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.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Former Submarine JO Writes Book, Makes News

I don't have as much time to write about former submarine JO and author Christopher Brownfield as I would like to right now, so I'll let you guys get the discussion started without me. I first posted about Mr. Brownfield back in June when he made news for suggesting that explosives be used to stop the oil leak in the Gulf. Now, he's got his first book out, "My Nuclear Family", which was just reviewed by the New York Times. I'll want to actually read the book before I form a final opinion, but based on this post by Brownfield at The Daily Beast, I'm pretty sure I won't like it. Excerpts from his post:
During my on-board training, while I studied more than 70 hours per week, my fellow officers regularly warned me, “Don’t let knowledge stand in the way of your qualifications.” They urged me not to, “learn too much… just check the box and get qualified.” But when my exam arrived, it seemed impossibly difficult. I failed miserably, despite having made a very serious five-month long effort to pass.
My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn’t used the “study guide.” When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called study guide, which happened to be the answer key for the nuclear qualification exam I was taking. I was furious. Defiantly, I handed back the answer key to the proctor and proceeded to take the exam on my own. I failed again. My boss, the ship’s engineer officer, started to document my failures with formal counseling so that he could fire me.
The most competent junior officer on our ship ran to my rescue, confiding that none of the other officers had passed the exam legitimately; the exam was just an administrative check-off. “Swallow your pride,” he told me, and just get it done.
The ship’s engineer and executive officer didn’t believe me when I complained of the cheating, and swept my allegations under the rug. It took me five attempts before I finally passed the "basic" qualification exam. Unbeknownst to me, senior members of my crew even went so far as to falsify my exam scores in order to avoid unwanted attention from the headquarters. But strangely, the exam was anything but basic. The expectations on paper were astronomically high compared to the banal reality of how our ship actually worked.
The post goes on to talk about his post-JO shore tour experience as a Sub School Instructor (which kind of shows where his career was heading had he not gotten out) and includes a rookie mis-spelling of "court-martialed". Interestingly to me, I easily could have been his XO for the last half of his tour on the Hartford (I had orders to be her XO starting in 2004, but got sub disqual'd for asthma), so I'm interested to think about how I would have reacted had I been on the boat. From what I've read of Brownfield so far, it's clear he's one of those over-earnest malcontents who just don't get it; they won't fit in with the group because of their "standards", and make a big deal out of stuff that's really not a big deal in the big scheme of things. Normally, I've liked guys like that; I felt they had something to offer, and there was no question that they cared, even if they did end up causing a lot of extra work and frustration for their supervisors. For this guy, I'm not so sure. I'll have to read his book (the last part of which appears to be about his staff IA tour in Iraq, which I can compare to my IA tour at CENTCOM) to make a final decision. You guys can feel free to start discussing him and his charges now. (Remember, though... NNPI shouldn't be posted.)

Update 0830 23 Sep: So as not to appear to hypocritical, here's my disclosure on my experiences with the BEQ exam (which is clearly what Brownfield is talking about in his post). Clearly, it's tacky to give the guy the answer key with the exam. On the other hand, it was roundly known that the only way to pass it was to take it "open book"; guys generally took it in the wardroom during the midwatch, with the RPMs available when needed. As Eng, I gave a proctored BEQ exam to the whole department at the time; I had that luxury because I was in new construction doing initial quals, and had trained the guys for almost 2 years, in a much more structured setting than is available to operational boats, before I had to give the exam. As far as the few guys who took it after the initial qualifications when I was still Eng -- I never really asked, but I assume they did it open book. [Parenthetically, the BEQ exam is a big deal for junior officers because they have to pass it before they can stand any watches aft; junior enlisted guys don't have that restriction.]

Update 1030 23 Sep: Vigilis posts his thoughts on the media campaign for the book.

Update 0936 24 Sep: Thoughts (and additional forums in which to spread the discussion) from nhsparky and [Bell-ringer] Tom Ricks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel, are you sure it was asthma that got you disqual'd from subs? Just sayin', it could have been rotundness.

9/23/2010 8:46 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Yes, it was asthma that got me submarine disqual'd -- and DV status when I got out (30%, not that you really need to know). I'm sure the rotundness contributed to how bad the asthma was, or maybe the asthma just made it more difficult to work out. Would you like to see the paperwork?

9/23/2010 9:19 AM

Blogger Dan said...

I remember my RO exam was about 50 pages long. They handed it to me and said return it in a week and using manuals is ok. I still only got a mediocre score on it. But i agree, most nuclear tests were just an admin check.

but i ahve to admit it took me 5 meetings with the (new) Captain to get me qualified. Only the first meeting was a real oral board. Plus the Eng told me later he would have qualified me.

9/23/2010 10:17 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

The timing of all the hubbub over this ex-junior officer's ridiculous book may be much more thanwhat meets the eye.

9/23/2010 10:27 AM

Anonymous You all know it's true said...

This is exactly what is wrong with the Navy Nuke mindset that will come back and bite us all in the end (butt). How many times did you hear "Standards, people, standards." Yet, conveniently, when someone steps up and says, "wait, we have a standard that is not reasonable, i.e., either this test is rediculous or your policy for administering it vs. passing it aren't in agreement", he gets labled as a "malcontent". Screw you hypocrites. I guess that's what they teach at Annapolis: don't lie, cheat or steal...unless it's just a check in the box and you need to suck up your pride. Go ahead and call me whatever name you want. In the immortal words of PVT Hudson, "How do I get out of this chicken sh!t outfit?"

9/23/2010 10:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm, I think Brownstain's, oops, I meant Brownfield's commentary on the Basic Engineering qual is very telling about his particular mind-set. The point of the BEQ exam is that you prove a basic level of minimum systems knowledge. In my experience, my BEQ exam was 'closed' book. But what to expect was pretty straight forward.
It's also interesting that he didn't mention the qualification board process. Passing the BEQ is just a beginner's step. Passing a qual board isn't going to happen unless the board members are comfortable hitting the rack knowing the newly qualified watchstander won't kill them all out of stupidity. I'm betting Brownfield's attitude(s) didn't do him a lot of good there, either.
I will read Brownskid's -- oops, did it again -- Brownfield's book if only for the part about Hartford's grounding at La Maddalena. That's never been in print before.
But I'll wait a bit and buy it used on Amazon when the price comes down. I really don't want to send any of my $$$ to his wallet.

9/23/2010 11:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is going to be fun.

9/23/2010 11:22 AM

Anonymous T said...

There used to be a time where being a Naval Officer meant integrity. Clearly that time has passed.

My experience with the BEQ was much the same as Chris Brownfields, and I was roundly punished for trying to take the test fairly. No matter how you slice it, that's fucked up. The "standards" aren't really the standards, and senior leadership is complicit in willfully denying this to themselves and others. The real standard is "Cheat, but Don't Get Caught".

Quite frankly, it disgusts me. And it disgusts me that there's people that will attempt to defend this indefensible position. Yes, after my BEQ Test, I cheated on every other ORSE and Divisional and departmental exam that came my way, because that was what you HAD to do to pass and it was, in some respect what was expected of you. But that's not how it SHOULD be. The standard should be the standard, and it should be achievable by mere mortals or at least submariners.

Any rationalization of this is the slippery slope that leads to blazing logs, blazing quals, blazing chemistry samples. Because if it's ok to cheat on exams, how are you supposed to know what is NOT ok to cheat on?

Lastly, despite the fact that literally almost everyone cheats on BEQ exams with a wink and a nod, if this came up on an ORSE, the CO/ENG would get hung out to dry. If we are going to cheat, as a policy, the sub force should at least be fair enough to institutionalize and officially condone it.

9/23/2010 12:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been on a boat that went thorugh some major pain with regards to exam cheating a few years ago (the XO caught the EDTA and an ELT behind closed doors with an exam and the key, "taking" the exam), I can sympathize with Brownfield's arguments in his post. After that little incident, our ship went to Nuke-school level exam security; special paper for keys, tests locked up, not allowed to keep exams after taking them, etc.

Predictably, the department's exam average plumeted at first, but eventually two things happened:
1. We began writing better tests, with questions at an appropriate level of detail.
2. The department as a whole developed better study habbits, including training that was more clearly structured.

These two changes resulted, in my opinion, in a department that was better trained than before. That being said, at the time of the discovery of our "problem," it was clearly made out to be our boat's problem, not the fleet's. This book makes me think otherwise, and suggests that there may be some self-deception in the belief that such issues are the exception rather than the norm (something which I think does a disservice to the entire community).

Perhaps the best thing that could come from this book is a serious re-examination of our training and qualifcation processes, to effect the kind of change I saw on my boat.

9/23/2010 12:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Brownfield himself,
"Thus far, the U.S. Navy has maintained a perfect nuclear safety record."

Perhaps (You all know it's true) needs to reconsider whether the system he derides actually works.

I am not nuclear trained (some in college), but if it works, maybe you don't need to know why. All that matters is that someone with considerably more gold on his sleeve understands. Bet you despised field days, too, and we all know their primary and secondary purposes.


9/23/2010 12:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say again: what a douche.

I look forward to our HARTFORD and SUB SCHOOL shipmates piling on....

9/23/2010 12:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

BEQ. Basic Engineering Qualification exam.

Always closed book. Come on, the 4-8 hours exam you took at prototype (closed book with continuous monitoring) is almost the exact same thing you are taking on the boat.

Sure, the systems might change slightly, but CH-16 is probably still CH-16.

Treating chating as acceptable is a symptom of bad things to come for the ship.

That being said, this "whistle blower" is obviously a complete dirtbag. His public statement that submarines are a white elephant... with no real-world use just shows how little he actually absorbed during his sub tour.

I hope that his book is "self published". It would be a sad commentary on the publishing industry if someone actually paid good money to put his whining down in black and white for joe public to buy.

9/23/2010 1:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


From his pic over at Molten Eagle, I'd say he got out a tad early. With DADT clearly on the way out, he would have been free to tell all why he has the look.

9/23/2010 1:11 PM

Anonymous below decks watch said...

hahaha. he served on the Hartford. no wonder the submarine service left a bad taste in his mouth. piece of shit officer on a piece of shit boat.

9/23/2010 1:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of interest, Chris Brownfield said he volunteered to go to Iraqi.

