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, October 28, 2010

Retention: Good Boat Vs. Bad Boat

It looks like JO retention numbers have been pretty good lately for the Submarine Force, as evidenced by this announcement that PERS42 is going to a "Two Look" Department Head screening system. Excerpt:
The primary driver for changing the Department Head screening process is strong retention trends among our junior officers for the past two years. This strong retention has the potential to significantly impact Department Head tour lengths, which are already at the minimum required to provide adequate operational and leadership experience, and has the potential to reduce Executive Officer screening opportunity. As a result, we are shifting to a two-look Department Head screening process and will not return to a one-look screening process.
The screening board will look at each year group (YG) twice, in May of the fifth and sixth year of commissioned service. Since YG05 has already passed its first look date under the new process, YG05’s first look will occur in November 2010, followed by a second look in May 2011. YG06 will have its first look in May 2011 and its second look in May 2012.
The Submarine Force will always provide high quality officers an opportunity to serve as Department Head. Officers who have performed well during their Division Officer tours should not be concerned about Department Head screening. We anticipate that few officers will be placed "not cleared" on their final look. However, the Submarine Force must maintain control on the upper limit of the number of Department Heads in order to ensure each officer who does serve gains the experience necessary to develop professionally and be fully prepared for follow-on assignments.
This announcement, plus getting the retirement announcement for one of my fellow JOs on USS Topeka (SSN 754) back in the '90-'93 time frame, got me thinking about my JO experience and how the boat "command climate" impacts retention. Topeka during this time was almost legendary for having an "unpleasant" CO -- "He Who Must Not Be Named". The thing was, we ended up having good enlisted retention, and JO retention seemed to be above average. Of the cohort of 10 JOs who did all or most of the boat's '92-'93 WestPac/Arabian Gulf run, we ended up with three who got out of the Navy before their DH tour (one of whom was transferred off the boat early when he made a 1MC announcement to the effect of "I'm LTJG XXXX, and I'm drunk off my ass" when he was brought back to the boat off liberty when they were pulled into Bangor for voyage repairs), and two did lateral transfers to other communities before their DH tours (Medical and JAG Corps). That left 5 of 10 who went on to serve as Submarine Department Heads, and three of those went on to command. My theory is that the above average retention was due to a couple of factors: 1) We all developed a very strong sense of "Team", in that we were united against the common enemy (the CO), and 2) We knew -- as an absolute fact -- that we would never have it worse in the Navy in any future assignment. It would all be downhill from there.

What do you think? Does the command climate of a submarine influence the boat's retention rate? Or is it mostly the ship's operational schedule that's the driver? Or a combination of factors?

69 Comments:

Anonymous Pat said...

SWO(N) here... but actually going to talk about my DDG tour.

Pretty much the inverse of your Topeka experience. We LOVED our CO, DHs were great. XO was so-so, but he stayed out of the way. JOs learned a lot, ran the ship, did cool operational things, and had a great time doing it. Best group of professionals I've ever been associated with, by far.

But not many of us stuck it out. I think a big part of it was the realization that we could never have such a great tour again -- that everything after this would be a disappointment. (For me, at least, it was!) I can't count how many times I heard from multiple DHs to "enjoy this while it lasts, since it's so rare."

10/28/2010 12:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three words - "reenlisting for orders."

10/28/2010 1:16 PM

 
Blogger Alexander said...

First CO/XO, meh. Second XO was a terror. Second CO and third XO were absolutely amazing. I'm about to head into my DH tour, and know I am unlikely to get as good a pair of people to work for ever again. The command leadership definately influenced many of my shipmates to bounce to shore duty ASAP or get out of the navy. It also didn't help that we were in the yard most of the time and most of the wardroom never really got to do the job they had signed up for. Bad combo with poor to middling leadership.

10/28/2010 1:42 PM

 
Anonymous LT L said...

From my boat (also with an evil CO), of the 14 JOs who passed through while I was aboard 7 got out before their DH tour.

Of the remaining 6:
- 3 were relieved for cause during their DH tour
- 1 survived DH, but was not selected for XO
- 1 is your stereotypical Academy grad, has no life outside of the Navy, and will go anywhere and do anything for his career (and I know the stereotypical Academy grad is very different from the typical Academy grad, but it's the best way to describe this guy)
- the other two are finishing up their DH tour now, and both have significant prior enlisted service. One will retire off his DH shore tour, the other will retire after his XO tour.

-LT L

10/28/2010 1:44 PM

 
Anonymous LT L said...

Crap: "remaining 7". Forgot a guy at first and got lost in the edits.

-LT L

10/28/2010 1:46 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The economy. Period.

Staying in the military always boils down to what, if anything, is the feasible alternative choice.

Aside from a harsh economic environment, IMHO, unless one is a complete family-o-phobe, asshole or whore monger (or all of the above) there's no righeous justification for spending years away from a loving wife, beloved, fast-developing children, home and hearth.

