacted version to show up on

5. We can go back to the "nuclear trained janitor" thing with this one-- HOW CAN YOU EXPECT THE:
24 year-old LELT who drinks/lives with the
23 year-old RL-DIV SNOB who is the sea dad to the new
22 year-old nub, who if he goes dink or fails a test, puts the division at port-and-starboard since the other
23 year old kid who's on leave because his mom died,

TO FAIL ANYONE ON A STUPID RL-DIV/M-DIV/ENG-DEPT TRAINING EXAM? Seriously, it starts out as a self-serving process, and "SETS PEOPLE UP TO FAIL." Lets all make more work for everyone I always say (sarcastically).

I always thought the answer would be to set up RL-DIVs like the CTs-- riders during underways, spread out the sea time, and keeps ELTs from going on deployment. If the RL-div wasn't as worried with the field days, training, cranking, repacking steam valves, and reactor start-up briefs at 2 am, then things might work better.

Why not put 3 squadron ELTs on a boat for an underway, have them relieved every 2 months or so by another group of 3 squadron ELTs? It would improve RL-div operations significantly, since RL div would only:
Do primaries
Do secondaries
COVER Maintenance (in leiu of performing/covering maintenance)

It would:
Consolidate training
Keep ELTs spread out so they can all do the same sort of evolutions (refueling, resin discharge, decomissioning)
Standardize testing and check chem (to be performed on-shore, and not under ORSE conditions)

Sounds like a winner to me!

3/08/2008 1:30 PM

Anonymous sonarman said...

The part that stood out in my mind was the comment about the way the skipper nade a hostile work environment.

Former ELT has a good point about about boat life for ELTs that isn't just for nukes. That type of atmosphere goes all the way forward to the sonar dome. If a guy fails a test, he has to remediate, and it puts pressure on the rest of the division because the topic has to be retaught to that one (or more) individual(s) who fail.

Not to mention the fact that the LPO and LCPO are taken to task if someone fails, yet are also berated if no one fails, because the test wasn't "sufficiently difficult". So, what happens is the grades get "curved", so that only the juniorest guy fails.

Submarine training is as fucked up as a bent shitcan, and it's the root of all the other problems in the force. Unless it gets fixed, then nothing will change.

3/08/2008 2:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the CT"s got it right. Their program had the right number of qualified personel and usually a couple of trainees. Keep in mind that these guys usually worked port and starboard 12/12 shifts,never had a bunk to call their own and usually hot bunked on top of a torpedo.

I was an ACINT Rider. When I joined the Program we had nine men. The big plan was to augment up to 75 riders. After 17 years we had about 16 ACINT Riders on sea duty and 12 on shore duty. While on sea duty I spent roughly 200 to 240 days deployed. I was lucky on shore duty I spent only about 150 days deployed. I imagine most don't know we were gone so much of the time because we just didn't talk about it.

I think the former ELT makes a good case for more man power. Where are they going sleep, rest ect. If it can be done argue the merits.... the squeeky axel get's the grease.

So far what I've heard is a bunch of whimps, cry babies, who volunteered for a very, very, demanding program. And are cheating the system because they can get away with it. After all if the LT is doing it why can't the ELT?

Anyone who qualifies on a US Submarine has accomplished something that only about 5% of the Navy can do. Be proud, give your boat and crew 110%.

Don't fall into the trap that just because that guy got away with it , so can you.

I would like to talk to the Officers too. Your responsibilities are just as important as the enlisted men. You too are the upper 5% of the Navy.
It's your job to manage (lead) and a whole lot of other stuff and still do the nuke stuff. If there are requirements that can't be done on time change the requirements (thats called managing). But if you are a wimp, just go ahead and cheat.

The Submariner's of today have the best equipment, the best boats ever made, and you can out perform any other navy, So Get 'R Done and quit your bitching.

3/08/2008 3:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing we can do along these lines is to abstract much of the training and testing to the squadron. Why should boat personnel be making or giving exams? For that matter, why should they be doing most of the training? We have taken great pains to group similar types of submarines together (and we only have a few) for maintenance and sparing purposes. Why not remove all of the training and much of the evaluation process from the boat?

Another way to get to a more sensible endgame would be blue and gold crews for SSNs. I was never on a boomer, but I get the impression these issues were much less of a big deal on SSBNs.

3/08/2008 4:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alaska Blue in Jan 2006 - 8 or more people cheated on the ORSE written exam because it was inadvertently routed on the LAN by Radio.

