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.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Officer / Enlisted Divide In The Sub Force, Or Lack Of Same

Neptunus Lex has a really good post about his sorrow for once "pulling rank" on an enlisted Sailor over what was meant as a good-natured insult. This got me thinking about officer - enlisted relations in the Navy as a whole, and specifically in the Submarine Force.

When I was on the Carrier Group SEVEN staff aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) from '99-'01, I compared the divide between officers and enlisted personnel on the carrier with what I knew from submarines. There are areas of the carrier (marked by blue tile) where it's expected that enlisted Sailors simply not go unless they're on official business. Obviously, a submarine is too small to set aside big "no-go" areas, although I guess it was frowned on to have a lot of blueshirts standing around shooting the sh*t in the CO/XO or WRSR passageways. My stateroom-mate on the carrier, an O-4 aviator, used to have the annoying habit of grabbing his collar and showing his oak leaf to a Sailor he was trying to get to follow his orders. That's something I thought you'd never get away with on a sub -- even if you wanted to. (I also noticed that the carrier frequently had O-4s performing tasks that you'd see E-6s doing on a sub, especially in Radio.) My impression was that the carrier -- and, from what I heard, the surface community as well -- had a big formalized divide between O-gangers and enlisted Sailors that just didn't exist in the Sub Force. Sure, I worked for officers who treated enlisted Sailors like crap, but these people also treated officers like crap; they were just dicks in general.

So what do you think -- are there generally respectful (and healthy) relations between officers and enlisted in the Sub Force, or am I just wearing rose-colored glasses? Do the close working quarters and technical expertise of submariners inherently preclude ridiculous separations between various ranks? Or does it just depend on the boat you're on?

48 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been on carriers and also submarines, I'd say that Reactor Department on a carrier works more like a submarine than maybe you noticed as CARGRU staff. You just have to be more careful about where you are and who's around when you're tempted to call your division officer "fuckface."

I don't think there's an inherent reason you couldn't have the officers be special snowflakes on a submarine, except that that just isn't how it's done. What I mean is, one officer can't just decide that he wants to be treated "like an officer" by himself. Can you imagine? He'd be eaten alive.

It would have to come from the CO, and be pushed over and over again for a long time, and I just don't see any CO's caring that much about some poor JO not getting his feelings hurt by the mean ol' blueshirts.

1/27/2009 2:42 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's about respect, which on a submarine comes from technical competence and knowledge. Knowledge is power.

The only negative of familiarity comes from the "cool" or "sleazy" JO who bad mouths the command (typically in maneuvering!) and undermines things. In the end that situation never turns out well.

Time and again I've seen that problem result in the ultimate failure of that JO (often when he becomes a DH) or (preferably) when the Chiefs get involved and regulate on him.

But, again, the most successful commands I've served on foster respect on the basis of technical knowledge and work to increase knowledge throughout (and therefore increase respect throughout). And it's the Chiefs who drive that push towards more knowledge and more respect.

1/27/2009 5:51 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel, I'm curious: did the title of the Blog "Don't Call Me Sir" inspire this post?

1/27/2009 5:52 AM

 
Blogger Bubblehead said...

Seeing the comments in my post about that blog got me thinking about the subject, but it really was Neptnus Lex' post that made me decide to post about it.

1/27/2009 5:55 AM

 
Blogger outdoorspro said...

Sorry if this is a bit off-topic, but i can't speak for the sub-force. On the other hand, after serving in the surface world, and now in the medical side, it certainly seems that the surface Navy is still way too enamored with the old "Royal Navy" caste system.

Personally, the way surface officers regard blue-shirts was one of the things that made me leave the Navy originally. It really is offensive to me.

Now that i'm in the medical side of the Navy, i'm equally amazed at how well enlisted and officers can work together. To be on a working party and see five Captains throwing boxes right alongside the rest of us blew me away! They didn't even act like it was unusual and never hesitated to join in. That is LEADERSHIP and it fostered more respect down the ranks than anything i've encountered before.

1/27/2009 6:10 AM

 
Blogger Zachary said...

As a bubblehead cook, I wasn't a nuke, obviously, and I wasn't really a coner. The guys called me a " 'tweener ". I truly understood that there was a huge difference with the rapports we had with the officers on a boat, vice the relationship one might have on a carrier. Being that I spent a lot of time in the wardroom, I was able to bust the balls of any officer, and I knew that that shit wouldn't be tolerated on a surface ship. So, to answer your question, it might depend on the boat. Pasadena was great.