10/28/2010 1:49 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Big Navy couldn't get enough quality JOs to man subs - wasn't that what we just heard?

10/28/2010 2:32 PM

 
Blogger DDM said...

To Anon at 1:49 PM:

I see. So you're saying anyone who stays in has something wrong with them? Perhaps you are right. Who would you have man our ships? Thousands of good people, and their families, stayed in and accepted the sacrifices. They deserve your respect, not your vitriolic drivel.

10/28/2010 2:53 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no. Don't go there!!!

10/28/2010 2:54 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, but...anyone who stays in is saying they have something wrong with them.

10/28/2010 3:17 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right - as long as you define patriotism, service, and sacrifice as "something wrong." I guess in your case, it's appropriate.

10/28/2010 3:48 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OTOH, as DDM said...maybe I'm right.

10/28/2010 4:33 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or...maybe you can have it both ways. Like Murray Gero. Or the TTF CO. Or USS Chicago CO. Or...

10/28/2010 4:40 PM

 
Blogger Vigilis said...

-LT L

Yours have been the most factual and informative comments since you made them.

DDM, your point had to be made and thanks for getting it in. Sometimes it is difficult to believe some of the anonymous commenters are adults, much less ever served in a submarine. How convenient for them!

10/28/2010 6:55 PM

 
Anonymous Vagisilus said...

Did I mention my theory that the reason all these adulterous submariners are getting caught is because they're not academy grads?

10/28/2010 7:10 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion - some wardrooms hunker down together under bad leadership and emerge stronger, some guys with great command climates fear that future commands could only be worse.

Economy is certainly a factor - witness the miserable retention in the mid-90s YGs during the tech boom.

My experience from my first boat (came aboard to an ok, if kind of bi-polar CO, relieved by an awesome guy who's gone on to very good things in the Navy):

Of the JOs that were already there when I reported, I think only 1 stayed in - he's in command now. Of those that got there with me or while I was onboard, 1 got out and came back as a JAG, one got through DH but FTS for XO, two are serving/served XOs, and I'm waiting to roll into the PCO pipeline. The rest have, to the best of my knowledge, moved on to life outside the Navy.

Whatever the numbers say, I believe that a positive command that looks out for its members while striving for success can only be a good thing.

10/28/2010 8:53 PM

 
Anonymous JO Hating Life said...

Speaking of bad command climates, we on the Kentucky Blue are going through some bad times right now with our CO.

Please tell me it gets better or is this one of those "everything is better after ORSE" deals?

10/28/2010 9:22 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider, in what other country with nuclear subs could BH's retention question even be asked?

No, not even in the UK.

10/28/2010 10:37 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Retention is high because of the poor economy, combined with a severe lack of foresight among most JOs.

The Navy might be a safe place to hide for the 3-5 years in a down economy, but the catch is that signing up for DH tour really means signing up a for a career (10-15 years). If you can honestly tell yourself that the sub force will be a good place to be (job security) in 15 years, God Bless and good luck in the service: that combination of loyalty and faith in the face of facts would definitely not serve you well in the civilian world!

If you don't like the idea of entry-level job hunting at the age of 27, you're going to hate it at the age of 42!

10/28/2010 11:24 PM

 
Anonymous 3383 said...

Entry level? I don't know what field you have in mind, but entry level positions are for new grads, whether HS or degreed.

Entry level on a different ladder, maybe, but few veterans need to start at the bottom. (Riflemen excepted; sorry!)

10/28/2010 11:51 PM

 
Anonymous Former 3363 said...

If I could comment on the statements made by anon @ 10/28/2010 11:24 PM

"Retention is high because of the poor economy, combined with a severe lack of foresight among most JOs."

-Or, it could be that we have hit a few year groups that are now in command who remember their time as a JO, and are doing something positive to affect command climate and retention.


"The Navy might be a safe place to hide for the 3-5 years in a down economy, but the catch is that signing up for DH tour really means signing up a for a career (10-15 years)."

- I agree that crossing the 10 year mark pretty much signs you up for a long term commitment to the navy (retirement and whatnot), but I don't think it's 'hiding'.

"If you can honestly tell yourself that the sub force will be a good place to be (job security) in 15 years, God Bless and good luck in the service: that combination of loyalty and faith in the face of facts would definitely not serve you well in the civilian world!"

-I would love to hear your "facts" that lead you to believe the sub force is not a viable option for job security.

-Also, as a submariner who is now in the civilian world, I can tell you that loyalty is a factor that plenty of employers are looking for. They are also looking for hardworking self starters who need little or no direction once tasking is provided.

"If you don't like the idea of entry-level job hunting at the age of 27, you're going to hate it at the age of 42!"