The digging started and the training program was found to be a soup sandwhich. Believe it or not, junior huys were given failed grade because someone had to fail! All the Engineer, EDMC and other senior people could say "I have never heard of that happening before".

Bottom line, integrity was found to be lacking and several nuc's, Chief and below, lost their NEC. However, it obviously isn't limited to the nucs. Peole forward started cleaning their records real quick. I think the squadron could have kept on going division by division if they were not afraid of what they were going to find.

That incident didn't make the papers so all was well in the sub force.

3/08/2008 6:09 PM

Anonymous 20 year goat said...

I honestly believe that if the upper echelon of the Navy dug a little deeper in this on other submarines in the Fleet that they would find things like this happening on most of the submarines. COs are more arrogant and more publicly critical of their crew than ever before. Department Heads and Dept Chiefs are doing what they can to keep the COs from screaming, yelling and publicly humiliating them. I am currently on a submarine on the Pacific coast and we are experiencing this right now. "Made up test scores" are the least of our worries. We spend too much time "prettying up" our training binder than we do training our crew. Its just sad. I have put over 20 years with this great Navy and it is really sad to see an outstanding crew be run down and humiliated. It is a "wonderful' thing when full birds can't be touched. They get away with incredible things.

3/08/2008 7:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


"When I was Engineer"

I took the CT on her first deployment; my third inaugural deployment by the way. Funny thing is, two members of my division suddenly couldn't make it on deployment due to preexisting issues, and a third left after deployment for an issue that we have no tolerance for.

"I was lucky enough in NewCon to have big classrooms where I could give proctored exams, and have exam banks from previous ships to give new exams out."

The exam bank sucked.

"it's just about impossible to give senior people requal exams that they haven't had a hand in preparing or reviewing"

Hmmm. Could you explain why it's nearly impossible?

3/08/2008 8:26 PM

Anonymous Submarine Iconoclast said...

“Commander Portland set unachievable standards for his crew, was intolerant of failure and publicly berated personnel”

Good thing the Sub Force fried this guy - I'd hate for everyone to find out that's how he was trained along with 80% of the O5s and above wearing dolphins. I've also worked for good senior submariners, but they're few and far between. "Unachievable standards" and "publicly berating" anyone who insists the Emperor is wearing no clothes are the order of the day.

Thank you, VADM (ret) Munns. Thank you, CAPT (ret) Daugherty. Thank you, CAPT (RDML now?) Richardson. These COs are YOUR legacy. You trained them. Force them to choose between honesty and career progression, turns out integrity doesn't always win.

Anyone else here ever seen XO or above insist on regrading those ORSE exams 'one more time' just to see if the boat couldn't look a little bit better for the inspection in progress? Too many post-command liars still running around insisting that submarines perform as well as they want to remember themselves as having done.

Nothing's going to be fixed so long as the finger remains pointed at an O5 command (submarine) and not the O6 or flag commands (squadron and TYCOM) driving the problem. When's the last time anyone from COMSUBFOR was fired for poor performance? Heck, when's the last time a ship had its broadcast loaded properly for three days in a row? Or was assigned waterspace in a timely manner? No problem, the "can do" attitude means that you just suck it up and let something else slide while you make it work - but you'd better lie about whatever you let slide or else your career is finished anyway.

3/08/2008 9:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it's only on a newcon boat that you remotely have a chance of following all the rules to the letter."

Bullshit. It's only when you have the will.

3/08/2008 9:22 PM

Blogger jq5 said...

This is the direct result of a process that has been going on for a long time.

Start with a very high, borderline unrealistic standard and an overworked bunch of people.

Some people cheat to achieve the standard for whatever reason.

This results in grade/performance inflation and the standard becomes even higher.

Repeat until the standard becomes impossible to attain without cheating.

Eventually the cheating is exposed, then everyone scratches their heads, and asks "What happened?".

ORSE is an excellent case in point. The standard is so unobtainable on an operational submarine, everybody "cheats". Does the board honestly believe that every boat stores loads of tygon and garlock on the torpedo stows?

How can an organization lecture it's people about integrity when cheating is so ingrained in it's culture?

Taking this report at face value, attempting to correct the integrity issues without also addressing the unrealistic standards will only lead to more disaster and more head scratching.

Fact is, the report is just another example of "piling on", as you say. By amassing an overwhelming burden of evidence on the usual suspects and ignoring the reality that most of the evidence cited occurs force-wide, we can continue to pretend the problem is isolated to this particular submarine.