1/27/2009 7:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ya, there were a few who shoved their collar devices in your face but I saw enlisted guys who shoved their Crows in your face.
For me, it really depended on where I was in my career. However, any time it was incumbent on both me and the officer to understand that there was a time and place for everything and while it might be ok to call him Brian in a social atmosphere, it was not ok on the boat.
As a junior aganger, our newbe DCA and I were about the same age and we got along very well on and off the boat. I was social and family friends with several of the JO’s on my first boat and those friendships went forward through my career.
As a mid-grade aganger 2nd and 1st Class, the rolls changed and it was more on a technical respect friendship. As a 2nd Class I got my first real taste of being trusted for my opinion and what I said. Our Eng, Lou Cash, took what I said and made a big decision on the basis of my opinion. Man, I worked my ass off to make sure that job was done right. We had a new JO onboard my third boat who graduated 1st out of Canoe U and he thought he was going to be the next CNO. We found that he was a real snake and very two-faced. The enlisted crew shut him down and he couldn’t get the time of day unless he ordered the sailor to tell him.
As a senior aganger, the relationship turned more to a mentoring relationship when the JO’s were young and fresh out of school. Those were the times I really liked. I was a teacher and leader. I could give my knowledge and let them use it as they saw fit. I could pop into the Wardroom, shut the door and have a one-on-one talk that usually produced a good viable outcome.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa

1/27/2009 7:46 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my experience there was almost always a good relationship between officers and enlisted on submarines. I think it was because of the closeness of everyone and the fact that if you acted like your crap didn't stink you got ostracized. On a sub, being singled out could be pure torture over the length of a deployment.
Like the a-ganger said, in social atmospheres you can call them by their first names but on the job you knew enough to be as formal as necessary and most of the time even remembered to salute them.

1/27/2009 9:19 AM

 
Blogger reddog said...

My perspective on this is from more than 30 years ago, so it may not be applicable to the situation today.

A submarine crew is more like a big isolated ranch headquarters crew or farmstead than a military organization, with the officers being members of the owning family and enlisted the hired help. Everybody observes and knows the abilities, strengths and weaknesses of everybody else, top to bottom. The officer/enlisted divide is great but the functionality of the individual makes a big difference in how they are regarded and treated by others in the working environment. Those that function well and perform their duties successfully don't usually have to take much abuse and aren't blamed if they extract payback when it happens.

Any individual percieved by others as unable to function adequately in the role prescribed to them can get into trouble. The trouble they get into is more severe, in degree, for enlisted but an inadequate officer has a lot farther to fall when he fucks up bigtime.

The officer/enlisted system is a bad one but functional and not easily replaced by one that works better. I don't think that will ever happen. As long as the guy sleeping in the Captain's cabin is functional, things work out OK.

I have always been happier in environments where the cream from the entire bucket more consistently rises to the top. I did my hitch and moved along, no regrets.

There are exceptions but I find that having enlisted military experience is a positive attribute in the civilian workplace and having experience as a military officer is not. Ex officers tend to retain an autocratic leadership style and not be original thinkers.

1/27/2009 9:42 AM

 
Anonymous BKT(SS) said...

After a few back to back WESTPACS and months of PI liberty it was VERY hard to remember to salute and use the term Sir or Lt. Everybody just avoided using names and rank. I think thats why everybody on the boat had a nickname. I remember coming home from an extra extended WESTPAC low on chow type cruise. I had duty the first day back. So the inport duty had to actually load stores the first day back. So I was having an extra fun Navy day. Anyway, I never bothered to switch modes when I finally got to head for the barracks with my Seabag for some down time (cold beverages) I was walking with my seabag laying horizontal on my right shoulder, ball cap, poopie suit and tennis shoes. That pair of poopies had no Dolphins, Collar pins, nothing. I got my shit jumped so hard by an O-4 SW guy for not saluting I thought I was going to Leavenworth. We passed in opposing direction and even if I did see him approaching I'm really not in uniform and I had a WESTPAC seabag load on my right shoulder.

1/27/2009 10:17 AM

 
Anonymous Ex NUC RO said...

Senior RO with newly qualified EOOW. EOOW was "I am in charge, nothing happens without my say so". ENG walks up and pulls the traditional "first qualified SCRAM. Alarms go off and nobody moves. Waiting to be told what to do as instructed. New EOOW freaks, Eng enters and all immediate actions commence (total time 3-5 seconds). After recovery ENG chews us all out. Short time later after watch ENG tells me new EOOW turned over a new leaf and became a "team" player. Nice of the ENG to understand what we were doing.

1/27/2009 10:39 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading what BKT(SS)had to say, a question for you Navy guys came to mind.

Say you're walking from one location to another with both hands full and an approaching officer can plainly see you're unable to salute.

Can Navy personnel acknowledge the officer's presence by saying "Good Morning Sir, By Your Leave."

In the AF we call that a verbal salute. It's a mutual understanding that the subordinate has shown proper respect to the passing officer when a hand salute would be difficult to render at the time. I was curious to see if the Navy does it the same way.

Thanks, J.