-I would like to ask everyone in the room who has transitioned out of the sub force between the age of 27 and 42 to please raise your hand if you even considered looking for an 'entry-level' position. Yep, just as I suspected, nobody is raising their hand. Seems that all that experience bumps them out of the entry level category. Wierd.

~Now for my own thoughts on the matter...

My decision to get out was based on the current (at the time of the decision) and previous commands that I worked for. My first CO/COB/EDMC combination left a little to be desired, (spoken, two-faced, only cared about their own career path, etc.). The next CO/COB/EDMC combo reminded me of the character that I thought I would find in all submarine force leadership when I first joined the navy.
Unfortunately, it was the fact that other "leaders" like the first batch were surely still out there, and one day I may have to deal with that stupidity and utter disregard for their people, that made my decision less difficult.
Notice I did not say easy. The decision to change employers is a difficult one. Especially when the majority of your experience is in one field. That being said, making the decision that is best for you and your family is what is most important. Like many have said, getting out can be tough, (especially when the economy sucks), but if you did something to better yourself during your time, getting out isn't a scary thing.
While I can't speak for JOs and DHs, I can tell you that the blue shirt is a fascinating creature who requires very little to be retained. If the blue shirt is a coner, tell him a funny joke and let him fart in control and he'll be happy. If he's a nuke, show him some respect, and treat him like an adult. Remember that he went through a decent amount of schooling and most likely could be wearing khakis and butter bars if it wasn't for his penchant for alcohol steering him to the navy.

10/29/2010 12:43 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number of submarine job openings = number of crews * k = (number of boats * c) * k

Sounds like you're a nuke; why don't you figure it out? Which factor can change, and which way will it change in the next 15 years?

You are right in that we are talking about different ladders. Entry level doesn't mean HS dropout equivalent, it means 3-4 levels below where you were in the Navy.

10/29/2010 12:56 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

The mass exodus of baby nukes in the '60s was driven entirely by the conditions of the job: back-to-back sea tours, scant shore duty, lengthy DH, XO, and CO tours, etc. The KOG wanted all-nuke wardrooms and he got them at the end of the decade. But then the roof fell in, SWOs/GSOs were invented (1968), and began the painfully slow evolution towards genuine selectivity at the DH level (mid/late '80s) and CO/XO.

In the present day, the question of mission must also be factored in. During the Cold War there was no question of why the job was important. The sense I have now is that it's little more than a collection of boutique taskings** needed more to justify force levels than for actual contribution to current defense. Submarines are vital to a global maritime presence and the ability to counter any peer threat that might emerge. But busywork in a fleet-in-being is not substitute for a real real-time mission.

(**When I recently asked the [very impressive] CO of a brand-new SSN what his mission was, he replied with a laundry list of what different types of operations the boat was capable of, i.e. a list of potential taskings. What he didn't say is 'we're keeping China at bay' or 'we're ensuring the Russians don't come back' or 'we're hot in the fight against terrorism and have an irreplaceable role in that.' Pretty tough these days to say why we need submarines other than to have them for when we might actually need them.

There seems to be a serious chicken-or-egg question with hull count vs building rate: it's tough to tell which one is driving the other. Certainly the matter of unit costs and shipyard efficiency is a legitimate consideration and certainly we never want to loss either the ability to build as many boats as conditions require or to operate those boats well. But making holes in the water to keep EB in business is a tough sell for keeping crews motivated and JOs signed up for all the vicissitudes of the nuke life.

This is an important topic. Would be interested in seeing what those currently serving have to say on it.)

10/29/2010 4:55 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be curious to know also what makes a Good CO/XO.COB. I mean how do they influence moral on a boat Vs I need to get out. Sometimes a good leader is not everyones friend. Kind of like the statement of a father, " I am your father, not your friend."So, what makes a good command climate vs a bad command climate.

10/29/2010 6:22 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good boat bad boat fast boat slow boat
West boat East boat old boat new boat
Some with one crew and some with two. Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad and some are glad. And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad? I don’t know. Go ask your sea-dad.
Some are thin and some are fat. The fat one has a logistics hatch.
From there to here, from here to there, funny things everywhere.
Here are some who like to hide. They hide with pride when riders ride.
Oh me! Oh my!
Oh me! Oh my!
what alot of funny things go by.
Some have eight tubes and some have four.
Some have twelve tubes and some have more.
Where do they come from?
I can’t say.
But I know they have come a long, long way.
We see them come.
We see them go.
Some are fast.
And some are slow.
Some are deep.
And some shallow
Not one of them is like another.
Don't ask us why.
Go ask your mother.


Rackburn

10/29/2010 6:48 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"What makes a good command climate?" Here's one answer...

The day I took command of my boat I published this one-page command policy, which I personally put in the hands and heads of every officer, chief, and sailor over the next few days.