He also spent his JO shore duty at sub school.

I know that in the time he rolled to shore duty (2006?), most sub school instructors were gettign sent straight on IA when they reported for duty as an instructor.

Getting orders to sub school was teh same as getting orders for 6 months to Iraqi.

I wonder how voluntary his assignment actually was.

9/23/2010 1:25 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

I always wondered how I used the "Study Guide" but got a 2.95 on the exam....

It's not as if they had a score they were trying to meet or anything!

Oh, and we've talked this subject to death before. See the following:

9/23/2010 1:35 PM

Blogger Jeff Gauch said...

I wasn't a submariner, but we had a similar experience on the carrier.

I place a great deal of blame on the NPEB. Most of the questions on the tests come from or are inspired by the ORSE exams. There's also the expectation that a certain number will fail and the average will be in a specific band. Anything else gets deemed "ineffective". I guess it's inconceivable that a test would cover the knowledge an operator needs to know and the operators would actually know it.

I've proctored my fair share of tests, and while I don't recall giving anyone the answer keys I always did my job and ensured the taker knew what the question was asking for. With the manning issues in the nuke field (and our Reactor Officer not letting anyone qualify any watch until BNEQ) we simply cannot afford to carry extra dead weight around because of idiots writing tests and keys.

9/23/2010 1:56 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Gotta wonder what's the difference between cheating on a nuke exam and cheating on rig for dive. Just curious...

9/23/2010 1:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I took the BEQ exam and every other exam, for that matter, it was ALWAYS closed book. There were no cheat sheets, no answer keys, no pre-filled exams. And if some clown had offered me an answer key with the promise of looking the other way while proctoring the exam, I would have politely but firmly turned down the offer.

This young man claims he raged against the establishment and in the process failed the BEQ exam numerous times. I don't buy it. I think he was just incapable of learning the material.

9/23/2010 2:31 PM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

Brownfield does look and act gay - which is disgusting in and of itself - but that doesn't mean that he can't be of some overall eventual benefit to the submarine force.

This whole cheating mentality is age-old Boat School bullshit. "The gouge" the middies used to (and probably still) call exam-key info. The sense of entitlement is just enough to make you throw up.

I used to joke whenever I was asked if I went to the academy that, "No...I was college-educated." But sad to say that cheating mindsets exist at major universities as well, particularly within the Greek/fraternity environments...not that, thank God, I ever tried to or wanted to join one.

This low-integrity crap needs to be cleaned up. Books like the ones that Brownfield has written may actually act as a spark plug to make it happen.

I agree with earlier comments that the ORSE boards and NR itself are largely to blame for "creeping nukism," which I would define as asking such ridiculous things as how many fill-in-the-blank bolts are on a reactor. Who gives a fuck?

Bell curve-fitting standards and exams need to get the deep six, and deleting asinine questions are the right first step.

Lastly, I'm actually most saddened to read of so many boats that were apparently run like Brownfields. That is some sad shit, guys. Run the show how you damn well know it should be run, and F anyone who tries to tell you differently...including the ORSE board.

9/23/2010 2:47 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

I'd love to know exactly when tests ANYWHERE in the nuke program became "open book". I never took one from A-School through my last continuing exam on my last boat. Only when I got to Recruiting School was the final exam open book, and yet I hardly need to crack it even then. (Yes, I was the first one finished. 100 multiple guess questions, 20 minutes out of 2 1/2 hours given.) And the CRFers wonder why I hated them.

All that being said, his dubious claims need to have the BS flag thrown high and often. If an officer can't even qualify BEQ, I shudder to think what would have happened had he tried to stay around for PNEO school and the subsequent anal probing (I mean, "exam") that would have entailed.

As my Section Advisor in NPS said when asked why we didn't do open book anything, his said, "When the shit hits the fan, either you'll know what to do to save your life and your ship, or you'll die." A bit dramatic, but a very good mindset to take. Flooding at 400 feet and trying to pull out the SPM and RPM first thing instead of taking the immediate actions isn't a real good policy.

9/23/2010 3:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So basically the integrity required by Rickover has been replaced by check the box mentality, wink,wink, wink and folks looking the other way.

9/23/2010 3:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For this dirtbag to call submarines white elephants means that he is totally clueless. Having served on both 6th Fleet and a combatant commander's staff as their staff submariner, the combatant commanders are SCREAMING for more submarines, and the submarine force's ability to provide is seriously deficient - i.e. we need a LOT MORE submarines than we have, at least if you ask PACOM, CENTCOM, etc.
Brownfield is a complete tool.

9/23/2010 3:57 PM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

"For this dirtbag to call submarines white elephants means that he is totally clueless." just means that he's an ignorant moron. These things happen.

If true - and based on other comments here apparently they are - his points regarding the lack of integrity in today's nuclear Navy are reasonably serious smelling salts.

I'm just sorry that it took an ignorant moron to blow the whistle on the bullshit lack-of-integrity that's been going on.

9/23/2010 4:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did "walkthroughs" of a number of the "perform this evolution" sigs on my EOOW qual card. Comes the board- actually just me and the CO before the ENG and other board members got to the wardroom- and CO is flipping through my card. He says, "Did we really do all these evolutions on the same day?" (As they were dated.) I said that no, I had done them as walkthroughs, that I thought that was OK as a lot of people did it. He says, "Tell the ENG I need to talk to him right now."


About 2 weeks of absolutely no qual sigs for anyone followed. Finally, people could start start getting sigs again after major investigations (that went no where once an XO sig was called into question) and major qual card revisions to note that a majority (up to a certain percentage) of the evolutions could be walked through with a check for W/T and P.

So, it sucked for awhile, but things were made better overall. I just wish there had not been a significant chance of mast for so many people for most of that time.

9/23/2010 4:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a team player.... also what time does the critique start????

If this guy thought the exams were so hard, where he had to cheat to pass, there are avenues within the service he could have taken to help solve the problem vice stating his dirty laundry to the entire world. Also, when a program such as the Navy's nuclear power program has historically been so successful, I think it can pretty much speak for itself. There have been and will always be some disgruntled folks in even the worlds best run organizations.

9/23/2010 5:02 PM

Anonymous Bob, Help Me! said...

It's not cheating if you're taught to rationalize your actions.

9/23/2010 5:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that unless you have been through the qual process in the last five years (or so) your opinion of how hard the exams are is irrelevant. On my boat, in many cases, exams were keyed expecting PNEO-level answers. A non-qual EOOW is quite simply not going to know that amount of stuff. He probably knows immediate actions but probably cannot write supplementary actions out verbatim from the RPM.

And for the anon that says there's avenues for him to express his idea that there are avenues in the service to help with hard exams? What are they exactly? Is he supposed to call the IG hotline and try to start an investigation saying everyone on his boat cheats?

Most O-1 and below probably don't even know what the IG is, and would be too scared to call even if they did. A whole lot of you (probably relatively senior O5/O6 level guys) are putting your heads in the sand about this and saying "well he was just a malcontent".

From my informal talks with other post JO guys, I'd say that Chris Brownfield's case is fairly typical on at least 50% or so of boats. Maybe not quite so extreme, and this guy is clearly very bitter, but it is a real problem. I'd say my experience with this was the moment I decided to get out, personally.

Lastly, and totally unrelated, I think that the desire of Combatant Commanders for more vessels is a poor measure of how useful that vessel is. Submarines are clearly not white elephants, but just because PACOM could find places to deploy 50 if we had them available does not mean that we NEED 50 submarines

9/23/2010 5:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The subs are absolutely vital to national security. Unfortunately, most JOs do not realize the value until their dept. head tours if they decide to stay in.

9/23/2010 5:49 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Anon--why WOULDN'T he know supplemental actions? When I was an RO and EWS, I was expected to know them without the RPM sitting in front of me. The main reason the books got broken out was as a "backup" when actions were complete to ensure none were missed.

If the exam integrity was even half as weak as he suggested, NRRO monitors, or at worst the ORSE team, would have found this out the first time they stepped on board, and started some serious curb-stomping when they left the boat and went straight over to the Squadron offices.

If 50 percent of officers have this experience, then I humbly suggest they're failures as officers and leaders if their integrity is so easily compromised, and they need their asses kicked out so hard and so fast their ass cheeks end up around their shoulder blades.

"Creeping nuc-ism" is hardly anything new, but then again, neither is the concept of integrity--either he has it or he doesn't, and in this cause it sounds like he DOESN'T have it. We're better off without him.

9/23/2010 5:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the initial poster that took a shot at Joel - WTF? First off, you took a shot and didn't have the sack to leave your name. Secondly, I've been on-station with the man - as have others - and he is a Shipmate. So what he says is gospel...get it? So buck up, or shut up.
Cheers! Gordo J.

9/23/2010 6:04 PM

Blogger Jay said...

Am I just so old, I don't remember the BEQ? I do remember regular Engineering department exams and ORSE exams and no one cheated, but, man, we got some crappy scores on them all.

9/23/2010 6:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on a fast boat and got out in '90. We never had BNEQ or BEQ - we got qual cards and were expected to already know the basics and learn the systems during the qual process.

9/23/2010 6:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like we got a bunch of angels commenting on here...let's get realistic here. What he is saying is known from the top to bottom in the fleet. It's just that the sub force turns a blind eye and has no sense of reality. I still think this guy is probably a douche though.

9/23/2010 6:48 PM

Blogger SonarMan said...

Submarines irrelevant? That's what they said on December 6, 1941. It was a much different story the next day.

Riddle me this, Batman. What part of the fleet do you think will still be intact and be able to carry the fight to the enemy when some jihadi lights off and EMP bomb in Norfolk or SD or Pearl?

Brownfield is an assclown, and we can all see it.

9/23/2010 6:59 PM

Blogger DDM said...


Guess they weren't an isolated incident.


9/23/2010 7:18 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

anon @ 6:48--hardly angels. Do you recall those "integrity statements" you signed before EVERY SINGLE EXAM you took in the nuclear training pipeline?

Believe me, by the time you hit your walkthroughs and oral boards with your chain of command, it was pretty apparent whether you knew your stuff or not. We had more than one guy fail a qual board because he wasn't up to speed, but I think I speak for most of the guys here when I say that cheating wasn't tolerated, in or out of the wardroom. There might have been some "gimme" questions to boost someone's score, but at the end of the day, either you were ready to stand the watch or not.