1/27/2009 11:14 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I retired as a STSCS from SUBRON III in 95. I believe the relationship depends on the boat. Some of the best times I had with my division was as the ST-LPO/STSC on USS La Jolla. The CO was a hard charger but also knew the crew had to "let their hair down" from time to time. I hosted some rowdy Halloween parties at my house for the crew, Officer and enlisted. We knew where the line was and we always behaved ourselves but still had a great time. WESTPACs were the same, specially in PI and Hong Kong. We all had each other's backs. Back on the boat, we knew we were there to work and did so. Gatherings like that seemed to bring the crew closer together.

1/27/2009 12:06 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been so long ago since I rode the boats, and last one was a smoke boat. working relations between E and O was pretty informal back in the day, and CPO's drew a lot of water both up and down. Crew size was small on last boat, 65 enlisted, 8 CPO's and 8 officers. No such thing as a division officer as I recall. CPO's and E-6 had a lot of responsibility and authority.

I just finished sailing with MSC. I found that crew experience to be very similar to smoke boats. Small crew size, very informal, gotta know your shit, or no respect, and if your a screwup your paid off. Learning curve is steep, and your expected to pick it up fast.

Crew structure is based on Coast Guard License or Merchant Marine Document for unlicensed crew members. Structure is pretty flat for Deck and Supply. Eng has more specialist ratings. In ENG Dept, Licensed Engineers actually do hands on work of the kind you would see a Navy PO do. I don't know any Navy O types that could cut it in the ENG department on an MSC ship.

Whats different is crew rotation. You only have to spend 4 months onboard then your eligable for leave payoff and return to the mariners pool for reassignment.

All MSC ships have a "lifer" crew component that just stay with the ship and utilize "ships funded leave" for extended time off. I was considered a lifer on my last ship as I spent four years on her. There are perks and additional responsiblities that go to lifers.

Licensed Deck Officers, Masters, and Mates are real ship handlers, head and shoulders above Navy counterparts. The Permanent Master on my last ship had been with her for 8 years. Chief Mate had over 25 years at sea. Cargo Mate had over fifteen. CHENG is number two in seniority pecking order aboard ship. Last two CHENG's both had over twenty years with MSC.

Whats going to be interesting to watch over the next few years is how the Navy is going to deal with the loss of all their experience with service force types of ships and operations. All those senior BM's and MM's that were DMacs, with experience on replenishment rigs are pretty much gone. It's all in the hands of CivMars now.

My two cents, and keep a zero bubble......

DBFTMC(SS)USNRET

1/27/2009 12:41 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reddog hits it on the head, excatly right!

Whatever became of the "Don't Call Me Sir" blogger? Google says: "Blog has been removed".

Not surprised by that in view of several criticisms he levelled at his own shipmates. Wondered how long before they narrowed it down to him. - Rex

1/27/2009 1:04 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To “J” re – “Say you're walking from one location to another with both hands full and an approaching officer can plainly see you're unable to salute.”
The Navy I was in did the same.

1/27/2009 1:56 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having served in the enlisted ranks, officer ranks, submarines, and surface parts of our Navy, I was lucky to experience these different aspects. The relationship of E to O on the boats is exactly as said above and that is respect is earned and obtained by knowledge and competence. Without these, your use and position on a boat is diminished and your place is lower on the scale, regardless of rank. Also, the caliber of submarine personnel is so far above that of the average black shoe, that we are actually in a caste of our own. This applies to both officers and enlisted. I have served with a number of enlisted on the boats that had better educational resumes and a considerable more enlisted that were far more intelligent than the majority of the officers I served with in the surface Navy.

Working together in close quarters does tend to manifest itself in a less than military bearing type atmosphere. On a surface ship, the distinction is tends to lean towards rank itself, regardless of knowledge or competence. A more "military bearing" atmosphere. You also do not experience the camaraderie in the surface Navy as you do on the boats. Having grew up in submarines, this is why I wanted to be a submariner myself. To be a part of something that manifested itself in friendships that would endure a lifetime.

Great topic Joel
My prayers are with you,
CWO3/USN Ret

1/27/2009 2:33 PM

 
Blogger cheezstake said...

It seems that those of us who served on subs all agree that authority is a product of knowledge and respect. On the Boomer, we went out for a patrol with no Academy grad officers. It was a very relaxed run. When the next slew of JO's arrived, they were all from the Academy and had to learn that authority was automatically given based on rank.

We often teased the Fraternization Rules with parties and excursions to Mt Rainier and the like. What i took away from my submarine experience is that what mattered the most was one's respect for his shipmate, Enlisted or Officer, and the belief that when the situation required it, that he would have your back and not let you down.

Great topic, Joel, and as always, God Bless!

1/27/2009 4:16 PM

 
Blogger outdoorspro said...