3/08/2008 9:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck(ret),John,and Joe you grew up in this atmosphere and made it with flying colors... Now your wearing your 2 and 3 stars and no doubt blaming others. You have much culpability here but I know putting on #3 and #4 is so important to you. Johnathon, Melvin, John,Joe, fix this GD problem.. Take a piece from Co's of Greenville and San Fran... These men stood before the country and poured their hearts out.. By the way, No way in hell Mooney should have went down for San Fran...

3/09/2008 1:19 AM

Blogger Mike said...

The statistics of the continuous training program suggest that cheating (or at a minimum creative grading)is commonplace in the submarine world. The target score on all exams is a 3.0, miraculously on most exams I was a part of in the Nuclear Navy this was accurate. Even any histogram created from any individial test would follow a bell curve, despite the limited set of data (n=11 for E-Div). In my college career post-Navy, I had never seen any college professor, who writes test as a living, have any where NEAR that statistical accuracy toward a target score on any individual test (hence "curving"). It seems feasible that in NFAS and NPS that since the material is new to everybody, and teaching methods are identical from day to day that you can write a test that comes close to accurate on that mu=3.0 target (especially with little or no course or test bank variance over time)- but on a sub in which test writing is not a main priority, experience and prior knowledge NOT being close to equal, and very limited sample sets is should be nearly impossible to consistently achieve the 3.0 target that is so rigidly adhered to. It creates an environment that lacks integrity almost out of structure. In fact I had to transition to a role that demanded less integrity, but operationally displayed more integrity, since my departure from the Navy.

3/09/2008 3:00 AM

Blogger Joe C said...

...I went to a new command about a year and half before I got out.

Unknown to me, there was cheating going on our training exams. One of the guys in my division was fishing previewed exams out of the trash from the training PO.

The result is that exams become increasingly difficult. Finally the Master Chief came up with a solution to at least farret out the players. They created an exam that only the cheaters could possibly do well on. It only a matter of time before they identified the ringleader.

The next part leaves me bitter. The individual that actually "sponsered" the cheating got his pee pee slapped. And later he even made first class. How ridiculous is that?

The only compensation I have is that?: the only job he could find after he got out was as a Xerox copier technician.

It took a command advancement for me to make 2nd class and this jackass cheated for God only knows for how long and gets out as a First Class.

Cheating hurts everybody, but in general I agree that too much is placed on exams. The tests should be randomly generated from a test bank. Some of the questions might actually apply to the training on hand, but I believe the questions should reflect all level of knowledge. The exams should be used as a tool to determine knowledge weakness not as punishment tool to get the lowest guy on the totem pole responsible for a division's liberty.

3/09/2008 7:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Quite a bit of self comdemnation for the subforce. Makes me wonder if this atmostphere of cheating has made it's way into the qual system for earning you dolphins.

Any comments by current or recently retired?

3/09/2008 10:48 AM

Anonymous 20 year goat said...

I am current. VERY current!!

3/09/2008 11:00 AM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...


Quite a bit of self comdemnation for the subforce. Makes me wonder if this atmostphere of cheating has made it's way into the qual system for earning you dolphins.

Any comments by current or recently retired?

What goes on during exams (that are supposed to be proctored) goes on during qualification (BEQ, Ships, etc). The bar is set way, way, way to high, and can't be achieved using the methods that I used.

That's why I thought the CT route for ELTs would work. All that crap is done by the TYCOM, and keeps the stuff going on in the boat much more open. Seriously, its much harder to do anything wrong if the next group of ELTs will find your problems, and report them. As it stands now, THERE IS NO INCENTIVE TO REPORT ANYTHING. All that one ever does is screw your buddy, and make more work for him (definately), his boss (100%) and you (P>0.75). How does that help anyone?

3/09/2008 5:22 PM

Blogger Jay said...

I don't know how I feel about this.

I understand the outrage at the apparent rampant cheating, and, who hasn't served with, or at least heard of plenty of rotten CO's whose sweat pumps run faster than 2F/2F.

But, on the other hand, for those at sea who are operators day in and day out, being educators, and complying with a bunch of standards passed down from on high, from the Lords of NR, seems low on the priority list.

Maybe someone more current can tell me what the situation is like now, but, in my day, we cared more about how good an operator we were, how diligent and correctly we performed nuclear and subsafe maintenance, and training fell at most a distant third.

I don't recall rampant testing on the Floating Palace, but I do know our (nuclear) training program was mostly a joke (not so much in off-crew, but definitely when on the boat).