Nothing like your first shutdown RO/SRO when the EOOW and EWS tell you to coordinate with the mechanics and place the engine room in a shutdown lineup after shore power is on the bus and poles are in the holes.

9/23/2010 7:33 PM

Blogger Old Salt said...

When I got to my third boat, I was a First Class from prototype, qualified EOOW, EDO, etc.... I took the current RO exam, (50 pages) and it took me almost a week. I wrote down the times each day I worked on the exam on the exam cover sheet, and handed it in. All was quiet until it got to the ENG. He had a stroke, and noted that the exam was to take between 4 and 8 hours. I challenged him to find one of his ENG qualified J.O's that could write for 8 hours straight and finish the exam. He signed me off, but my next task was to rewrite the exam. That was one exam I would not like to have seen as a first time qual exam.

9/23/2010 7:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheating scandal on Alaska Blue on ORSE exam in 2006...need we say more?

It does happen, it is common, everyone does or should know it does happen and it's been happening for decades. For anyone to deny and act "shocked" is funny. Maybe time to spend some time outside of the stateroom.

9/23/2010 7:36 PM

Blogger Old Salt said...

As to the exam security statements, I will agree that in the past, the focus was on creating monster exams that may have not been reasonable, but there has been a very real crackdown on exam security. I just went to the new EDMC school, and there is a whole topic devoted to exam security. The exam bank should be on it's own computer, or hard drive. Exam routing is hand to hand vice inbox. ORSE comes down now and does a LAN scan for exam material. ANON 9/23 at 1202 is absolutely correct. If you revamp the process, and do it the correct way from beginning to end, the knowledge of the department will improve. Also the writing and grading skills will improve, giving a better product overall.

9/23/2010 7:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Navy is following the commercial nuke world with regards to exams, exam security, etc.

9/23/2010 8:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zero defect mentality does not produce or guarantee genuine zero defects but when it is not healthy career wise to be a messenger with bad news, what news (information) makes it to the top? Just saying...

9/23/2010 8:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I will have to read the book to find out how much the submarine community has changed since I left in 1992.

I have not idea what the F**k you are all talking about with respect to BEQ or BNEQ....can someone clue an old timer in as to exactly when and why this test appeared and when did it get used as the starting point for a JO standing watch?

I do not recall an exam in Prototype but that may just be old age - i do recall an oral board that was a motherF***er to pass which you had to study like your life depended on it (which it did....).

Qualifying for EOOW on the boat was a qual card like Prototype and then an oral board with the CO, the ENG and the senior JO who was the most familiar with the plant you were about to stand watch on. My CO did not qualify anyone until he felt comfortable that you were not a complete screw up back aft.

Tests in the Engineering department were many and regular - with ever increasing frequency. My first ORSE test as an officer was embarrassing as rumor had it I had the lowest score on the boat - but I was newly qualified and could not believe the depth of questions that I was expected to be able to answer in a closed book test. WTF??

Fast forward three years later and I score the highest on the ORSE exam (pretty much aced the exam). Even though the exam had gotten harder over the years (they were always pushing us to make the exams harder...) I had the experience of PNEO school plus three solid years in the penalty box.

I always said that the submarine force needed some sort of event to clean house of the bullshit that had piled up over the years - historically this would happen during a war where the sub community would clear the decks and get back to what is important. I am saddened that this has clearly not happened and doubly saddened by the fact that my year group classmates are now in positions of authority and are not making it happen.

Sounds like time to clean house.

9/23/2010 8:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former EDMC, I can tell you that there have been significant changes to the exam process. My first BEQ exam on my first boat was a week long ordeal...each section of the BEQ card had a 4 hour exam to go a long with it. We took 1 to 2 sections each day. These days security is much tighter like other posters mentioned, but the NPEB's expectations have changed a great deal. They basically give you enough rope to hang yourself. You get no feedback from the training review...its all based on drill performance and oral interviews. If those go well, then your training program (ie exams) must be effective...if your department tubes it...then it doesn't matter how pretty your program looks...its not effective. The only exam that really gets looked at closely is the RO exam as its main reference has very specific requirements. BEQ and dept/div exams don't get looked at that have a lot of leeway in how you write those. My biggest gripe is that too often people just dig into old exam banks to write questions for recent training topics...that may or may not have been covered in training. The exam questions should come directly from the training (read: the guy who actually gave the training) and serve 2 functions: 1)overall knowledge retention and 2)how effective was the trainer themselves. I crack up when I looked at department averages in the high 3.5-3.6 range...then check out their ORSE averages...2.8-2.9...yup, effective training program there.

9/23/2010 8:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly if you talk to Nhsparky, this has never ever happened, so you have nothing to worry about...

9/23/2010 8:54 PM

Anonymous arlington said...

Joel, thanks again for hosting this forum. I'm proud to say you were my shift eng. When we fell behind in quals you called in the six of us JOs. Calmly and succinctly you told us to fix ourselves. The Brownfield problem is he was not a team player and when he became more senior he did not make the team better. When you are on the boat, getting four hours of sleep per day, in all aspects operating a warship at sea (which is tough), and planning how to do it all for the next week, you can easily be tempted to look for a short cut just to get a break. Being a submariner is making sure the other guy gets backup so we don't suffer because some one took a short cut at the wrong time (rig for dive checks, tagout checks, keeping alert on watch). Finally, a good training program tests the crew on what they should do, when, and why. Long tests aren't better they are just long.

9/23/2010 8:58 PM

Anonymous Scott said...

The BEQ qualification pretty much just systems and spec knowledge of the plant. JO's are required to qualify BEQ before EOOW.

As far as this testing goes... Every test that we take on my boat is graded by JO's most of the time. I can say that I have never seen an answer key before or during a test and have never been "helped" with a test. I am the most junior officer on board and I have never run into any of these problems. Because of that, Ive failed several exams but then guys that fail are trained on what we failed at and when we take the re-exam most guys fine.

This whole 'cheating' thing I have never seen before at prototype or on my boat.

9/23/2010 9:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, this guy sounds like THAT officer, and all submariners know which one I am talking about. The one who wants to follow every rule, even when it is stupid and he knows it, I know it, everyone knows it! He isn't very smart and that is why he has to be a douche. There is too much to do on a submarine to do everything required and still keep your sanity. I don't condone cheating, or blazing logs, or blazing maintenance. However, I think his points, though misguided and a little off target, point out problems in our system.

If it is basic engineering qualification, why shouldn't it be passable? It is the bare bones required info on which to build the rest of your knowledge, or so the name would suggest. I've been qualified senior in rate for a number of years now and still find it difficult to get above a 3.0, and that is with years of experience. How do you expect someone with barely a year on board to even pass?

One of the biggest things that pisses me off is training. We train on the same shit so often and people start tuning it out. I read once that training needs to be directed at more senior guys. Think junior 2nd classes. If we keep holding training for nubs, what is the point of training? Hold a nub engineering session.

Lastly, I won't say I haven't cheated before. I cheated because there was just so much shit to do, and I was exhausted from working 6 days a week(sometimes 7) for a minimum of abt 12 hrs a day. It was 6 at night on a friday and I got told it was liberty dependent. When I do find the time, I take it without cheating because I like to use tests to give me an idea of where I am at. I know they make the scores what they want so it looks good, but why can't big navy just get over the idea that some people are just good at their jobs, or this shit is so hard and they can't expect us to keep boats at sea and be masters of the RPM. Some people can do it, but most of use can't.

To finish, I say, keep turning a blind eye because we just can't afford this shit. We bust our asses too much and don't get the respect we earn. Subtly start making changes for the better. Hell, any good boat wouldn't have the need for cheating because they will have already sufficiently trained it's watchstanders. Ultimately, it's up to the guys signing the cards to make sure they have knowledge. Are you going to blaze some guys sig for a system, perform, casualty sig and honestly sleep at night?

9/24/2010 2:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll start by saying I agree we should honestly take boat exams. To do that though we also need to acknowledge the settings of power school, prototype and PNEO (your only job is to study) are way different then boat life.
I've seen both sides. My first boat I had the XO who also said, "Never let knowledge stand in the way of qualification." That same boat, when the EDMC was asked what he thought of finding an exam key in a locker said, "I don't see what you are mad about. They are studying the 4.0 answer."
My second boat was new construction, and like Joel said, we had a lot of time and a lot of detailed training so people really did know the answers.
My third boat was a mix. For the first year or so I was on board the exams were ridiculous. It was after PNEO, again another dedicated study period, that I felt like I could pass the exams without "help." That boat transitioned though, with a new ENG and EDMC, (normal rotations not firings) to writing realistic exams combined with real exam security. Similar to a previous post, grades immediately dropped but quickly started to rebound. Tests aside, there is no substitute for operational experience. That is were the XO's comment came from. Coming out of a long yard period the department's test knowledge was good but, wow, the first attempt or two at a new drill set was UGLY.
Cheating on exams is not new. It is not isolated to the Hamptons out there. Its not just aft... The solutions have already been posted. You shouldn't HAVE to cheat. How 'bout we fix these types of issues before we worry about women's "glass ceilings" and Johnny’s ability to tell everyone he spent the night with Steve...

9/24/2010 3:17 AM

Anonymous STSC said...

"Are you going to blaze some guys sig for a system, perform, casualty sig and honestly sleep at night?"

Sadly, the temptation is great to do exactly that. Because dependent on the watchbill - you might NOT get any sleep if that other guy doesn't get qualified. Port & Starboard for extended periods can sap many a Sailor's resolve to uphold qual standards. It isn't right, but it happens.

As to exams. Cheating was rampant on my boat, forward & aft. After the HAMPTON & Nuc school incidents, we revamped our exam secruity, exam administration, and exam disposal methods. It was harder, but the standards improved and exams were written better.

There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. Exam scoring is just as big an integrity issue as cheating, it just doesn't get as much press.

When the CO tells you that the division scored too well, or that a test is too easy/hard/whatever, it has a direct effect on the next test and how it will be graded.

This isn't just a nuc problem either.