Did it work? SubPac Silver Anchor and a 96% retention rate (it had been zero the previous 12 months) of those eligible to reenlist during the command tour (the one guy who got out, a TM-1, went on to start what is now a multi-million dollar company in Bremerton; he remains a lifelong friend). (Oh, and the ASW A, the Supply E, the Communications C, the Deck Seamanship Award, 2nd place Navy-wide Nye Award, and TopGun 5 quarters out of 8, with the best torpedo shooting record in San Diego.)

In the wardroom, no officer left active duty during that time; 4 went on to command themselves (7 commands total), not an easy feat for diesel guys back then.

In short, we lived this policy and it did the job (the boat was, at the time, the Navy's oldest submarine)…

“Subj: Command Policy
1. The ship’s goals are these:
a. To operate with style and skill, using fully every design capability, meeting every operational commitment.
b. To enhance the professional growth of every crew member.
c. To provide every crew member decent and humane treatment.
d. To maintain the highest standards of cleanliness.
e. To maintain the highest possible state of material readiness.
f. To retain in the Navy every eligible crew member.
2. In achieving these goals there will be emphasis on training, qualification, and the use of standard procedures and documentation. Leadership is essential. The chain of command will be given strongest possible backing. Responsibility is to be delegated and authority exercised at the lowest effective level. Established boundaries of safety will not be exceeded.
3. The command will provide assistance to any crew member or dependent seeking it. Individuals are encouraged to discuss personal problems with me or others in their chain of command at any time. Individuals wanting to discuss matters of an official nature or to air a grievance are urged to request mast.
4. Every crew member is expected to put forth good effort in his work and to maintain good behavior. There is no tolerance of drug use whatsoever. Individual with an alcohol problem will be held responsible for their conduct.
5. An atmosphere of open honesty is expected. I am primarily concerned with an individual’s motivation and attitude. I will accept mistakes from a man trying to do well. Every crew member who is doing his best has my complete backing and respect.
6. Pride and professionalism have always been the hallmarks of the Diesel Submarine. We shall continue that tradition."

10/29/2010 7:15 AM

 
Anonymous submarines once... said...

Anonymous@ 10/28 2:32 PM-I agree. Just reinforces the political correctness of the whole women on SSBN program.

On another note-having a viable mission that no one else can do that is of national importance has a major role in retention through the CO window. Absent that, as rubber ducky mentions the career luster is very much diminished. With today's high retention and questionable national tasking, then the economy is a big driver. However, even that cannot make up for a lousy command climate.

Sailors need to feel appreciated regardless of the ship's mission. Successfully answer the question of "what's in it for me" and you will have a crew that does well, wants to do well and will have high retention. Failure to get that question right and not treating people with dignity and respect will make for a long and painful tour.

10/29/2010 7:35 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RD - That looks like every command policy given out in the last 25 years with the exception of the word "diesel".

So here has to be more. I think you were on the right track about mission and relevance.

And we must remember that not every person is a career Navy person. The "4 and out" Sailor is just as important as the 30 year Admiral.

10/29/2010 7:50 AM

 
Blogger Jon said...

I will say that the economy is certainly a factor, and I can say that with experience from observing and listening to my father.

My father was drafted into the Air Force in '68 to fly F-4's. After his first tour, and a chance to get out in the early 70's, he decided to stay in because the economy was just not that great. Same thing happened in the mid-70's, and then again in the early 80's. By that time, he was looking at 12-14 years already served, at which point he figured "may as well stay in for 20... stupid to give up the retirement pay now".

Throughout his career up to the point where he decided to stay in for retirement, he had made it clear to his superiors that he was going to be getting out after that tour. What did this gain him? Well... for one thing, he tended to receive the politically dangerous jobs that career-minded officers didn't want to touch with a ten-foot pole, things like safety office for the ninth air force, etc. These turned out to be challenging jobs for him, but he persevered, and because of that he came out shining even better than a lot of other officers.

He retired in '88 as a Lt Col, and went on to fly for 15 years in the airlines before an untimely passing.

10/29/2010 8:48 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father was drafted into the Air Force in '68 to fly F-4's

I did not know that people were "drafted" as officers, or was it just that pilots were drated and then made into officers?

10/29/2010 8:54 AM

 
Anonymous Recently Departed said...

RD's analysis of the sub force's mission articulates pretty well why I am a newly-minted ex-JO, coupled with a leadership experience similar to that of Former 3383 -- except the decision to leave was a no-brainer.

But don't kid yourself, 3383 - I highly doubt there is a magic crop of leaders hitting mentor stage. The agregated math is simple: economy down, retention up.

Instead of patting itself on the back, the submarine force should be worried. Some percent of the competent and confident guys were always going to leave, this economy included. The increase in retention now comes from those who are too afraid or unskilled to make it out in the real world when times are tougher -- skewing the future of the force toward that demographic (as has surely happened several times before).

10/29/2010 9:12 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, as a submariner who is now in the civilian world, I can tell you that loyalty is a factor that plenty of employers are looking for.