In this day and age, SUBFOR and the Squadrons could certainly take a more hands-on approach. Rather than evaluating nuke training programs with the ORSE, develop programs that can be used across all the fleet, and use standardized testing to get baselines on the fleet as a whole, then you could judge each boat against a well-established baseline. How hard would that be? Heck, maybe they're already doing it.

If you set the standards, then evaluated the boats against them, then, if in their work-up to the standards, boats were cheating, it would only work against them. It wouldn't pay to have pretty records that met all the artificial thumbrules if you couldn't pass the tests.

I dunno, it just seems that the system is broken in this case, not the boat.

3/09/2008 6:01 PM

Blogger Jay said...

oops, i meant "rampant CHEATING" in para 4 :) I don't remember much rampant testing either.

3/09/2008 6:03 PM

Blogger jq5 said...


Quite a bit of self comdemnation for the subforce. Makes me wonder if this atmostphere of cheating has made it's way into the qual system for earning you dolphins.

Any comments by current or recently retired?

Recently retired here.

Honestly, if there was cheating going on in the SS qualification process, I didn't see it. I do remember a couple of guys getting busted for signing there own qual cards, but certainly nothing to indicate it was rampant.

I think the SS qual board serves as a check to cheating in the SS qual process. If you did sign your own qual card and then tanked that portion on your board, someone is going to start asking questions.

There was a comment on this site from a Hampton sailor when the story originally broke that certainly left the impression that he thought it was normal to sign your own qual card. I think the comment was something like "How many of you guys can honestly say you never signed your own qual card?" I found the concept that someone considered it normal to sign your own qual card quite shocking.

3/09/2008 7:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having retired a little over 5 years ago, I can't say I am suprised. Worried, yes. The bar gets higher and higher....the operators get tireder and tireder...the demands get heavier and heavier....sleep gets rarer and rarer.

Can the objectives be met? Sure. Give training exams like we give advancement exams. Use the same organization that develops advancement exams (they have the reference material, trust me) and let them develop quarterly exams for the boats. Give the boats the topics to be covered, and let them handle it....self study, group study, organized lectures, whatever works. Then give the exam....proctored....and send the doggone thing to shore to be graded. Include it in the ORSE report, too.

3/09/2008 7:55 PM

Anonymous ex ssn eng said...

With not quite 20 years of views in the rear-view mirror between myself now and wearing the uniform then, I can only shake my head at the apparently continuing training nonsense in the nuclear propulsion world.

My most onerous task -- by far, with nothing as a close second -- was documentation of training and testing. It certainly was central to my dissatisfaction with the Navy, and it's sad to see that the overall process doesn't seem to have changed at all: the 'Eng' is still the head school marm, instead of being able to focus his energies on operations, readiness and real proficiency...including his own.

Two simple suggestions:

(1) Shift the administrative testing and training-accounting CRAP regarding procedures, systems and basic engineering knowledge to shore-based assets, and let the wardroom and chiefs focus on what amounts to highly operational OJT.

(2) Bring in top ex-submariner consultants from BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY who can share real-world training expertise and provide advice & counsel on how things could & should be done.

3/09/2008 8:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I retired in 2006 and I don't think cheating on SS quals is very common. However, on other quals it is not so much the cheating as it is watering down the product.

For example, I was an ANAV and in 2005/2006 it was determined that every ET1 and above qualify ANAV. This is due to the shortage and the fact that nobody wants to do the job because it is "too hard".

Some guys were never meant to be an ANAV, even when we had QM's. But now everyone has to get it done and the checkout and practical experience process gets watered down, the ANAV can only mentor some many people at once.

Anyway, submarine training for my 24 year career has always been a joke. You do the required training, get an exam failure or two, do a lot of paperwork, spreadsheets, goals and assessments, etc. etc. and then after all that's done...start training guys on what you want them to know (in between ops, charts, field day, drills, etc.)

Boy am I glad I am retired now! Good luck to those ANAV's at sea right now...I feel for you.

Jim C.

3/09/2008 8:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the day, when the squadron staff would embark prior to ORSE, they brought a salinity cell and gave it to the Chop. Invariably, the ORSE team would ask to see that salinity cell, which each boat was supposed to carry, and the Chop would go through a bunch of simulated research and produce it. As soon as the ORSE team left, the salinity cell did too.

In this way, the ORSE team never documented that any boat was missing the salinity cell, so it didn't have to be answered for or the problem fixed. In reality, the duty salinity cell made it to every ORSE.

I oftened wondered why the ORSE team didn't mark the salinity cell for easy future identification, since everyone on the team was a recently served Engineer--meaning that they all knew or should have known how that particular game was being played.