The TRE team questions they were giving to the forward rates a few years ago (not sure if they are still doing it since I'm on shore now) had the most screwy grading criteria. Out of my whole division, my Leading First and I were the only two that passed (and neither one of us did all that great), even though the whole division did just fine during interviews/questions on level of knowledge during the evaluation. Half the exam questions weren't pertinent to what we were being evaluated on.

9/24/2010 6:54 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

To anon @ 9/23/2010 8:54 PM:

Generalize much? I never said "never", but this assclown makes it sounds like it's far more prevalent than it is. I do believe I also mentioned that all exams, whether qual, ORSE, or continuing training, are geared more towards score averages and number of pass/fail than really testing the LOK of the individuals being tested--which is one factor which needs to be fixed.

Yes, I've seen and heard of guys cheating on tests, just like I've heard of guys blazing off maintenance--just ask the folks on the Houston back in the early 90's how well that went for them. IIRC, they lost their ENG, RCA, RCLPO, EDMC, and the RC-Divers who were responsible in that case. The fact that those who ARE caught have their heads on stakes outside the -08 offices should tell you the relative frequency with which it happens and the severity with which it is dealt when discovered.

And I put it to you, as a (assuming you are) Petty Officer, Chief, or Officer, if you KNOW these things are happening in your command and do nothing to stop them, why? Turn in your TLD and hit the brow. I hear McDonald's is hiring and they don't much care if you cheat on their tests.

9/24/2010 8:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NR should run a "one-time" drill on all the boats that would resolve cheating on exams: simply re-run the most recent exam in a proctored way and compare test scores.

The results from this very simple test of 'the' system might be very, very eye-opening...and cheat-catching.

And the heads-on-stakes number might grow just a tad.

9/24/2010 8:35 AM

Anonymous JPM said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/24/2010 9:09 AM

Anonymous JPM said...

Well, hoping to re-direct a little here. The exam integrity issue clearly hit a major nerve, which I actually take as a good thing: if it wasn’t important, we wouldn’t care, and we wouldn’t be very good submariners.

With that said, let me comment on some more of Browntrout’s – damn, did it a third time – Brownfield’s book review references:

Wow, a Submarine Junior Officer who gets disgusted with the 'system' and has aggressive opinions on what the right thing to do NOW should be??? What a shocking concept. And the fact that he was able to fool around with a young State Dept chick in a foreign country?? What is the world coming to? Certainly an indictment on Colin Powell's hiring policies, no?

Actually, other than he managed to put it all in a book that New York Times decided to review, I'd tell him to get in line. And a long and distinguished line it is... Of course, the review being in the NYT makes me think the earlier GADAR alert is likely a good assessment and we should probably put a left-leaning tracker the newly famous author.

As for evaluations on the need for nuclear subs, I'm not so sure that I'd give too much weight to the analysis of a guy with only a Division Officer and Sub School tour under his belt. Wait ‘til the Chi-Coms decide to sail to Taiwan and we’ll see how many “White Elephants” are being diverted for a feeding frenzy.

Still, I will look for it to read. Sounds like he has managed to write about stuff I could laugh at (likely laughing mainly at him), and remind me of all those JOs who were “that guy” that should never have been allowed in the program after their first NR interview. That’s another thing that makes us submariners: we take delight while watching the stupid be punished.

A small world, too, since the Hartford's grounding was in La Maddalena, and I was there. Maybe the cheating stuff explains why that boat’s CO, XO, NAV, ANAV, and WEPS all took major hits (could it be the ENG just got lucky?). I would read the screed for no other reason than it'll be the first time I've seen anything that didn’t take all its facts from an official Navy report on the subject. I know why the Commodore there was relieved “for Cause.” It’ll be interesting to see more about the functioning of that boat from inside the hull, underway -- somebody mentioned something about Brown-nose never being “part of the team.” Oh, and what a team it must have been.

The stuff in the desert will be a bonus – if he was truly just a PowerPoint ranger, no doubt he was also a total Fobbit. I always wondered how it was to live like that and keep a sense of self-worth. The NYT’s review certainly implies that Brownpile kept his. And if he did wander out past the wire, I’m betting the main phrase he heard was “Shou, ya ashta! Hal teez!!” (arabic: Hey cutie, nice a$$.) That could be why the State Dept types liked him, too.

I really hope the used book price tumbles down on Amazon. As I get older, there's nothing I consider of value in my professional life more than my time in submarines. If young Mr. Brownnose wants to 'dis' all that, I’ll be looking to laugh at his expense without giving him any money. I'll let you know when I find a dog-eared copy: I'll be happy to forward it around the community. Maybe we can keep the printing to a 100 copies and still all get a good laugh.

So, does anybody know anything else of interest on this guy besides taking tests on USS Used-ta-Fish?

9/24/2010 9:11 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Deleted a duplicate comment, @jpm.

I'm hearing from some of Brownfield's shipmates; apparently, he wasn't the sharpest guy, and they suspect that the extra "help" he was offered on the exam wasn't necessarily command-wide, but only for guys who weren't likely to pass the test on their own. While it's unfortunate that this happened, I think everyone can agree that the philosophy "Don't let admin get in the way of your qualification" does make sense in the real world; you really learn how to stand the watch by standing the watch. Show of hands -- who really felt like they had a complete understanding of their watchstation when they were qualified for their first underway watch? Personally, I didn't "break the code" on the plant (gained a workable understanding of all the inter-relationships between systems) until I'd been standing watch for several months.

The term that I always used for what guys like Brownfield did was "malicious compliance" -- a way to avoid work by hiding behind some documented requirement.

Good discussion so far, except for the questioning of Brownfield's sexuality. Personally, I don't see how that would contribute to the "problems" he saw at all.

And thanks, Gordo. I appreciate it, shipmate.

9/24/2010 9:27 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Tom Ricks has picked up the story

9/24/2010 9:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good discussion so far, except for the questioning of Brownfield's sexuality. Personally, I don't see how that would contribute to the "problems" he saw at all.

It doesn't necessarily contribute to what he saw other than the possibility that he might have an additional axe to grind. Still, whether he is or is not is not relevant to his points - it was simply an observation that I made from his pic - and I stand by that observation. He definitely looks the part.

9/24/2010 10:18 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

"Show of hands -- who really felt like they had a complete understanding of their watchstation when they were qualified for their first underway watch?"

My first time ever underway on a nuclear submarine was as EOOW...on a newcon boat...the very first time it got 'underway on nuclear power' for alpha trials. From a practical perspective, there was nothing but lack of watchstation understanding on my part.

To be clear, I honestly didn't much like that at the time, and even made it a point to make sure the NAV knew that before we got underway as I'd never been underway on a boat before, much less ever seen our plant operate under real load.

I didn't bitch in any way...just wanted to do the "full disclosure" thing out of a simple sense of obligation to make double-sure that 'they' knew what they were doing.

Needless to say, we got through it just fine, and I went on to be one of the ORSE EOOWs, and as MPA was almost always the maneuvering watch EOOW. Obviously, something was done right in my training, and obviously we didn't have a 'live' plant to work on before the first time we went to sea and I was qualified EOOW.

I'd like to support Joel's notion of not letting admin get in the way of qualifying - "on watch" is truly where it's at - but am honestly not entirely sure what he means by that.

So...a little more detail, Joel? Provisional quals are not a difficult thing to document and follow-through on...and I'd like to think you're not saying that providing "gouge" for exams is OK when expediency requires because it's 'just admin.'

I'm keeping the faith, but some clarity for the boys in blue would be a good thing.

Oh...and I apologize for referencing Brownfield's GADAR blip. I should have merely stuck to something like the "probably a douch" comment that the Duck made at Tom Ricks' blog.

9/24/2010 10:20 AM

Blogger Jed Christiansen said...

So I actually served with Chris on the Hartford (I was there 2001-2003, left a few months after the grounding.) Additionally, I've actually purchased the book, instead of just reading the reviews.

A few notes:
- Yes, he writes about exam cheating, but there's a lot more that so far.
- I was nearly pissing myself laughing at least a few times... Chris had some legendary run-ins with the crew. Reading it from his point of view was fascinating.
- He willingly admits that he was a mediocre EOOW, so good on him for being honest.
- His role during the grounding was that of an observer on the bridge, not much else. The WEPS had the conn.
- Chris is a very unique character; very different from the rest of the wardroom. (For better or worse.)
- Hartford did *not* have any widespread cheating problems that I ever saw. I wouldn't be surprised if there was the odd preview of exam questions, but not much else.

Also, I'm only a couple chapters in, so don't consider this a comprehensive review!

Jed Christiansen

9/24/2010 10:27 AM

Anonymous JPM said...

Joel, I’ll plead only partially guilty to taking a swipe about our “Submariner in the Desert’s” sexuality – it’s not his sexuality I really meant, it was his outlook. Guys like that, who take self-aggrandizing swipes at a otherwise pretty good system (Submarine Warfare here) almost all display the same oh-so-cosmopolitan attitude that is marked by the cool hair gel, hip clothes, designer sun glasses and left-wing ideology found throughout the New York Times and its book review social class.
I’m pretty sure that was what set off the initial post about the “GADAR” (Anonymous on 23SEP @ 1311). The mindset I’m referring to and the lifestyle Anonymous called “GADAR” about often go, ah, hand-in-hand, so to speak.
And actually being serious for a moment, I do think that particular world view is a prime reason for Brownfield’s views, actions, and writings. Your term “Malicious Compliance” fits for him completely.
Having followed your blog for several years now, I think it’s fair to say that most of your readership don’t agree with Brownfilled’s (misspelling intentional) opinions, look or style and aren’t afraid to disagree with him. Certainly the conclusion of the NYT’s review even implies our author is less than humble – I’ll bet he also heard this in Iraq: fah’sa kabir (raging d1[khead) (I learned my colloquial Arabic from the deckplates). Oh, and I know a lot of submariners who actually DID do something of value in CENTCOM’s AOR.
Very respectfully, in this case, I think the shoe fits.

PS ex ssn eng – since you’re all for apologizing about the GADAR thing, could also admit that not all Boat-Schoolers are douches, too? I’m certain I’m not. ;-)

PPS And now that Jed has said this guy was on the bridge for the grounding, I may actually have to buy it. I sooooo want to know what really went down that day. Damn, the used book plan may have to be scrapped already. Jed – hook a brother up with a used book sale?