That's the best one liner I've heard in a long time. Employees may play the loyalty game, but that's all it is - a game. I've been out of the Navy for 20 years and learned a long time ago that the days of the two way street of loyalty between corporations and employees has long since passed. My loyalty goes only as far as my paychecks keep coming. You want something of me, you pay for my services - period. That's the reality of today's loyalty.

10/29/2010 10:10 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"RD - That looks like every command policy given out in the last 25 years."

If so, I guess that pleases me ... because I wrote it from scratch almost 32 years ago. Can't say that others emulated it, but if they did they probably pulled it from Proceedings. It was published as a sidebar along with my article "The Captain" in the December 1982 issue (and should note that three other post-command cats helped me put the piece together, a destroyer skipper and the just-relieved COs of an S-3 squadron and an HSL squadron).

The real trick isn't the writing, it's the doing. I found myself going back to paragraph 5 more than once, but a deal's a deal and we stuck with it. If those who pushed these same policies had the same good results we got from our crew, that's great.

BTW, paragraph 5 also bears on recent discussion of cheating on nuke tests. I didn't have any nukes, so it wasn't an issue I faced. But it's still the right way to do things in a submarine and IMHO, any submariner who cheats on anything (nuke tests; rig for dive; their wives) should have his little peepee hammered flat.

10/29/2010 11:05 AM

 
Anonymous Battle Suppo said...

"RD - That looks like every command policy given out in the last 25 years."

The easy part is to print a command statement. It another to actually live it and get buy-in throughout the chain of command. It's those CO's that are truly gifted.

10/29/2010 12:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats the point of a two-look DH board? I don't get this - its just a year apart. What's going to change? Or is this just a way of more adroitly handling the DH pipeline at a time of flux for the economy (and, by proxy, retention)?

Mark my words - when the economy improves, this increased retention will evaporate overnight.

10/29/2010 12:24 PM

 
Blogger tennvol said...

@Former 3363: I'm raising my hand. I took an entry level job after leaving the sub force with almost 8 years commissioned service in 1996. It wasn't because that was all I could find, it was because of what I wanted to do. I had plenty of opportunities for jobs that made use of my Navy experience, but frankly, none of those appealed to me. I wanted to be in computer software and/or hardware design and development. My degree was EE with a concentration in computer engineering, and I was proficient in several programming languages as well as multiple operating systems. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could point to in my time on the boats that would remotely be considered relevant experience. So, I took an entry level programming job (and a 50% cut in pay) with the belief that my experience would allow me to progress rapidly. Fortunately, that gamble worked out, but I would not recommend it for the faint of heart.

10/29/2010 12:39 PM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"Whats the point of a two-look DH board?"

It's a chance to fix mistakes. And it gives pass-overs a year to convince folks that the last board made a mistake. Costs nothing. Motivates much. Self-heals the system. What's the problem?

10/29/2010 12:41 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rackburn - that was awesome.

10/29/2010 12:50 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comments.

Agree with commenter above about how being a good CO/XO/COB isn't always about being a friend, etc... Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. I was in a situation once where it was years later that I realized that my "great" CO & XO were able to be great because my previous CO & XO were hardasses who had to be pricks to clean the boat up, cut off the ded wood, and get us ready. The "great" CO and XO were just middle-of-the-road guys who got dealt a really good hand (and were smart enough to not do anything to screw it up).

Retention is a complex problem. There's economics, personalities (of individuals, subordinates, superiors, wives, etc...), timing (shipyard, operational), boat reputation ("good boat" versus known "bad boat"), and many other variables.

I also find it a bit concerning that we're not more focused on enlisted retention.

Face it: officers are only 10% of the boat; JO's less than that. What about E-5 and below?

TSSBP gets a bit officer-centric; not a criticism, just an observation. Perhaps we should talk about enlisted retention too. Anyone have any FACTS from which to start?

10/29/2010 12:53 PM

 
Blogger SJV said...

Gifted maybe, but I don't think that's the trick. The trick is to have the character to stand by what you preached and not waffle when the going gets tough. The goal and policy statements are just on paper. The decisions you make and the actions you take establish what your values actually are.

10/29/2010 12:59 PM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"I also find it a bit concerning that we're not more focused on enlisted retention."

IMHO, a boat's enlisted retention rate is the single best indicator of command climate AND operational excellence. It's the ultimate output metric. If a boat isn't keeping its people, you'll find a lot more wrong with the boat.

A ComSubPac long ago said this about that: "With a good command climate and a proper regard for your people, retention will take care of itself."

10/29/2010 2:22 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8:54AM -

"...was it just that pilots were drated and then made into officers?"

Almost correct. The draft applied to all eligible males. Those with college degrees willing to be designated for certain military occupations received commissions commensurate with the job. My brother was drafted as an Air Force dentist and shortly after his military OCS became an O-3.
You would not want his duty station, however.