CWO3,

I can back up your comment about sub-types being a higher caliber (on average, of course) than surface.

Being a former surface QM, now an HM, i was attending the WCS Leadership course over in Kings Bay last year. Nearly everyone in the class were submariners. Like you said, they were all much better educated, professional and brighter than any comparable group from the surface fleet.

Probably has to do with the lack of "deck ratings"...

Still, made me wish i'd gone that route.

1/27/2009 4:17 PM

 
Blogger Jay said...

We had a rider once (who happened to have been, unfortunately, my roommate at NPS) from a shipyard boat, working on OOD quals. Of course, having a good SWO, he assigned him EOOW watches immediately. First thing this tool says to the maneuvering watchstanders is "There's nothing you can teach me about nuclear power."

To this day, I think the guy was joking, but since I didn't like him, I didn't suggest that, and no one else thought it.

Priceless the way he got treated.

One particular Electrical Operator used to tell me he'd get to the chicken switches before me if it ever came to that. I don't doubt he would have, fortunately, we never had to test it.

Ahhhh, good times.

1/27/2009 4:52 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another blog got shut down? Luckily I saved copies of everything on the EM (b)Log before that went away - they're now in the "unofficial" required reading binder.

1/27/2009 6:27 PM

 
Blogger chief torpedoman said...

To anonymouse at 6:27 PM who had the great forsite to save copies of the EM log, Bravo Zulu. Now can you share them with us or post them somewhere?

1/27/2009 6:29 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 25 years on boats, enlisted and officer, I went to an AS. Very interesting. With so many LDOs the atmosphere stayed very much like a boat's except in the Repair Department office. Also had a rare experience when we received a straight surface LT as navigator. He did not survive.

1/27/2009 7:16 PM

 
Blogger Skippy-san said...

There is an issue that Lex did not address in his blog post and that is having enlisted in the ready room during flight operations.

I was fortunate enough to have had CO's who were dead set against the practice -and its one I agreed with and enforced during my CO tour. We even found a space for the Ops yeoman to work that was air conditioned and away from the ready room. He came to the ready room only when required.

Before anyone gets high and mighty about that- I think the CO's that taught me had a valid reason-the banter that goes on in the ready room is not the image you want to project to the bluejackets. Also he viewed the Ready Room as the one place on the ship that was a place an officer could relax on the ship-besides the Stateroom.

There is some context in that squadron wardrooms are different than submarines and there are less officers in a submarine. Plus submarines don't have the same culture and they don't have ready rooms.

Plus truth be told- I never knew an Ops yeoman that had the balls to criticize a pilot's flying. That just was not done in VAW land-and would have gotten the guy in trouble.

Our "E" s stood watch in the Ready Room only when flight operations were done. Officers stood the SDO while an aircraft was airborn. That rule always made sense to me and I enforced it.

1/27/2009 9:06 PM

 
Blogger Bigbill said...

As a 6400 LDO, I have seen subs as an enlisted and carriers and tender as an officer. Tenders are close enough to the submarine world to not be that different. Carriers are a completely different world. The interaction between the enlisted and officers is broken up by the blueshirts, chiefs, and officers. On a submarine, the chief is usually the LPO of the division and has a direct say in how the division is run. On a carrier, the chiefs aren't as interactive (from my experience on two carriers) and PO1s run the division. Because of this, the JO division officer interacts more with the PO1 than the CPO. Because the CPO is not between the division and the JO, the JO orders "from on high" and doesn't develop the people skills that we associate with most successful submarine officers.

Pilots are dicks. I have seen the collar device display on more than one occassion. I hated the 16-18 dog watch on the bridge when I had to eat in the forward wardroom on the carrier. It was like a big high school cafeteria complete with cool kids tables. As the off-going OOD SWO in the room, I usually ate by myself.

FWIW, I took orders from Joel when I was enlisted. He had the people skills to be effective while being human.

1/27/2009 10:11 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a nuke, we got to "condition" the new JOs when they were EOOWs, which goes a long way toward dispelling "high and mighty" syndrome. I remember one watch where the RO refused to accept any orders unless they were ended with Mr. Mackey's "m'kay." I'm guessing that wouldn't fly in the surface fleet.

=XEM2

1/28/2009 2:27 AM

 
Anonymous Jay said...

Great post over there.

So many complicated factors go into all this...the maturity & professional expertise of all involved, the command climate, the sub-command (department/division) climate, etc.

Having only been on a destroyer, and then mostly shore commands, I still find it odd (the segregation of O/E berthing, facilities, etc.) -- just a bit.

To quote my Dad (USMC 53'-'56, left as a SGT) "I don't care what service you go into, but go Officer. Period." In the Navy, he turned out to be right.

And, yet, for all the Navy talk about "we need to keep the separation", when I served with serving with Army or Marine units, the good Officers in them pride themselves on shared privation with their folks (especially in the small units, and doubly especially the Special Forces).