3/10/2008 8:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might add that back in the day, submariners used to have some fun once in awhile. Apparently that's been outlawed.

When was the last time you heard a lusty "Submarines Once ... "?

3/10/2008 8:32 AM

Anonymous subbubba said...

I find it interesting that Pontius Pilate, aka Joe Walsh, directed the Commodore to also crucify the two most junior ELTs, even after the Commodore had determined that they should be "returned...for duty...based on the determination that they were subject to poor initial training and qualification" I may be bitter, having also suffered the wrath of Joe, but this is pretty typical.

3/10/2008 11:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way to fix training is to have the squadron conduct all exams. It's ridiculous to think that having the ship test themselves will not regularly cause ethical lapses.

When I qualified EOOW, I had every RPM and SEPM open and took many more hours than "alloted." Many senior officers I knew, who were solid ethical officers, stated that that's how it had been for them as well, and that such should be expected.

Find me one person who could pass a BEQ, EOOW, or EDO exam with help of some sort.

3/10/2008 11:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an E-5 LPO on a carrier... ORSE was a joke when it came to integrity. The Reactor Officer actually told me once, just prior to an ORSE inspection "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying". The standards were insane and the testing was impossible to pass without cheating. How is a steam plant mechanic supposed to answer questions as a shut down ET watch, for a plant casualty of an operating reactor?... Think about how many things are wrong with that sentence. Or better yet, get asked theoretical situations that would never happen, such as "disengaging one of the screws". And just like Abu-grav, the lowest people possible will get punished and the true reasons for the screw up are ignored. Man I am glad I did my six and got out. I really don't know how you guys did it for so long.

3/10/2008 1:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous ....

Everyone here is missing the most interesting thing of all ... during the Command Course at Naval Reactors ... all written exams for CO's are unproctored ... so Naval Reactors for years has done the same thing that Commander Portland's boat was accused of failing to do with the officer's exams ... the only thing monitored in the Command course at Naval Reactors is the oral exams. Every potential CO had access to old exam banks, old oral questions ... and everyone at Naval Reactors knew it ... all of the engineers in the building knew it ... it was common knowledge. This is the real story that the press should be telling ... the press should be interviewing every retired CO about how they "cheated" on their Command course at Naval Reactors just like the officers were "cheating" on their exams on the Hampton. This still happened even under the current head of NR's reign. CDR Portland was running the ship just like he had been trained by Naval Reactors, verifying that officers had the knowledge by his observations in their actions and his oral interviews with them and trusting them to do the right thing on the exams and quals. Even though things went worse than most on this boat, the problem starts at the top of the submarine force ... and it's not just one boat. The only difference here is that a press release had to be done ... so Naval Reactors had to cover their ass. They don't want Congress and the press to find out that all the CO's cheated on their command courses for the last 50 years ... and relied on "gouge" from previous classes to get them through the oral interviews ...

3/10/2008 3:53 PM

Anonymous sub RM said...

As a not too distant training PO I can tell you that the standards set for the training programs on the boat are ridiculous. The only thing more ridiculous is the reaction of everyone from div. chief up to CO.

We had to have a cumulative avg. of 2.9-3.1 for every exam. I am a radioman so we had anywhere from as few as 5 people taking the exam to as many as 11. And every time, guess what? Right on the money. In my four and a half years on the boat not once did any of my tests get reviewed for not enough or too many failures. And how amazing it was that when nubs showed up and had that three month grace period that they were the only ones that failed.

The only thing that honestly grading the tests did was to make everything more painful. We had a Nav-ET honestly grade a test once and his whole division was punished be having to stay two hours later every day for two weeks. So of course, he went back to the "normal" way of grading.

Apparently, it surprised no one that some SN on the boat for six months could "know" every little frequency for all our equipment dead on. The only thing my COC was concerned with was how good the training binder looked. As we used to say "One hour of training leads to four hours of admin".

3/10/2008 5:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I caught a PCO cheating on an exam at NNPS by pulling out answers in the head during the exam. A PO3 who was cleaning saw it too and told one of the instructors. I got called in and asked about it by the DOD (a DIO) and told him what I saw. He told me that this particular PCO had been doing pretty well in NNPS and it didn't make sense that a smart guy like him would cheat. Besides, even if he was it would be very difficult to prove. At the end I was told, that I needed to keep this to myself since this would only cause problems for him. It's hard to remember but I seem to remember a week or so later getting called in by the CO with another Ensign to be reminded not to talk. By the way, according to the guys in his section he was barely getting by. I found pretty much the same thing as everyone else once I got to the boat. When will we see NR and the pipelines get the same treatment they are dealing to the ships?