Several enlisted guys I served with in subs had masters degrees (one in electrical engineering), and yet all were happy with their enlisted NEC.

We had a very good wardroom continuously. officers and grew were tight; mickey mouse was very rare, although he made a few inevitable appearances.

Retention was decent, because the service was enviable. We were considered elite volunteers.

Rex

10/29/2010 2:53 PM

 
Blogger Vigilis said...

Ironically, ending the ban preventing women from serving on subs will not effect retention.

10/29/2010 3:29 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

{TSSBP gets a bit officer-centric; not a criticism, just an observation. Perhaps we should talk about enlisted retention too. Anyone have any FACTS from which to start?}

Enlisted can re-up for orders off the boat sooner. Keep that in mind when talking enlisted retention.

10/29/2010 7:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with RD's contention that enlisted retention is a barometer of command climate. . .

Would like to add a caveat - enlisted retention combined with JO resigs from sea presents the whole picture.

I will also say, that it takes a long time for the results of a bad command climate to "run their course." If Sailors had a rough time 3 yrs ago, they will likely still separate, even if the command has improved.

Final point - I don't think guys always leave the Navy based on the quality of their CO, XO, or COB. Rather, they leave the Navy, because they don't like or respect their immediate supervisor and don't enjoy their job. It is the CO's responsibility to ensure that all of his supervisors are providing a good working environment for their division, department, or watchsection in addition to ensuring the command can accomplish the mission. That is hard to do without "micromanaging" the other leaders in your command, but the best commands figure out a balance between the two concepts.

I think the key metric in a successful command climate is that all of the Sailors understand what the ship's objective is, how their work contributes to that objective, and that all of the Sailors are having fun (enjoying their job). Because, "if you are not having fun, you are in the wrong line of work."

10/29/2010 7:56 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is one of the best statements I have read in a long time. I am currently enlisted and plan on separating at the end of my first enlistment. Sure, operational schedule and no clear idea of our role other than being a tour boat will grind your gears, but the real part of retention for enlisted sailors is the leadership. When the CO, XO, or COB (or possibly two or all of them) treat you as less than human and make promises that they can keep but don't, it will make retention go south very quickly. Even after having a the aforementioned swap out, your divisional chief can make or break it. Division Officers don't factor into this because they don't stick around for too long to matter, and most enlisted guys will just nod their head and then go talk to the LPO.

What I'm trying to say is, if you have a crappy command and you happen to be on a boat in the yards for a good part of your time, the chiefs' quarters is a major factor in enlisted retention. After all, who wants to stay in when your direct supervisor doesn't go to bat for you (shitbags need not apply).

10/29/2010 9:24 PM

 
Anonymous Cupojoe said...

I would just point out that the material condition of the boat is also a major factor. Joel, Topeka was only two years old when you were on it. Squeaky clean. No maintenance. Aloha Friday.

Number of CWPs on Christmas is inversely related to JO retention. Not a single one stayed in over six year groups.

10/29/2010 10:31 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would agree with the retention of both JO's and enlisted with the CPO quarters ability to lead and drive the Command Policy. I would also further look at the department head's ability to do their job. Any JO not groomed by a Chief would have a hard time, which is doubled if they have a bad DH. When the Chief's have to drive a DH, it's a bad sign.
It is also the Chief's responsibility to make each sailor know how important his job is, not the frigging wardroom. Keep yer @SS out of my machinery room, Sir.
The trend I've seen lately is that the ENG's are the only bright self thinking DH's on the boat, wtf is up with that? They end up driving EVERYTHING. That's BS.
Last but not least, did everybody forget the term "trust but verify"? Leadership is dancing on a fine edged sword, but there are too many that fall to either side and the world goes to shyt.

hagar,
GIFR.

10/30/2010 2:02 AM

 
Anonymous Former 3363 said...

@ANON 10/29/2010 12:56 AM:

Yes, crew sizes are being reduced as more VA class boats are commissioned, and the number of boats in the fleet is diminishing with the 688 & 726 classes approaching EOL. But, the submarine force is still a national asset, and we are still planning an SSBN replacement.

Yep, I was a nuke.

@RubberDucky: I totally agree, China is 100% a real threat, and a major reason for a larger sub force (SSK is an option that should strongly be considered in addition to SSN/SSBN if you ask me).
&
You hit the nail on the head. The difference between your "mission statement" and the majority of the other similar ones posted over the last 25 years is the fact that you actually made a best effort to execute that plan.

@ANON 10/29/2010 6:22 AM

Totally agree, good leadership isn't always your friend. But one thing that they aren't is self-serving, lacking compassion, liars, or any other quality that you wouldn't want in a person. I look at it this way... My 1st command climate felt like an abusive household. Everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop. My 2nd command climate felt like a team. Once the wounds from the 1st round healed, and trust was reestablished, retention skyrocketed, and overall performance went in the same direction.