They turn on the "spit and polish" when required, and don't worry about it when it isn't.

I think I only appreciated that because I was more senior then, and understood it.

We all have seen our share of good/bad examples (some of them make the great lasting sea stories of our careers, even if um...*slightly* embellished over time).

Having said that, and while I don't want to be a USAF basher...I never got used to the O/E first name thing. Since I couldn't/wouldn't do it with my Sailors, I didn't for the USAF folks who worked for me. They got over it.

Bottom line is always the Golden Rule (modified) If you bust your butt, treat people with respect, and keep a cool head no matter what, you generally get same in return.

As a JO, I did laugh at one the the DH sayings on my ship, about a fellow DH: "Oh that's the Weapons Officer's Fourth Law of Thermodynamics. If the heat is on someone else, it can't be on me."

1/28/2009 10:15 AM

 
Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

I once saw an Eng grab his collar device and yell at a JO. I found it amusing.

Your authority as an officer is statutory of course (you have higher rank), but if you intend to be a leader you better bring something more to the game. Knowledge and ability is the currency you need to succeed. Your men should obey you because of your rank, but they will only follow if they perceive you to be going somewhere.

There are as many ways to develop this as there are people. You can have a very formal dividing line between officer and enlisted or a very informal one. On subs, typically it is in the middle. Nonetheless, the line is there.

To deliberately avoid saluting because you had a beer with someone at the bar the previous night means you have no respect for them in any way.

When I was XO, a young man told me the only difference between O and E was the pay. I laughed and told him if that helped him to avoid thinking about the fact that I controlled literally every minute of his day, be my guest. Mostly, however, officers make decisions. I cannot tell you how many checkout interviews ended with "You were a great ___, but I wouldn't want your job."

1/28/2009 1:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember doing all that politicking with the E's while on EOOW watch when I was an Ensign. ("so do you agree with the JO's manual that the enlisted are cunning and devious, sir?) Funny, though, after they screw up enough times and I get yelled at for it at the critique (even if I wasn't there), I learned that there were a lot of cocky enlisted who weren't as hot as they thought they were and just needed to do what I told them to do and, importantly, shut up about it.
I also saw that conventional officers and LDO's was strained, because the LDO's saw themselves as "super chiefs", and would go right to the OC (as ensigns) with problems in other JO's divisions.

1/28/2009 3:57 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:57: Good counter-point. Politicking is a great way of putting it. There's a bit of putting up with the e's that the JO's must do during the qualification and pre-dolphins phase, but as you said, after a getting burned a few times (and thus gaining some knowledge and experience!), you feel the need to (and are in a position to!) say : "Look, this is how it is. If you have a problem with it, then go get your Chief and let's chat!"

1/28/2009 4:05 PM

 
Anonymous Bearpaw said...

I was a nuke MM on the Philly. We had our share of good and poor officers. One of my MPAs was Academy and a very big boy. One day he started pushing around one of the ELTs (a caustic one) and jacked him up against the sample sink in ERF and slapped him around.

Well that wasn't going to work was it? We set him up in a bar fight in La Mad with an EM. Italian police came and turned him over to SP.

The CO 'suggested' that he resign his commission when his commitment was up in about 9 mos. He stayed on as MPA and it opened his eyes to what a jerk he had been in that incident and in general. He was ostracized by the WR so he hung out in crews mess for the remainder. He apologized to all of us and we respected him for that. He started going to bat for us and we worked hard for him. It was too bad it took such extreme measures to fix the problem.

Too many thought they were a gift from God and didn't realize that all they had to do was treat their division with respect and they would work their tails off for him. We had our share of poor O gangers that pushed their rank but the majority were fine to work with.

1/28/2009 7:16 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My experience on three boats, one nuc, two smoke boats, (60-75)there was always a divide between the O's, the CPO's and the E's. Still, things were pretty informal and relaxed. Typically we didn't go ashore with the O's, and not to frequently were CPO's and E's together as there were still stand-alone Enlisted Clubs, CPO Clubs and O clubs at that time. Up until early 70's O's were addressed as Mr. XXXXXXX. I don't recall any first name stuff either up or down, or addressing someone as PO so and so. On smoke boats there were no O's in maneuvering underway because we only had eight officers counting the CO and XO. Only exception was maneuvering watch, the CHENG was in maneuvering. O's checked Rig-For-Dive with the senior man in the compartment. an O also checked the Battery-Ventilation-Lineup with the Forward Electrician prior to starting a battery charge. O's stood watch on the CONN as OOD and JOOD while qualifying. On my first smoke boat, a fleet snorkeler, O's stood OOD, and Diving Officer. O's for the most part were pretty much respected as they were not in everybody's business. They had enough to do training full time to be submarine drivers and operators. ENC(SS) and EMC(SS) really ran the enginering departments. They kept the CHENG up to speed on what was going on and asked for help when it was needed on the two smoke boats I was on. BTW, my first had the E two years in a row, and my last one was also an E boat. My first boat had two CPO's and two First class that had made war patrols in WWII, one on and S boat early in the war. On my last smoke boat (70-75) we had an EMCS(SS) that made war patrols. Believe me, Those guys got much respect from the CO on down.