3/10/2008 9:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A guy I work with who was an ELT on Hampton and left the boat just before the deployment in question told me that the report was pretty accurate from his perspective. The only part he felt wasn't correct, again from his perspective, was CDR Portland's admonishing in public. That is was only the officers who were admonished in front of the rest of the crew.

I've thought this 25 years ago when I was in and I still believe that it's the culture in the submarine nuke world that the root cause. A division with a junior officer for div-o, no chief as an LPO, always being pulled away by M-Div to do mechanic's work, and are expected to do their divisional work in their spare time.


3/10/2008 10:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the end of my JO tour, me and some other JOs, a couple from each waterfront, got to go around and get a little "pat on the back" tour of Washington, DC. Included was a brief meeting with RADM Walsh, then working in the CNO submarine programs office, and ADM Donald. Both spent about half the time asking us questions about life on the boat. They seemed genuinely interested in getting an unfiltered view about what is going on.
The biggest issue that no one spoke about was training and/or integrity. I didn't think about it much at the time, but given all the griping on the boats it's a little surprising it didn't come up. My impression was that there were several members of the JO group who weren’t worried about career concerns, and were the kind of guys who wouldn't think twice about telling the emperor he has no clothes. The reason we didn't bring it up, and I suspect that no one has yet taken the lead on doing something about the training problem, is that nobody's hands are clean. Sadly, mine included.
This problem with training and integrity is so much part of our culture it’s going to take an outside agent or event to make the culture change. I separated prior to the Hampton incident, but from what I've heard it hasn't had much of an effect. It would be interesting to here from a current training petty officer, LPO or JO. What are you guys doing to make sure you are not the next Hampton?
It’s also probably important to recognize how this problem may contribute to others we have. How many great petty officers and JOs get out because they lose the sense of higher purpose that comes with military service after they have to violate their integrity weekly or monthly just to get by? How many guys gundeck chemistry or rig for dive, because they didn't learn, like everyone else, that training you can gundeck, but some things are sacred?

3/11/2008 8:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How many guys gundeck chemistry or rig for dive"

I can't believe anyone would gundeck "rig for dive". It just isn't worth it.

Good Lord, what if sailor setting it doesn't check it too close and then his Cheif just takes his word for it and then the Ensign or j.g. gundecks it? The consequences just aren't worth it.

Not the same at all as gundecking training logs.

Chief Torpedoman.

3/11/2008 1:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the root cause (I hate that term) is the submarine culture of "Everything is Priority 1".
I remember spending days prepping a Asbestos Response Plan and conducting crew training, all the while having to neglect my division while researching the obscure Safety Center requirements.
Did I see some 'open book' tests, yes.
Did I turn a blind eye, yes.
I did however understand where the line was, and was quick to put my men back inside (like when I caught my ELT forging MY signature)

As one of my ET's would say, "What use is integrity unless you use it up?"

3/11/2008 2:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to here from a current training petty officer, LPO or JO. What are you guys doing to make sure you are not the next Hampton?

I'm a current LELT. What are we doing? Well, for one thing, ratting ourselves out. At every opportunity. Early and often.

It's making us look like the worst RL Division of all time, the amount of things that get screwed up. I'm not going to be the guy caught hiding anything, though. Not now, in this climate. They're after us with the clubs and torches, and I can't afford to be the witch.

What they really don't see, from up there, but those of us down here all do, is that we're not having any more problems than any other RL Div (and fewer than some). We're just not willing to 'take care of it' at our level. I know lots of other ELTs and LELTs. Not all are getting that message. Some feel that they can't bring up mistakes, especially now, without bringing the squadron and NR hordes down on them and possibly losing a stripe.

I say, bring on the hordes. Let them see that, while none of our programs singly are all that taxing*, doing all of them simultaneously with this few workers is just hard. They're not going to give us any more people if other boats keep making it seem like it's easy.

*the one program I could do without is the %^&* training binder. I do deckplate-level training. I have to, or nobody would know how to do anything. Leave the classroom training to EngDept, or make a separate RT Division to administer my training admin for me. Oh yeah, and do that without taking one of my ELTs for that RT Division.

3/11/2008 4:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The JO of the year story makes sense. In the navy, as in any other huge organization, you are rewarded (or made JO of the Year) for being a good soldier. Good soldiers do what their told, even if it may violate their personal sense of integrity or good judgment. People who toe the line for five years don't suddenly grow integrity just because they're talking to The Man.