@Recently Departed...
"But don't kid yourself, 3383 - I highly doubt there is a magic crop of leaders hitting mentor stage. The agregated math is simple: economy down, retention up."

I can only assume this was directed at me (3363). I wasn't trying to imply that was the only reason, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility as a contributing factor. I wonder if SUBFOR or PERS has done any studies WRT YG at command level vs. Retention?

@Anon 10/29/2010 10:10 AM:
Yes, your opinions about loyalty are very accurate. But it can also be argued that it's because of the 'pay me or I'll leave' mentality that loyalty is a more important commodity, and as such is rewarded. If you work hard and keep some of the ideals that were instilled upon you during your time in the navy, you might not need to threaten leaving to get that raise, it might just be given based on your merits.

10/30/2010 3:29 AM

 
Anonymous Former 3363 said...

@tennvol:
Thanks for raising your hand. I would have to say that your decision was a well thought out decision that best suited your needs. But, as you said, you had offers, but it was to do something that you didn't want to do. I would ask, if you weren't making the conscious decision to take the entry level position in the field of your choosing, were the offers presented entry level?

@Anon 10/29/2010 7:13 PM:
"Enlisted can re-up for orders off the boat sooner. Keep that in mind when talking enlisted retention."

Very true statement, but that is also something that PERS notices. Hard to quantify here on TSSBP, but I'm sure it doesn't go unnoticed. (not saying anything gets done about it either)

@Anon 10/29/2010 7:56 PM
"I will also say, that it takes a long time for the results of a bad command climate to "run their course." If Sailors had a rough time 3 yrs ago, they will likely still separate, even if the command has improved."

That was the point I was trying to get across, it wasn't the current climate, it was the potential for the former climate that motivated my decision.

"...they leave the Navy, because they don't like or respect their immediate supervisor and don't enjoy their job."

I loved working for my immediate supervisor, (except the know it all, won't take advice from the dirty blue shirt, newly minted EOOW types). I also loved the job I was qualified to do. (I didn't like the clean because it's Friday, not because it's dirty policies but I could live with them).

@Cupojoe:
Great point!

That's all, I'll step down from my soapbox until the next 15 posts come in. Thanks for taking the time to listen/read.

If there is one takeaway from this whole conversation, I would have to say it's the fact that retention is important. More importantly, it's the quality of the sailor who is retained that matters most. I would take 1 hardworking guy over 10 dirtbags any day of the week!

10/30/2010 3:30 AM

 
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

"cupojoe: I would just point out that the material condition of the boat is also a major factor. Joel, Topeka was only two years old..."

Having twice served on what was at the time the oldest submarine in the US inventory (first one decommissioned before I got to the second), I would gently suggest that you got it both right and wrong. Material condition (and cleanliness!) is a big plus in making folks care about their job, but age does not correlate.

Would also note that the crew stability and quality that characterizes commissioning crews suffer when those initial rotation dates come due.

But maybe I'm a bad source, having never served on a 'bad' boat or with a 'bad' skipper. But I've seen them and ridden bad boats - they certainly do exist. A factor not mentioned yet: the way that command silliness and lousy leadership gets in the way of sailors trying to do their jobs. That is a bad place to stand, between a sailor and his duties.

10/30/2010 5:14 AM

 
Blogger etc_ss_ret said...

I was CCC on boat that won Golden Anchor and found honesty and follow through to be the keys to retention. Typically I would introduce myself to a new sailor and the response would invariably be "I'm getting out of the Navy".

I would always smile and say "Me too, actually so is the Captain, the XO, all of the Dept Heads and the COB." After they got over their stunned look I'd tell them that everyone gets out of the Navy - some do it in Boot Camp, some after 1 tour others after 30 years - the important thing was to use your time in to make sure you would be able to do what you wanted once you got out.

That meant off duty education, taking all of the schools the navy offered, qualifying advanced watches and advancing in rate. Do those things and you'll pad your resume to get a great job when you leave.

The folks that did that stuff were also making themselves better sailors and more competitive for choice shore duty.

As for bad commands I had 2 - one was totally CO based. Guy was awful and it showed throughout the command. He left and the turn around was almost instantaneous.

Second bad command was due to an entrenched goat locker. I was stunned to see so many guys staying onboard because they didn't want to risk leaving KB. The Chiefs wouldn't leave and they talked their guys into staying too. Every CPO in the eng dept had been there 5+ years when I arrived. "We've always done it this way" should have been the ships motto.

Got off as quickly as I could - then LMAO when I saw they were picked for the move to PacFlt. based on one of the above comments I see that changing home port didn't improve command climate.

10/30/2010 8:28 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As somebody who is in the middle of the job hunt I have some pertinent input.