In my view, it was the KOG that started all the "don't trust enlisted engineers" stuff we heard from enlisted engineers on the Skate Class boats in submarine watering holes in the early days of the Nuc program. I suspect his "programming" of officer duties, responsibilites, and to some degree behavior is what we are reading about here.

Granted, the boats back-in-the-day were not as complex. If you don't have a tea kettle, O2 generator, scrubbers and burners, etc., being a submarine engineer isn't all that difficult.

"Station the maneuvering watch, rig ship for dive". "Conn-Maneuvering,Three engines warmed up, ready to answer bells" and were backing out from the pier--no tug needed.

Pretty simple stuff.......

My two cents, and keep a zero bubble........

DBFTMC(SS)USNRET

1/28/2009 9:49 PM

 
Anonymous EM2 u.s.s nevermore said...

"just needed to do what I told them to do and, importantly, shut up about it."

Wow. Attitudes like that make me glad not to be in the "fleet" anymore. I'm pretty sure you had to delete a "more" in front of that importantly. I've worked with autocratic officers and officers who realized that their fitrep depended on their divisions performance, and that treating their division like wayward children wouldn't motivate them to perform in the long term.

When you're dealing with nucs, treating them like idiots who need to sit down, shut up, and do as they're told leads to nucs who'll do exactly that- and not one quarter turn more. I've known plenty of folks who would've been much better served (and would have served the navy much better) if their recruiter had turned them around and sent them to talk to the officer recruiter. Instead the recruiter elected to talk up the Nuclear Propulsion. The end result: a sailor who hates his job, wants nothing more than to leave it, and particularly despises the khaki folks, whether old, fat, and flashlight wielding, or young and cocky, who's counting his days.


In answer to the original question: because of the constraints of Submarines, the true divide evidenced in surface ships (particularly carriers) is impossible. Some officers darn sure seem to try, and are inevitably disappointed by the failure of the blue shirts to conform. I think that the best result is an officer who recognizes his authority and responsibility, and uses them to go to bat for his division/department, while still recognizing that if he uses it as a bludgeon, he'll lose the respect of his men. It's a fine line, but that's why you O-gangers get your own racks from day one.

1/29/2009 12:57 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no sense of people skills when I was in the Navy and it showed. The Navy doesn't focus on this when they train officers (at least via the OCS route), so it is not surprising to me that many officers make it to the fleet who confuse rank-authority with leadership. I wonder how many officers fail early in the career because they totally alienate the people they are responsible for?

-phw

1/29/2009 7:54 AM

 
Anonymous ERFPandS said...

As an ELT in the nineties with a good working knowledge of actual chemistry, there came some issues.

"This turbidity isn't the right color, it must be your reagents. Before we call this off, we need to replace your reagents!"

"Uh, you know everything in the same column of the periodic table is going to react the same way, right?"

"That's not in the manual."

Yeah, knowledge is power. Be an officer, sure, but don't automatically assume since you've got the solid collar devices, you know everything there is to know about everything.

1/29/2009 12:56 PM

 
Blogger submandave said...

Having just got back from an AT on a CVN (I know, it's just two weeks), we on the SAT (Submarine Assistance Team) reflected often on the differences between bird-farm and boat life. While I agree that the difference between O-E relations does have to do with respect for competence, I think the root cause is more a factor of one of the main reasons I first went into subs: the lack of the "10%" sailors on subs.

I'm sure most of you have heard the saying "as an officer you spend 90% of your time with 10% of your people." In the sub business that 10% is much smaller. This is reflected not just in competence and pride in same, but in maturity and self-responsibility. Part of this may be that sub crews tend to be more senior than surface crews (what percent of the boat was E3 and below?) but mostily its an individual character trait that allows the officers freedom to interact with the enlisted on a more comfortable level while still expecting that interaction and relationship to cary the necessary professionalism. While there were certainly sailors I met and worked with on the IKE that posessed the same maturity and professionalism, I knew that there were others that did not and likely would have misinterpretted a sub-like raport.

Skippy-san's comment about the RR and stareromm being the only places an officer could unwind and let loose brings up another difference between SSN/CVN life we discussed: the role of the Wardroom. On the CVN if someone wasn't working they'd disappear into their stateroom. On the boat, though, the Wardroom was the catch-all congregation point for watching a movie, listeningto music, reading, shooting the shit or whatever, sometimes with all the above happening simultaneously. On the CVN you went to the Wardroom to eat and get coffee. I preferred the "family-like" common-room atmosphere of the sub better. Interrestingly enough, one of our German riders made the same observation to me and also lamented how on his ship the Wardroom was also falling into disuse as more JOs brought laptops underway and networked into games during off-time.