Integrity is just like any other personal trait - you develop it by living it every day. That's impossible to do in a culture that values checking the box over doing the right thing, and that's why things in the submarine force will likely never change.

There is one other solution - keep your integrity and take care of the things that matter. Take care of the rest if you have the time. Not the best recipe for getting EPs on FITREPs, but it's a viable option for people who know they want out after five years. That's what I did, and everything worked out fine for me.

3/11/2008 9:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would you put last in an RL Div? (other than the aforementioned and cursed training binder)

RAM? Dosimetry? CD Log? Chemistry? Surveys? That's the problem. None of it is like small valve maintenance or electrical safety checks. You can't get way behind and just catch up later. You can't circle and reschedule a monthly TLD read for a more convenient time. You can't tag that RAM later.

3/11/2008 11:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it was Admiral Konetzni who used to say "if everything is important then nothing is important"

3/12/2008 5:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this just a problem with ELT division or is it also a problem with Nuclear in general? Surface Nukes as well?

How about the rest of the crew?

3/12/2008 6:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The general concept that everything is important leads to both nothing being important and people not knowing what can be winked at and what can't is a problem with ELTs, nukes, and everybody up forward. Training binders and exams are just the most obvious example of where priorities are screwed up. Hence, the Hampton got caught.

3/12/2008 7:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

JO of Integrity,

I think the difference between our take on the issue is our willingness to acknowledge a violation of our integrity. When I got killed on a ridiculous EOOW/EWS exam (on my last day in the Navy, I still didn't know anything about types of valve packing) and the senior JO gave it back to me to "fix" or screw the watch bill, I did. I'm not proud of that, but this sort of integrity problem was common place on my boat, and my waterfront, and quite frankly I’m suspect of anyone who claims they were the pillar of integrity “and it worked out fine” in the culture I experienced. It isn’t about getting an EP, it’s about getting by, and not screwing your guys.
It’s not as if I saw or participated in integrity violations with “the things that matter”. There was only one JO on my boat, who after screwing something up, wouldn’t own up and tell the CO or the Eng, and that guy didn’t get very far. It was not uncommon for a guy to report something which got him disqualified, even if perhaps he could have stayed under the radar. My point is that I don’t think anyone can get by as a supervisor (LPO, JO, Chief, etc.) in the submarine force without violating their integrity about the “unimportant” stuff. Here are several examples where I have trouble believing anyone’s hands are clean:

1) Training binders / Qual Exams / ORSE exams – See previous posts, this is really where most of the examples I think of come from.

2) The PRT. I have never seen the 90-degree rule on push-ups enforced outside of Boot-camp / commissioning sources. The cost of enforcing the rule - your people have to take time off work, and possibly lose advancement points, because they couldn’t really do the perfect 45+ push-ups that no one else can really do. Did anyone here have the courage to stand up to the system by enforcing the rule, then tell the powers that be that the PRT is being blown off by 99% of the fleet anyway?

3) Conduct of watch in maneuvering. – We all know what maneuvering should look like when the ENG walks in. I’m doubtful that but a few of us maintain that standard during a six month deployment. For those who did, I’m doubtful that you didn’t turn a blind eye to what may or may not have been going on in maneuvering during your pre-watch tour.

The first two examples are instances where the system sets arbitrary or unwise standards, so everybody cheats. They are a failing of senior leadership, honest guys are punished, the incentives are all screwed up. The last example is perhaps a failing of JO leadership more then a failure of the system. These small integrity violations are a slippery slope, that lead to bigger problems, like what occurred on Hampton.

-“Good Soldier”

3/12/2008 8:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of all the comments to this post, the guy who made the statement below seems, at least in my opinion, to have hit the nail on the head:

"I say, bring on the hordes. Let them see that, while none of our programs singly are all that taxing*, doing all of them simultaneously with this few workers is just hard. They're not going to give us any more people if other boats keep making it seem like it's easy."

Lots of commentors want to blame the higher ups. It's obvious that the higher up and the higher up before the current higher up were and are covering their asses. At the same time the crews have been hiding (covering up) the flaws in the system.

Looks to me as if there's a catch 22 at work that cannot, or will not be resolved. The higher ups will not make program changes that would make crew requirements more realistic at the risk of keeping their asses covered. The crews on the other hand will continue to cover up their inability to perform all the unrealistic requirements by gun decking the admin stuff in order to keep their asses covered.

The question is whether the higher up would be willing to make meaningful changes if they were made aware of the realities faced by the crews. Until it's in their interest to do so, ie a boat is lost of a crew injured,they probably wouldn't.