9/24/2010 10:41 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

According to what has been commented here before, what happened on Hartford is that the on-the-bridge commodore said "Move on" (or words to that effect) after the first indication of having hit a submerged 'rumble strip.' The next hit was a show-stopper.

All of my best friends in the Navy - and off-base, fellow hell-raising roommates - were each academy guys. To be honest, I wish I still had friends like that. So I'm not taking the bait on apologizing for something I never said or even implied.

OTOH, I'd like to hear an apology or two from any ring knockers who *did or do* advocate "gouge" for test taking (cheating). Just because it was cultural at the academy, you guys just have to know better.

As we all know: if the shit fits...wear it!

9/24/2010 11:01 AM

Anonymous JPM said...

All's well: the admission makes my self-esteem all sparkly and everything. No apology needed. I just wanted to clarify not ALL of boys'-school-on-the-bay grads are awful. Certainly plenty are. Oh, and glad you raised hell, too.

As for gouge, I guess you have a different understanding than I do. "Gouge" was all about figuring out the professor, looking at OLD tests/quizzes (years previous), and making sure you had good summary notes to study BEFORE a test. Now that I'm many years' a "Joint" guy, we would have called it JIPOE -- joint operational preparation of the battlefield.
In my world and experience, Gouge was never getting "the" test or any other kind of cheating. For those guys that did cheat, we had a particular gate they were invited to exit from, never to be seen again.
And I never used "gouge" as a term for cheating on any of my boats, either.
Too bad the Commodore in question hadn't been given that invitation much earlier in his career: while cheating wasn't his crime, dishonesty was. There was a whole lot more said in that incident besides "move on."

Happy weekend to all. Out here.

9/24/2010 11:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, what is this GADAR crap ?

You may have major issues with training and education of nuclear engineers and the best you can do is make stupid comments insinuating the guy is gay - so frakkin what ?

truly bizarre........

ex-brit Matelot (admittedly not a bubble head, and for the record, seeing as it's so important to some of you, not gay either).

9/24/2010 12:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It must be the Apocalypse: the fucking Brits are lecturing us on nuclear safety.

9/24/2010 12:45 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Once again, sports fans...

Gotta wonder what's the difference between cheating on a nuke exam and cheating on rig for dive. Just curious...

9/24/2010 12:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Answer: the outcomes vary a good bit - one can get you fired, the other can get you and another 125+ people dead.

Metaphorically, and with a more optimistic point of view, it's sort of like the difference between boning Jessica Rabbit and the girl behind the counter at the local Starbucks: one has substantially more long-lasting pleasure than the other.

Or, mathematically, it's like the difference between 1.3475 and the square root of negative one: one is very real...and the other is very imaginary.

Conversely, one is like...say...apples, and the other is like...say...oranges.

That's "the gouge" for the day.

9/24/2010 1:12 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Got it. Integrity is an optional element of the nuclear power culture. Guess that's yet another delta from classic submarine-force traditions.

9/24/2010 2:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I reported to my boat in Oct '73, it was starting overhaul at Elastic Boat. It was receiving its original SUBSAFE upgrade, coversion from POLRIS to Poseidon, refueling conversion S5W to S3G, torpedo fire control from OEM to cruise missile/M48, etc.

There were no operable ship's systems, no power on any copper,huge holes in ER, RC & OPS. The function anything under the jurisdiction of ship's force was the temporary bilge alarm in the RC.

And still, with no documentation of any sort, (RPMs, TABs,SIBs) the qualified toads insisted that the NUBs train.

The old systems were gone and the new systems were promised. They gave weekly tests that had no meaning in this universe. Since they held these stupid tests over our liberty, you're damn right we cheated every way we could. It took two and a half years to put the boat back together to the point that we could even float out of the graving dock. Every body cheated and everybody knew it.

We were provisionally qualified before we started testing anything, and we didn't sink on sea trials. Mission accomplished.


9/24/2010 2:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ref: "It must be the Apocalypse: the fucking Brits are lecturing us on nuclear safety."

Nope, not lecturing, I stated I was not even a bubble head never mind nuclear trained - so why the need to be so defensive ?

Is it because you have massive cultural issues ? Seriously, I understand the thing about being uncomfortable with gays, the RN did not have DADT, it was just illegal full stop, and there is even less room in a little plastic MCMV than there is on an SSN !

BUT, I was questioning the need of some people to "smear" the guy as being gay. For the sake of this discussion it has nothing to do with anything.

Do you, or do you not have an issue with rampant cheating on these exams. Should the exams be re-written, take a different format, should the system be changed ??

I know, lets not discuss this issue which is important to the USN Submarine service, lets just make silly comments about the Brit :-) All good fun eh.....

9/24/2010 2:41 PM

Anonymous Xenocles said...

ex ssn eng:
"OTOH, I'd like to hear an apology or two from any ring knockers who *did or do* advocate "gouge" for test taking (cheating). Just because it was cultural at the academy, you guys just have to know better."

Where have you seen any who do? Also, recommend you know what you're talking about before opening your mouth about the Academy culture, guy.

9/24/2010 3:02 PM

Anonymous Happily Terminal said...

As a recently departed JO, I can say that the kind of cheating alleged did not happen on my boat -- but only through the sheer and constant force of will of our CO, and the JOs and the crew in whom he instilled the pride of integrity. Even then, it was a constant battle. That being said, over the years we have often paid the price for that, through unwanted scrutiny, longer hours, and endless (and often unnecessary) corrective actions that diverted us from our various missions. However, I can also say with certainty that that kind of cheating *did* happen on other boats -- I quickly learned from my friends on the "good" boats that they avoided the microscope through exactly the kind of institutionalized cheating described. I think one of the previous posters is about right: 50% or so of the boats meet that kind of description. I don't know what's worse: the level of dishonesty, or the disincentives for integrity...

9/24/2010 3:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on, it is not like Jose Canseco was right, was he? Even if he was, we know the NCAA runs a clean program and all the rule benders are caught, right?

The qual program may not be perfect when looked at under a bright light, but is there any doubt as to why the oral board comes after the written exam? I can't think of any qual, forward (middle for those unfortunate souls that have that compartment) or aft, where certification relies on a written exam. At some point, you have to prove yourself in front of your peers and supervisors.

9/24/2010 3:36 PM

Blogger DDM said...

From everything I've read, many have admitted to cheating; but since the author is an assclown ratting everybody out, we dismiss his allegations.

Again, Wow.

9/24/2010 3:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, Duck still has a hard-on for nukes!

9/24/2010 4:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is what I saw on my boat for an ORSE:

1) ENG DEPT makes ORSE Exam
2) ENG leaks ORSE exam's location on LAN to some members of Eng Dept
3) ENG makes everyone take test in pencil
4) During grading, answers are erased to ensure "correct" grade distribution.
5) Top scorer is given day of special liberty.

- Disgusting. To this day I'm still not sure that the CO knew. I kind of feel like he didn't because I don't think he would have stood for it.

9/24/2010 4:22 PM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

4:02 PM:

Negats. It's the nukes themselves who've got a death wish. Sounds like the population has split into two groups, submariners ... and the jerks who choose to thread a narrow path between integrity that matters to them and the stuff they gaff off. Problem is that integrity is binary: either you got it or you ain't.

Don't ping on me for highlighting it - it's the nukes above who are blurting out the truth in public. It's sad testimony and hurts most those good guys who do it right. In my overall experience, that's most of 'em. In my personal experience in an FBM, it was 100%. Who are these phonies wearing dolphins?

9/24/2010 4:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the 2006 Alaska Blue scandal the thread was pulled ever so slightly during the post investigation. At some point the thred pulling stopped because it was going to get too ugly - forward and aft, enlisted and officer.

The unbelievable push to have a perfect admin program forced people to make it "right" at all costs. The scores had to meet a band, someone had to fail, scores couldn't be to high, couldn't be to low, failures required re-train, re-exam, re-grade, etc. Test score matrix' in EXCEL were a godsend. Do the matrix, try to make the numbers fit, designate a failure...and, oh yea, actually give the exam and grade it.

Definately agree with the current stance of not letting knowledge get in the way of quals. Someone has to stand watch while each divisions admin team does paperwork.

9/24/2010 5:22 PM

Anonymous Make It Stop said...

Why on earth does the Navy make this so freaking hard?

Having administered both forward and aft training programs as a department head in days-gone-by, effing training (never just one word) was far and away the biggest job dissatisfier to me and I'm sure many others. From the looks of things here it doesn't look like it's gotten one bit (pun intended) better.

For instance: with shipboard LANs, why is this still being administered via manual methods and paperwork?

Spend a few mil on a new & improved Navy shipboard training program, administer the whole works digitally via laptops, etc. - including identification - and get on with it. This is just stupid.

Sheesh...can anyone say "21st century" ???

P.S. As to these below comments, you just KNOW that this thread is never going to be pulled, because it goes all the way to the top:

The unbelievable push to have a perfect admin program forced people to make it "right" at all costs. The scores had to meet a band, someone had to fail, scores couldn't be to high, couldn't be to low, failures required re-train, re-exam, re-grade, etc. Test score matrix' in EXCEL were a godsend. Do the matrix, try to make the numbers fit, designate a failure...and, oh yea, actually give the exam and grade it.

9/24/2010 5:57 PM

Anonymous Make It Stop said...

P.S. It cost the American taxpayers $102.6 million to repair USS Hartford.

I think it's safe to say that a new and comprehensive (first of its kind) digital shipboard training system would not cost nearly that much.

9/24/2010 6:47 PM

Anonymous tom said...

I'm buying his book. I agree. We set a standard that borders on impossible, then motivate everyone by telling them you're fired if you dont succeed. And then we're flabagasted that we see cheating.

ANd which one of you geniuses think a nuclear submarine is the best way to launch cruise missiles against a country that doesnt have a navy; and which of you think this is the best option for gathering intel in latoral waters, again against countries with minimal navies.

I see his point.


9/24/2010 7:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continuing training management is all electronic now and it is mainly based on performs and team training vice just chalk and talk, although chalk and talk does have its day in the sun at times. The nukes are supposed to convert to all electronic training management shortly. This new system is the CTM and was implemented throughout the fleet in 2009.