1/29/2009 2:48 PM

 
Blogger submandave said...

Speaking of collar wars, though, the only time I ever pulled that trick was to yank the chain of a JG we had that was devoid of humor (remember FooFoo, bullnav).

We were being issued foul weather jackets and FooFoo was so proud at being "007". I agreed that it was pretty cool and then told the PO passing out the gear to switch our names on his issue sheet so I could be James Bond instead. FooFoo sputtered and stuttered, saying "you can't do that." I had a conversation with my collar and informed him that "they say I can." FooFoo became full-bore apoplectic, damn near on the verge of tears, as the poor PO looked on not sure what to do. My final victory came, though, when I laughed and said I didn't care what number I got, leaving a fuming FooFoo to utter the only profanity I ever heard him use. "YOU ARE ... AN ASSHOLE! AN ASSHOLE!" Self-righteous sanctimoneous hollier-than-thou SOB he was, I still think he deserved it.

1/29/2009 3:27 PM

 
Anonymous BKT(SS) said...

Anon @ 3:57,
Have you ever been hog tied with EB Green and stuffed in a bunk cover and tossed into the torp room bilge?

1/29/2009 10:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once had a ring knocker that was a royal arse. This guy was unbelievable in his regard for himself. I finally had enough of him regaling the maneuvering watchstanders about how he lorded over the cooks and cranks and had them do this and that as though they were his personal "boys." I politely explained to him how, unlike us e-swine, he never actually saw his meal prepared or served - just how it arrived. I also posited a few scenarios for him such as a crank pissing on a Sloppy Joe, loogeys meandering into mashed taters, steak being drug across the floor, hot dog bun wrapping something prior to an actaul Oscar Mayer, and a few more disgusting "examples."

It was rather amusing to see when the light finally went off in his head as he realized that the "examples" weren't examples, but were his reality. No telling what else he actually ate. Needless to say, he was a changed man. Immediately upon watch relief he offered all sorts of apologies to anyone who would listen. In the end, he turned out to be a pretty good guy.

1/29/2009 11:52 PM

 
Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

Not sure I would call learning to stand watch "politicking". I think of it as learning that you are probably not nearly as good as you think you are.

If you really are that good, then you can go it alone. If you aren't, then you will have to work as part of a team, which means working with the men of the watch section.

Odds are, if you can't learn to work as a team you will need a different job.

2/01/2009 4:21 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the banter that goes on in the ready room is not the image you want to project to the bluejackets. Also he viewed the Ready Room as the one place on the ship that was a place an officer could relax on the ship-besides the Stateroom.

That attitude is exactly what we're talking about. What makes you think officers need a place to 'relax' where the dirty scumbag blueshirts can't see them? They can relax with officers around but not blueshirts? What makes the blueshirt different? Are you officers like, pro sports stars or something, afraid to be bad role models, project a bad "image" to us children? How patronizing. As CO, XO, whatever, maybe you need some space to hang around your executive-level guys and talk about sensitive issues. Some JO airplane driver doesn't count as the same thing.

That was either a masterful troll or you just have no idea how it doesn't have to be like that. Product of your environment, I guess.

I cannot tell you how many checkout interviews ended with "You were a great ___, but I wouldn't want your job.

Again, do not confuse that with being better than me. As CO, XO, DH, ok, I'll give you that one. I have to assume that someone that successful deserves respect until proven otherwise, and even then gets lots of slack for having a stressful and weighty job. Do not think for a second that JOs get to have that same attitude. Their job is not a job that I couldn't (or didn't, as LPO) do or exceed. It's different, not better.

2/05/2009 11:17 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, I guess I'm cool with the whole officer-being-a-special-princess thing, but only if the term "officer" only applies to department head and above.

JOs are a just a rate, just like MM, EM, etc. The only difference is that eventually they may end up becoming a "real" officer.

2/05/2009 11:23 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading the 42 comments above me, I've come to realize that the majority of comments can be attributed to one individual or another. In the grand scheme of things, we are all human. At a minimum we all deserve basic human decency regardless of the collar device.

During my time on the boat, I saw my share of "ring-tappers", but I also saw my share of graduates from the United States Naval Academy. There is a fundamental difference between those two people. I believe that the "ring-tapper" is not just a product of the USNA, but a result of privilege and high-society prior to the USNA. The only thing the academy did for that type of person was reinforce the misbelief that they were some how on a different level than everyone else.