Meanwhile, the levels of integrety from one generation to the next continue to evaporate.

3/12/2008 11:50 AM

Anonymous T said...


I must say your blog is incredible. Specifically the comments on this topic,
you have got it all; the good, the bad and the ugly. It would seem to me that someone needs to e-mail a copy of this to the 4-star at NR.
I would suspect that, that 4-star would benefit more from this blog and your readers comments than by talking to JO's. Remember, they are still JO's and a 4-star will never get the whole truth from them. That is not how the game is played. There is something about the ability to comment anonymously that brings out the truth. The future is here gentlemen, and bubblehead I must say that you and your blog are on to something here. I am sure that this started as a way for you to bullshit about the old days but somehow this blog has become a voice to present day submariners. I commend you for that. With this voice, however, brings an end to what I used to call the "Silent Service." Life goes on...

3/12/2008 2:56 PM

Blogger Jay said...

As I have aged, I appreciate the boats more, and wish that war, like youth, wasn't wasted on the young.

Part of our problem is that we have (always) trusted these things to 20/21/22 year old kids, with the occasional grizzled old 28 y.o, chief (or if you're real lucky, a guy in his 30's), led by a bunch of officers, the only one over 40 likely to be the CO.

So, i say the kids haven't really changed - 19-22 year old kids are the same throughout history. However, their leadership has 10-18 years of bad training and bad habits already. This stuff is their fault.

3/12/2008 4:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Soldier:

No one here thinks that 85 degree pushups, not facing your panel or messy training binders have anything to do with integrity.

We're talking about falsifying records, lying to superiors and covering up real failures (like not doing real chemistry samples for a few months).

More often the not, the people who committed those real integrity violations were trying to do much more than "get by" - they were trying to stay in the ENG's/CO's good graces. The funny thing is that there are very few admin mistakes/failures that will get you anything more than a 5-minute chewout session and a couple days of requals. That JOs lie and falsify to avoid such small punishments says something about the value of integrity in the sub force.

3/12/2008 7:39 PM

Anonymous Anon E. Moose said...

"That JOs lie and falsify to avoid such small punishments says something about the value of integrity in the sub force."

I think the point I would make, one year removed from the boat, is that I believe that 99% of the sub force, both E and O, are full of honesty and integrity. **It's not about avoiding punishments**

In any one instance, we'll choose the hard right over the easy wrong - I've seen many R.F.D. violations reported, when the JO could have just have easily positioned the valve correctly, etc.

The problem is, the programs that are in place, and that are continuously being created, result in the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back."

Because NR/NRRO rule with impunity and operate unquestioned, every JO knows that even the Captain (much less him), can call BS on a requirement. It's a hopeless battle against the tide of requirements.

As a result, we have to make decisions about importance - do I accept the fact that my division exam amazingly had the correct Gaussian distribution, or do I pull the string (and reveal what we all know is true).

In my opinion, we are set up to fail - nobody can be expect to meet all the standard of the Water Chem Manual, NSTMs, SRM, OPORDs, RPMs, RadCon Manual, SSMs, SORM, Squadron Instructions, ... ad nauseum.

So, like any manager, we prioritize. Things that matter, RPM, COSO's, SSMs - operational things, take precedent. Squadron Monitoring instructions, training programs (read:admin records), take a back seat, not forgotten, but a back seat.

I wish I had some sit-down time with my Commodore (where I think the problem lied)

3/12/2008 8:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss my Commodore-64, but that's about it. If the Navy still sucks (any other word for it?) then vote with your feet.

3/13/2008 7:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know how we've always heard change is on the way? well, change is on the way. all these requirements are getting tossed for training. divisions no longer maintain short range or long range training. and get this 1 test a month. That is it. EDMC administers tests. SUBPAC and Squadron got sick of NR dictating the policy and burying us in admin hell with their bullshit. But everytime they would say something about it, NR would not budge. So SUBPAC pretty much told them to eat a dick and changes are coming. We are seeing it already in off crew. I guess people got pushed too hard and just told them to fuck themselves. I think it has to do with manning issues. The navy is backpeddling and teling everyone it's gonna get better and hoping the retention rate does an 180 really fast

3/14/2008 12:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got shitcanned off a Trident for reporting qual blazing, open book tests, self proctoring,etc in M Div. Of course, that's not what they wrote me up for, but hell, everyone is guilty of something if you look hard enough.

Never cheated 'till I got to the boat. Never took an honest test there.

4/21/2008 6:04 PM


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