As far as the sub's usefulness to or national defense goes, why are the SSGNs and SSNs over 200% assigned by the COCOMs, and name me a better platform for ballistic missile delivery over SSBNs. Once the CHICOMs begin matching or exceeding our Navy capabilities within a decade and we decide to step it up and we lost all our industrial submarine shipbuilding capability, then maybe we can just outsource everything to Russia or China.

9/24/2010 7:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was involuntarily cross-decked to the USS Pittsburgh in '92 to replace an LPO that got shit-canned for "cheating on a monthly ENG Dept quiz." That was the story anyway.

Qual exams aside, I always found the quizzes to be more educational when you got the chance to research the answer.

@Rubber Ducky--Rig for Dive is a lot more important than exams. No, Rig for Dive has to compared with Departure from Spec. Those are signed off on by the same people as the quals, right!

--Nostalgia-it isn't what it used to be.

9/24/2010 8:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exam security/ officer integrity aside. This dude was in my power school class and should have been weeded out of the nuke program very early. He anchored or co-anchored our power school class (last out of 95), all while being on mandatory 35 study hours above and beyond the 40 we studied in class. Power School exam security is tight and exams are proctored, so cheating on a test would be extremely difficult. He obviously did not have the "IT" that most submarine officers need to succeed and yes, he sounds like THAT guy on the boat. Only he, after being on a submarine for 3 years and being a qualified Nuclear Engineer, would say that Naval Reactors was a "secretive organization" with "underwater engineers". Yeah bud, they are secretive because you somehow passed their exam and still have no clue what a reactor is or does. The real tragedy is this guy was somehow pushed through the program and made it to the boat.

He started in the wrong community, got bitter from the start and could not look inside and figure out how he was going to make it. His bitterness was fueled for a long period of time (he seemed to be a loner too) and now this book thing. The valid points he makes about exam security, etc. can be fixed. His MO is infuriating. The reason he has no clue about submarine force capabilities and their importance is he was in the box... all of the time (guessing). I am sure he was never a JOOD on mission and the CO made sure he stayed away from the control room (guessing). The guy has a distorted conception of reality and throws in little nuggets of truth to keep people hanging on. I would tell him that life is not fair, but I am also guessing that he would not understand that either, unless I wrote it down on a note card so he could read it after I asked.

It is not coincidence or luck that the navy has not had a major nuclear accident.

9/24/2010 8:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Surprisingly, our community is not perfect. And yet, thousands of Sailors work long hours every day in defense of our freedom. They do it because the submarine force is still an important part of our nation's defense.

Maybe a bitter junior officer with THREE WHOLE YEARS of submarine experience may not be the best source of critical self-assessment for an entire community.

Take his words with a grain of salt...He has a book to sell. If it applies to you, take action. If not, then move on.

9/24/2010 8:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom- since you seem to be a genius, why does launching tomahawk missiles and gathering intel require the enemy to have any semblance of a navy? If you have to ask, it probably cannot be explained to you.

9/24/2010 9:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five months to pass a BEQ exam?

My dog could pass an exam after 1 year of NPTU and 5 months of "70 hours a week" studying.

Thank goodness there was no oral board where he had to prove his knowledge before standing watch.

Oh, wait.

9/24/2010 9:03 PM

Anonymous t said...

Here's where I think training should go: Standardized training.

Why can't NR design training agendas, professionally designed powerpoint slides, NR approved talking points, and NR designed and keyed tests. This is basically what happens with power school and prototype, right? It seems to work well there.

It's simply inefficient to have each boat completely design and administer their own training system. Nevermind that you could actually train to a specific *approved* standard. And both cheating and true underperforming would be fairly simple to ferret out by comparing grades.

You'd also be addressing the admin mountain of paperwork, which is probably the #1 complaint of all officers, Chiefs, and LPO's.

Win win win if you ask me.

9/25/2010 12:05 AM

Anonymous Xenocles said...

"Why can't NR design training agendas, professionally designed powerpoint slides, NR approved talking points, and NR designed and keyed tests. This is basically what happens with power school and prototype, right? It seems to work well there."


It would certainly be better than finding an old presentation on the subject, updating it to the current rev of the manuals (or not), and assigning someone to ramble about it for 50+ minutes.

9/25/2010 5:57 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Tom said:

ANd which one of you geniuses think a nuclear submarine is the best way to launch cruise missiles against a country that doesnt have a navy; and which of you think this is the best option for gathering intel in latoral waters, again against countries with minimal navies.

Yo! Right here. Oh, and "genius"? It's "doesn't", and "littoral". Literacy counts, dontcha know.

9/25/2010 6:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Standardized, training, maybe.

But I always felt that PO2s preparing to give division training was when the most important learning was done.

9/25/2010 7:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why can't NR design training agendas...(yadda yadda)"

This would also provide an opportunity to see and hear from the true experts on any particular topic.

NR needs to hire a few education experts and get after it. Their method of passing information is stuck somewhere in 1953...about the same time that they were truly innovative and on the leading edge.

9/25/2010 7:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Rickover caught the whining incompetent check-the-box gundeckers with integrity made of water he would have been firing officers left and right. Excuses would not be acceptable. Bunch of slackers and sleazeballs. Responsibility, accountability, and rock solid leadership must be things of the past in some UICs. Diversity must mean never having to display GENUINE INTEGRITY.


9/25/2010 8:23 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Kinda reminds me of the old joke, "If we all have such watertight integrity, why is there a lock on the Nucleonics door?"

But yeah, Ducky is right--integrity is not a situational application.

9/25/2010 9:45 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

In reply to @ex ssn eng at 1020 9/24: That was a mis-statement on my part; please replace "admin" with "knowledge". The correct axiom should be "Don't let knowledge get in the way of your qualification"; i.e. prospective watchstanders shouldn't let the fact that they think they're unprepared keep them from saying they're ready; the CO/Eng will decide if they're safe enough, and they can really learn how to stand the watch by standing watch.

9/25/2010 10:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hampton back in the news

9/25/2010 12:14 PM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

Book report on "My Nuclear Family" follows:

You'll likely find that this book is in stock right now at your local Barnes & Noble in the "Military History" section, just as I did this morning. After fanning it, rather than buy the book I took the offered liberty of just sitting at one of the nearby carrels and reading the sections that were of interest to me as a former submarine officer. Analysis and excerpts follow.

I really didn't much care for the writing style...a little too flippant and breezy for me to take I blazed past any quasi-clever commentary on energy history and/or Iraq...which is far and away most of the book.

My synopsis: You can draw your own conclusions easily enough, but you will most likely not be happy with yourself if you buy this book outright. Not necessarily because you don't agree with everything Brownfield says, but because it's not terribly intelligent and comes across as being way too flippant, 'cute', superficial and pretentious - or 'preppy', in a word - for most submariners tastes. In a nutshell, it is very lightweight material.

Having said that, I'd suggest that it is best read as though it were written by a New York Times writer that was embedded on a submarine for three years. It's really an outsider's perspective, and that has its own 'em or not.

The dust cover's inner fold sets the tone: "The unsentimental education of an idealistic, brilliant American naval officer." As the saying can't make this stuff up (or, clearly, maybe you can).

Reality is a harsh mistress, and the reality is that this is a guy - you will likely conclude - who never should have been accepted into the nuclear propulsion program. It will (or should) make you seriously question the judgement of those who did permit this attempt at reaching outside of more appropriate undergraduate degrees...and it may even make you wonder out loud as to why in the hell the USNA is graduating people with degrees in English Literature in the first place.

Having said all that, it is an interesting, "inside-outer's" perspective.

He does get in a good hit or two on today's submarine force, referring for instance to the "wounded chicken" diving alarm of today's 688-class boats as being a harbinger that "things aren't what they used to be" in comparison to the folklore of WWII submarines.

(to be continued)

9/25/2010 3:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ducky, I think most of the exam integrity question stems from a generation gap. When most of us old time submarine nucs hit the boats back in the 80's, qual exams were a large book of knowledge required. The unwritten rule was take the exam, look up and study all the questions, and when ready, head to the interview process. I left just as the exam security was heating up, so it seems that today we have shifted how we do things to shorter, more straightforward exams.

Also, Anon 9/24/2010 4:22 PM, I'm guessing your CO knew. I remember our CO would have us take the ORSE Exam, and then adjust the key to maximize the grades before handing the whole package to the board. The whole system WAS a wink, wink, ends justify the means. My old buddies still on boats tell me this has changed as well.


9/25/2010 6:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

{Why can't NR design training agendas, professionally designed powerpoint slides, NR approved talking points, and NR designed and keyed tests. This is basically what happens with power school and prototype, right? It seems to work well there.}

For God's sake, yes. The scoring should be compared across all similar plants and across similar levels of experience/ratings. NEPB could concentrate on known weak areas from actually analyzing test results. The exams would get sensible quickly.

As fsr as training - provide the same sort of materials as at NPS or NPTU. Junior guys can still present the materials. Good way of finding out if they can do NPS instructor duty.

9/25/2010 6:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a 20+ year member of the submarine force, I think the idea of standardized training provided to the boats may be the best idea yet.

God knows, it would be really cool if the Eng spent time watching reactor operations instead of updating training binders.

9/25/2010 10:09 PM

Anonymous T said...

Glad some of you like the standardized training idea. Though, it wasn't really my idea, another guy on the boat first mentioned it and I just thought "F, yes" what a great idea for several different reasons. I'd love to see the Navy adopt it, I think it would truly address a lot of the "Dissatisfiers" of being on a sub.

9/26/2010 1:15 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

Geez, guys, for a bunch that takes such pride in boiling water with élan, surely you can collectively design and operate an exam system that is competent, effective, and honestly administered.

Oh wait...the system isn't yours to control...

Oh wait (2)'s run by senior nukes...who are you guys with a bit more time on the clock.

So what happens to turn such smart guys into such dumb guys?

You broke it. You fix it. Until then, the whining is unmanly. Maybe we need the females and gays in the boats just to give 'em some backbone...

9/26/2010 4:39 AM

Anonymous Duck Is Too Greasy said...

Q. Why are you always childishly trying to become the center of attention and bait people into becoming angry, Duck? (Are you related to young Brownfield?)

A. It's a deeply engrained habit of yours...not unlike a shark rolling its eyes back before it bites something/anything, it's done just because it's been done so long. Sort of like the nuclear power training paradigm, those deep habits can be difficult things to break, even if a much greater good looms on the horizon.