Now, with that being said, I felt like I had a good relationship with Officers from the JO up to the CO. I treated everyone with respect, and understood that while I didn't know everything, either did they. But, with the right attitude, everyone could work together and learn something from the collective group.

I was fortunate to have a CO who respected people from the top down and tried to instill that in his Dept. Heads. He also ensured that the COB and the Chief's Mess do its part to train the JO in leadership techniques. If anything, I think that is what is lacking in the surface community.

2/13/2009 1:51 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An example of the difference between the "ring-tapper" and the Academy Graduate would be my first ENG on the boat. He was an Academy Grad, his Father was also an Academy Grad. Not once did he imply that he was somehow better than the enlisted men who worked for him. He demonstrated that he was deserving of respect by always giving 100%, and holding us to the same standard. It is that type of leadership that differentiates a "ring-tapper" from and Academy Grad, and most likely, what distinguishes a SWO from a SUBMARINE OFFICER.

As an aside, we still keep in touch (a year after I ended my enlisted navy career, and 2 years after he transferred to shore duty).

In simple terms, if anyone has the pleasure of crossing paths with LCDR Michael Brons, it will be to there benefit!

2/13/2009 1:57 PM

 
Blogger scada said...

I was nuke on a 637 out of Norfolk from 90-94 (I was a 6 and out). I think I was lucky in that I had some good mentors at the D1G prototype that showed me the importance of being competent in you job when you got the the boat.

I lucked out in that all of the MPA's were good guys and treated us well. The command as a whole set the bar high for performance and we worked hard to not let them down. Thats not to say that the Eng didn't yell at us now and then to get our collective heads out of our asses.

I found that after their time aft when they became Coner officers they kind of became snooty.

2/15/2009 7:53 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a submarine Nuke Mechanic I can honestly say that first: Cooks are coners not tweeners. Tweeners are what we call the ballast log takers i.e MT's. Second, the dividing line or relations between o-gangers and dbs is very slight depending on the situation. Yes there is alot of comraderie and we work very close together. But, the XO is still a LCDR and the CO is still a CDR. That is always recognized. The JO's get a good healthy throttling from Engineering that smooths out their rough edges before they go to coneland. Generally the Eng is one cool dude. The Nav and the Weps its hit or miss. With all of this remember rule #1 Mechanic's will F*** you.

2/17/2009 1:40 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still junior but maybe I can offer my two cents as a prior enlisted and now midshipman at canoe u.

Concerning everybody's opinion of academy grads, I am seeing some of the processes that lead to their oft derided reputations. There is little to no exposure to enlisted personnel while at the academy. How can people be expected to hit the deck plate ready to even learn to lead enlisted sailors if they haven't had any exposure to them.

The summer cruises are mere checks in the box that are treated more like tourism trips than fleet exposure. The senior enlisted leaders in the companies are often the "hard charging, perfect on record" types that spend too much time enforcing regulations than developing the communication skills of the midshipmen. It is the first and second class midshipmen that should be enforcing regs. There is failure on both SELs and senior mids though, because most mids would rather hide in their rooms and moan and gripe about formations than take a couple of minutes to train the plebes. And I wonder where most SWOs learned to hide in their staterooms. Most of the company officers are "enjoying their shore tour" and hitting that check in the box for their grad school.

There is so much emphasis on having mids get exposed to a "broad spectrum" they are missing in depth exposure to the things that matter. Such as fleet cruises, team building exercises, real responsibilities, and time management (liberty). Granted as a mid I will always complain about liberty but I think there is much to learn from managing liberty on your own rather through brute force.

There is a fundamental disconnect about the exact relationship expected between officers and enlisted and I think that may lend to some of the issues JOs face when hitting the fleet.

Sometimes all it took an officer to get my respect was to empty their plates of their leftover food and look me in the eyes and acknowledge me as a human being, rather than the lowly crank that washes dishes and delivers laundry. The rank maybe lower but as humans we are all equal.

2/21/2009 11:59 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having served as an E onboard several 688's there was definitly a diffirence between O and E, My last command ran things like surface ship so the divide was greater and it started at the top. The CO made it clear that in his view E's were inferior people and he was former enlisted. On our boat E's below E-7 were almost ineligible for a NAM while the CO before that was known to give everyone a NAM as an end of tour award.

Maybe I always had a chip on my shoulder going in as an E with a college degree but I think there something fundamentally wrong with the O & E rank structure and CPO's are the ulimtate example of ranks gone bad.

I think reform of the rank structure is long overdue and enjoyed reading http://www.combatreform.org/onerankstructure.htm
Do away with officers coming from college kids and instead send qualified enlisted to the Academy/OCS to be the officers and end the enlistment of those who don't make officer. No more middle managers, CPO's, and LTJG's who think they know something when they don't. The caste structure that is our armed forces is long overdue for an overhaul.

5/30/2011 6:46 AM

 

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