We get it. You're bitter over the fact that you're career effectively ended when nuclear power came into vogue, and your beloved, diesel pig boats faded into military history along with other become-rare things in life, like torpedo firings. Enough.

The situation with NR is most comparable to NASA. Once upon a time, each was a new, truly innovative entity that created whole new technological dimensions. Then bureaucracy set it. And bloated, fill-in-the-blank title-for-life governance. And love of power for power's sake. And a creeping sense of entitlement. And breakaway innovation became something hung on the wall or put in a museum collecting dust.

Remind you of anything else in life that won't just go away and/or completely re-invent itself for the greater good?

I didn't think so.

9/26/2010 7:20 AM

Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

I note your fundamental agreement with my basic point. Thank you. Now go fixit.

9/26/2010 7:53 AM

Anonymous Duck Is Too Greasy said...

Buckaroo Banzai: "Tell him yes on one and no on two."

Mission Control Operator: "Which one was yes, go ahead and destroy Russia... or number 2...???"

- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

9/26/2010 9:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well i got tired of reading how the Exam was a check box. i just think the standards of the nuclear pipe line have dropped so much that the only way to pas those exams is open book. as i went thru that proccess i passed the 2nd time with flying colors( the first time was just a half assed attempt and taught me a lesson). it was nto open book, but i did get a review of the crap i ddin't know very well for the next exam so i had a better chance. the fact is the knowledge had to be there it wasn't given and yeah granted i was a lowly blue shirt but still got my balls handed to me by the other blue shirts when u tubed and exam and couldn't get your quals which affected everyone so i had and was given( the loving pig pile, or machanics punch) incentive to get the knowledge to get qual'd. but i am sorry to say one reason i go out after 12 years was because i could not upgrade the kids coming in even by scratching a sig without a bunch of whinning and bitching..

9/26/2010 7:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy crap. If your nuclear knowledge is as good as your grammar, I may have figured out the problem.

9/26/2010 8:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another source for the 'others did it too' school of excuse makers...

"A Significant number of FBI employees cheated on an exam intended to assess their skills on criminal investigations, national security investigations and foreign intelligence collection, according to a Justice Department Inspector General report released Monday."

9/27/2010 8:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing to see here. Next stop: Qual/Requal exams proctored and graded at your local NRRO. If that doesn't work, next stop: NRC oversight.

9/27/2010 8:53 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I am the first to admit that I have not penned a letter to the Director of Naval Reactors in almost thirty years. All of my experience with the program is pre computer. However, in the olden days, the reason that each boat had to design its own training program was that each boat was at a different point in the training cycle, there were differences in plants, even with boats of the same class and reactor type, and the training needs of each crew were different. I some how think that those reasons have not changed. Only the ENG and CO/XO know what training is really needed at a certain point in time for their crew. Covering each persons weak points is the purpose of a viable training program. Getting ready for the next major evolution is the focus of a good short range training program, whether the next evolution is a yard period or a long deployment. Regarding the BEQ qualification exam. The questions might be the same for each boat, but the answers will be different. In fact, the answers may change as new information becomes available or practices change. I remember getting the same question on my PNEO exam and my PCO exam at NR but the answer when I was a PCO was not the same as it was ten years earlier when I took the Engineer's exam. Local control of a training program provides the best flexibility for a crew. If Squadron or NR defined the training program for all the subs, I am sure the major complaint would be that the training was not appropriate for the crew's needs in a majority of the subs. A good training program takes work but it pays off.

9/27/2010 9:54 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

@wtfdnucsailor: I wouldn't throw out the 'standardized training baby' out with the bathwater. There's a very large golden nugget in there.

Yes, the Eng does (or should) know best when it comes to what the guys need to be trained on next. But sequence alone doesn't deal with content, or administration, or exam security, or question banks, get the picture.

In a perfect world (hopefully just around the corner), NR, CSF and anyone else who had the authority to lay training requirements on the boats would also have the werewithal to provide all the plug-in components necessary to achieve this training.

Lumped together, this "common core" training would take a SUBSTANTIAL admin workload off of ship's force/ENG, who could then dedicate their efforts to the good, higher-priority stuff that mattered to ship's time-in-lifecycle, mission, etc. Gaffing it all off on every single ENG is just disingenuous.

There was (and apparently still is) WAY too much re-invention of the wheel for every single topic on the boats. Training was (still is?) also way too linear in the form of book/text learning, rather than non-linear/visual/virtual via today's multiple mediums that support that much-more-rich learning experience.

That today's ENGs are still having to spend an inordinate amount of their very valuable time updating training binder paperwork is just an abysmal example of the system ruling its subjects, rather than the other way around. As technology changes and permits, so should the system.

Here's one lifted glass to the hope that submarine force training will "Get Well Soon."

Back on topic: Brownfield's book is - in short - appallingly disrespectful of both the submarine force and himself as a USNA grad. Skim it if you have time, but it's certainly not worth the time or money to purchase and read in its entirety. Unless you're interested in how much "schlong" (quote, unquote) Mr. Browfield was afforded a view of during his boat days (and this is indeed how the book begins), you'll most likely find a better use of your limited time elsewhere.

9/27/2010 1:21 PM

Anonymous JPM said...

Young Christopher is now flogging his book at Linkedin under the U.S. Gold Dolphins group. You can look up the group or look up his profile...did you know we submariners can now "teach the world about sustainability?"

9/28/2010 9:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad, sad, sad. Mr. Brownfield has some serious growing up to do.

9/28/2010 9:53 AM

Anonymous Retired Effin Nuke EM said...

This mentality all started that Friday afternoon on the green grassy knoll in Orlando Florida when Admiral Bowman changed history. For those that were there, we remember. He let us know we were failures and had let our students down. He ordereed us to fix the system and graduate more nukes. This is the trickle down effect. Glad I'm retired.

9/28/2010 11:18 AM

Anonymous pc assclown said...

Somewhere within the last several week’s posts and comments I must have missed something. And I’m scratching my head over it. What I seem to have missed is a good chastisement of Mister Rubber Duck.

Didn’t he stomp out of the room a couple of months ago whining about how mean we were to him? And now he’s back making the same narrow minded self important commentary. And we’re just letting him back in without even basing on him just a little bit?

Back before women on boats was contemplated, before allowing homosexual acts to become normalized, when a newly qualified sailor had his dolphins tacked on, real submariners would not have stood by and allowed a cry baby whiner to come back into the group, at least not without at least taping his wrists to speed rails, dropping his khakis, and globbing a few good pumps from a grease-gun up his ass.

What has our world come to?

9/28/2010 11:21 AM

Anonymous T said...

pc assclown: you forgot to say "no homo"

9/28/2010 4:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a douche bag.

And Jessica Rabbit?! You're kidding, right?

Douche bag. They should've tossed him overboard when the HARTFORD ran aground...

9/28/2010 4:49 PM

Anonymous T said...

I know I'm going to get flamed for saying this, but the personal attacks on Chris Brownfield are embarrassing. I've seen them on linkedin, the Amazon review of his book, and here. I have not read his book, and cannot comment on the content of it, but I will at least give him the courtesy of reading the book before I vehemently agree with what it says.

Of all of the "reviews" and criticisms of the book I've seen by submariners, I've seen maybe one that is even semi-coherent. The rest, predictably, resort to ad hominem attacks about his abilities as a nuke, the fact that he was "just a JO", his supposed sexual orientation, and the suggestion that we anally rape him with Tourmaline.

Wow, GREAT way to prove the moral superiority, maturity, and intellectual integrity of the submarine force. It honestly just makes us, collectively, look petty and ignorant.

I am sure that I too will not agree with everything in his book, but I think he at least raises points that deserve honest discussion and not blanket dismissal for tertiary reasons.

Is there cheating in the sub force? Clearly there is some. What can we do to fix it? It's something that I think deserves discussing. For a bunch of retirees and late-career lifers to sit here and say "Well, there was no cheating when I qualified in 1980, and I saw no cheating as a CO => he's just a lazy, stupid nub" is a completely ridiculous argument. There's obviously cheating on some boats, several people have seen it, stories from other people corroborate it. We should be addressing it, not brushing it under the table as insignificant.

I don't agree at all that submarines are pointless, useless platforms, but I do think that a discussion of what the role of the submarine is in a country that spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined, at a time when we face no major nautical power is a question worth asking. The desire for COCOM's to request ever-increasing amounts of resources is not really indicative of the relative *NEED* for submarines, but it is indicative of the relative *DESIRE* to deploy them. We are already reducing the number and capability of the SSBN force, obviously this will have some effect. But do we need X number of warships carrying X number of weapons? Will the US be able to afford to build as many SSN's as we'd like? What will the sub force look like if we end up with 30 instead 50 SSN's? That too, is a question worth discussing.

You can continue to demean and insult Chris Brownfield (and now presumably myself ;-), but they way you're doing it says a lot more about us as a force than it does about him.

9/28/2010 9:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

2nd ustafish as a CPO. Reported aboard, skimmed the A Div PMS, and lined out 4 annual PM's for the EMBT Blow valves. The two above the COW. There were 6 years of records onboard showing that all 5 PM's has been accomplished every year. The sub had been through several PM inspections. I was the 4th A Div CPO to take over. Each one left with glowing evaluations. Each annual was for a different manufacturer of EMBT blow valves. I handed the book to CHENG for his intials. "But I spot checked that PM 3 weeks ago, and they showed me how they did it." There wasn't much I could say except that it wasn't the correct PM.

PM accomplishement went way down under me, and I was shitcanned. I wouldn't sign a PM complete unless it was, you know, complete. If the quarterly said change the HP air filter, and there were 10 or more such filters at $400. each, and the chit to buy them wasn't approved, well... pulling them and cleaning them isn't changing them.
Somehow, the PM's were ultimately recorded as having been accomplished. Without my signature.

A year after being trashed I got my one and only NAM on an oiler for doing what the sub force said I was incompetent at.

Insisting on 100% compliance and complete perfection leads to cheating, because neither is obtainable in the real world.

9/29/2010 12:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was anon above with the ad hominem (douche) comments.

Your point is well taken; the guy just really pisses me off because I have personal reports from fellow watchstanders regarding his arrogance and technical incompetence. I'm also old enough to see through him and draw some pretty good conclusions regarding his use of his experience for personal gain at minimum cost.

I read his website and it's clear that he has made an ad hominem attack on the submarine force and considers himself above it. I conclude that his arrogance comes from youthful lack of experience and judgement.

So, again, well made points.

9/29/2010 7:07 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

I agree with T regarding the ad-hominem attacks, and that we should stick to the facts.

The reason that my review perhaps came across as being only semi-coherent (if I may presume you're speaking to me) is that only 1/4 of it was actually posted here.

Joel - and I apologize in advance if I'm wrong - apparently deleted the 2nd tranche, also apparently because of the unbelievable direct quotes that I provided. They were word-for-word, character-for-character, and amounted to only about 3.2 sentences out of a 320 page the motivation for deleting it escapes me, but recreating it held no appeal to my limited time for such things, thus the very truncated summation in my last comments on LT Brownfield's book. If my post was deleted because of my own summation as to the clear and systemic lack of professionalism on Hartford, I'll take solace in letting Hartford's history speak for itself.

T, you should indeed at least read the opening of the book before casting aspersions yourself. If you walk away with a positive impression - particularly given that this was written by an English Lit major who damn well knows the importance of a book's opening lines - then you'll have some 'coherent' explaining to do yourself.

(continued below)

9/29/2010 7:51 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

Back to the facts:

Brownfield claims in his book that cheating in the submarine force is a "fleet-wide" problem; that literally - based on his supposed surveys of other JOs - every boat is doing it. Coming from a single-SSN junior officer, that is indeed on-the-peg arrogant...and wrong...and he has to know better. But the grossly exaggerated claim 'sells books' better, so it made the editing cuts. The pernicious, hyper-liberal bias I can read past. Outright exaggeration to the point of lying less-so.

I could go on...and on...and on...but again have limited time for this. Virtually repeating my earlier communication, anyone can stop by Barnes & Noble on their lunch hour and take a look for themselves without buying the book and form their own _well founded_ opinions.

IMHO, this is a maliciously written, intentionally insulting book that goes out of its way to downplay the substantial contributions and professionalism of the 'real' submarine force.

Having said ALL that, I do believe that this is a book that needed to be written by someone...though perhaps in a violently more balanced fashion. It does 'out' the submarine force as regards some of the most juvenile-delinquent personal behavior and judgment that happen out there, and if for no other reason than this telling-of-the-truth, LT Brownfield should be thanked. I take no pleasure in the fact that the book is otherwise an enormous missed-opportunity.

9/29/2010 7:52 AM

Anonymous JPM said...

Sigh….T, I don’t know if I’d call this a “flame,” but lighten up will ya? I couldn’t call myself a true submariner if I couldn’t toss an ad hominem attack or two….I read his 1st chapter on Amazon, and figure he launched the opening salvo even if not specifically aimed at me.

And looking back over at my particular comments, I think my points rest on pretty good logic:

- Do we really need to give some huge weight to one guy’s complaints when he struggles to qualify? Or have we heard them all before in some San Miguel-fueled bar in the PI?

- Is there an issue with cheating in subs? Sure – but the last 100 or so posts pretty much detail that while it does exist, the community at large really detests it, works against it, and clearly indicates that a good submariner doesn’t do it. And you’ll see it over and over in other parts of this blog. Could it be that this is an aspect of human nature that will always pop up, yet the submarine force takes pretty seriously and proactively works to avoid? Dives = surfaces is a really good metric and all that implies.

- Minimizing a twenty-something’s sexual conquest over a woman of easy virtue? What’s wrong with that – especially when he’s bragging about how great he is and how f’ed up the rest of the military is? (How ‘bout that as an example of Brownfield’s own “ad hominem of mass destruction?”)

- My other comments were more in the form of questions based on the NYT article (which I bothered to read, too).

- And my biggest insults were in Arabic and to call him a Power Point Ranger for Chrissake! If he can’t take a joke like that or admit his biggest function in the Green Zone, then maybe I wandered over to some Army Intelligence blog by mistake.

As for coherency, especially when the responses are via a blog spot, I’d wager my next paycheck that all the above commentaries/responses are far and above the average blog post’s lucidity (well, except for the grammar & spelling guy at 7:55PM on 9/26)(and actually, that post was kinda funny in its own weird way, too). I paged through the book at Barnes and Noble like ex ssn eng suggested, and his review is spot on and well said.

9/29/2010 4:13 PM

Anonymous T said...

Ex SSN Eng: I actually wasn't talking about you as you have at least bothered to look through the book.

JPM: your post I wasn't really talking about either, the comments got obviously more mean-spirited as they went on.

I honestly haven't looked at his book at all yet, though from what I've heard I think I will sort of agree with him in a way, but find his delivery over the top and exaggerated. I think he has his finger on the pulse of why a lot of guys come out hating the Navy, but it sounds like he addresses the issues with the maturity of your average ENS or junior JG. Most guys, somewhere along the way, realize that charging full steam ahead against the entire organization is probably a waste of time. It sounds like he might not have gotten that far yet.

I do fear/expect that we will find out what the Navy looks like with less subs though (really less of EVERYTHING) given the country's financial picture, and the inability of everybody to do something meaningful about it.

9/29/2010 8:32 PM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

For the time-being, I think this discussion may have wound all the way down to absolutely nothing worthwhile if it's being reduced to diatribe on how we 'think' we're going to feel about the book once we've read it.

Gotta crystal ball is revealing the submarine force strength levels of 2015. Looks interesting. Also, President Jon Stewart up next with his thoughts on how leftist humor may hold the key to ending The Greater Depression.

9/30/2010 4:13 AM

Anonymous JPM said...

[continued….cut off after the 9/29 4:13PM post by the blog character limit]

Last, you mention “personal attacks on Chris Brownfield” at Amazon and Linkedin. The Amazon review is a sharp disagreement with Brownfield from J. Brooks’ personal experience and from his reading of the book. I see some serious statements there, hardly gratuitous. Certainly nothing embarrassing. At Linkedin, I posted one of those comments, and I really disagree with you that I stooped to anything embarrassing there, either. In fact, I went some effort to offer a specific rebuttal of the author’s posted ideas and of his book. If you weren't referring to my post, which LinkedIn comment was it? Heck, I even gave him some (left-handed) kudos for his Jessica Rabbit thing. He’s the one who describes the review as “rave” and said, “I know it’s hard for people to realize that something they poured their hearts into isn’t that important (sic).” Wow, he knows (better than I) that I’m just not able to admit that my time in subs was essentially pointless? And the review isn’t all that “rave.” The other reviewers’ comments were also specific to their reading of either Brown’s NYT book review, his personal post, and/or reading the book preview on Amazon. ONE OF THEM IS EVEN FAVORABLE!?!?! Is that an attack? Check fire on your cry of an ad hominem foul, T, your solution range and bearing are tracking the wrong target.

So, to come full circle, I’ll lighten up, too. I think you and ex ssn eng actually had some pretty good commentary on a better standardization of submarine training now that we’re in the third millennium. Now there’s a nugget that I wish we’d hear more about out of the Submarine Learning Center -- they’re the ones who are supposed to be “accountable for all undersea curriculums.” (Although I always thought the plural was more properly “curricula,” but I digress.) Maybe we can get Joel to find us a good story on that and we can all move over to another blog trail for something more worthwhile than “My Nuclear Family.”

All wound down now - JPM

PS the used book price is already down to $10. That’s a really fast slide for something not even two weeks out. I guess it’s not going to be one of those cherished volumes on every submariner’s shelf or in every Wardroom reading locker. Se la vie.

PPS Eng - does that crystal ball have a web- or pod-cast?

9/30/2010 9:11 AM

Anonymous ex SSN Eng said...

@ JPM: Well, that you mention it, the crystal ball does have a USB port on it.

Still tuning it in a bit...but try this webcast of future U.S. President Jon Stewart discussing nuclear this case, the Russian threat

9/30/2010 9:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep seeing the phrase “Don’t knowledge stand in the way of qualifications” used in terms of “get stuff done regardless of your knowledge, it doesn’t matter if you know it all”. For all my experience (O-4 PXO), a number of good leaders I have had cast this phrase in the idea of “you can never know everything, you need to get practical experience to continue your growth/learning”. If we didn’t push this idea on the junior officers, most would stand in fear of qualifying and not want to assume the challenge of being qualified because of the pervasive “zero-defect” mentality. If you saw “Don’t let knowledge…” as guidance to compromise your integrity, that is on you and your leaders who fostered that idea… but mainly on you. Regardless of the state of training and exams, in the end, NR will see the true nature of the program. There is too much history for them to miss it.

9/30/2010 7:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the first 2 pages and just laughed. I'm not one to go around flaunting my genitals, but the guy needs to lighten up. He seems like a tight ass officer who couldn't lighten up, and they did a lot of this shit because they knew it got to him. That's how we are. Find the scab and pick at it. In my experience, it's the officers that can't take a joke that are usually shitty at being a submariner so they have to be good at something, and that is upholding some of the more disliked rules that submariners usually avoid.

10/05/2010 12:48 AM

Anonymous Zzzzzzz said...

Whatever. Sounds like Hartford's level of unprofessionalism exists elsewhere.

I only know of one reliable story where the throttleman actually pulled his junk out in Maneuvering. The throttleman was 'the' shitbag EM, the boat retard of sorts, who apparently did it to increase his social standing amongst his peers.

He didn't think it was so funny after losing pay and rate at Captain's Mast, and from what I remember his wife (yeesh) wasn't too thrilled about it either.

10/05/2010 11:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ex SSN Eng, you are showing your age :-)

In the 40's and 50's the Academy Football teams did cheat and in some cases were caught and scandals resulted. College fraternity's had their "files" and generally everyone else played by the rules.

Starting in the late 60's thru today, the majority of High School students, and College students will and do cheat as well as falsify their resumes. College fraternity files provide nothing that the the typical college student can't do via the web and the Academies are so tight with regard to honor violations, that cheating is not very common.

1/25/2011 12:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is funny but in reality is truly sad. People wonder why we spend large amounts of time in "critiques". The reason is the standard keeps dropping because "Nuclear Power" sucks the life out of its people.

2/17/2011 3:24 PM


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