- Staying in for the economy is a fool's move. There are plenty of jobs. Many people along the way (all lifers) will throw the economy around trying to get you stay in. Don't believe them. I've had so many interviews, and interview opportunities I've had to decided which ones that I wanted to pursue, not the other way around.
- You will probably take a pay cut, but it won't be half. I have some offers, they are pay cuts from what I make now, but that's only because I'm a submarine officer on the rent-a-nuke bonus. If I were joe-SWO they'd be pay raises.
- Be flexible. There's lot of different things out there, and lots of different potential places to live. Be open to a variety of things and you will have an easier time finding something.
- I'm not sure that characterization of separation is as important as some people say it is. Nobody has ever asked for my DD-214 (which I don't have yet anyway), and it's a violation of EEOC regulation to point black ask what type of discharge you have in an interview anyway outside of certain situations. I suspect it might become an issue if you are looking at government or defense contractor jobs. (P.S. this is mostly just an observation, I expect an honorable discharge, so no direct experience with something OTH).
- Nobody outside of the military knows anything about being military, figure out how to talk about military-related things in non-military ways. It's harder than you think.


Bottom Line: If you stay in, do it for the right reasons. We are all very hirable people, even in this down economy and that should not be a factor in staying in. Staying in just for the safety is almost a guarantee that you will be a sub-par DH, because your hearts not in it. Why not do something you have some sort of passion for?

10/30/2010 10:07 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, your opinions about loyalty are very accurate. But it can also be argued that it's because of the 'pay me or I'll leave' mentality that loyalty is a more important commodity, and as such is rewarded. If you work hard and keep some of the ideals that were instilled upon you during your time in the navy, you might not need to threaten leaving to get that raise, it might just be given based on your merits.

I'll agree that can be true on on an individual basis, but generally speaking, the days of loyalty to a company are over - and the corporations did it to themselves. (BTW, I'm not one who thinks corporations are the world's greatest evil, just stating the obvious.)

10/30/2010 10:25 AM

 
Blogger Old Salt said...

@ETC- I agree on the way to approach our sailors. On my LPO tours, I always asked career intentions, and asked for honest answers. I tried to help my guys make good choices on collateral duties, schools, and skills. QAI looks good on a resume, as does ETMS. RPPO or 3M helped on rating exams, which puts more money in the pocket. When the guys figure out that we really care what happens to them, morale goes up.

10/30/2010 1:45 PM

 
Blogger Vigilis said...

In both peace and wartime, retention has been an important goal of the silent service.

Lately, retention is being made even more critical by little things like this that will definitely impact recruiting.

10/30/2010 4:07 PM

 
Blogger DDM said...

Motion: A wonderfully written "Command Policy Letter" on fancy paper, suitable for framing.

Action: Treating your crew with respect, up and down the chain of command.

Biggest problem in the navy, and most companies: Too much motion, not enough action.

10/30/2010 4:17 PM

 
Anonymous T said...

Vigilis:

I read that quote as to say that the women are "Above average" as compared to the population at large. I bet that Admiral Donnelly would say that about literally almost every submariner, officer or enlisted in training right now. For the most part, he'd be right.

I'm not exactly one of the guys going "Rah, rah, women on subs! Yay!" but, I think this is trying to make news out of nothing.

10/30/2010 7:27 PM

 
Anonymous aft one said...

I've been on the newest boat in the Fleet...one in the middle of th pack, and the oldest in the fleet.

Either SSN or SSBN, age makes a huge difference in retention. And the label of Good or Bad boat.

The new boat was a cakewalk. Never had to really stay late, Aloha Friday all the time. Life was awesome.

The middle boat was 1/2 of of each. Never really was bad. Retention and command climate were pretty much middle of the road. Life was decent.

Oldest boat...wow, that crap sucks. 1800 or later days are the norm. People get burnt out. 30 yrs for a Submarine to be operational is too hard on the crew...especially with the manning shortages we are currently seeing.



I'm sad to say I'm a Nuke. Not because of the job, but because of the stupidity of NRRO and an ever focusing eye upon Nuclear Power as the Submarine force keeps transitioning to the role of Security Guard. In just 1-2 short years, the Nuclear system can twist an induvidual so that they will REFUSE TO RE-ENLIST for $90,000. For 2 yrs extra. What does that tell you about the system?

So many CO's have been fired lately, DH's as well...that people are freaking out. The Draconian measures are in full force. Not all, but most boats are "Bad Boats" right now.

My boat right now has had only 1 Nuke re-enlistment in the past year. And he did it for orders to leave early. We have so many 6 & out guys currently, that I wonder how the boat is going to have the manning for the next WestPac. I guess Port/Stbd for 6 months is the solution.


I know that A-div, Radio and Nav ET's are in almost as bad a shape right now as the Nukes regarding manning. Even in this "Bad" economy, guys are just tired of the crap. Someone at Naval Personnel is twisting #'s to paint a rosy picture. The bottom will fall out soon. I just hope my boat isn't the one it happens to.


Good for the JO's who seem to be staying in. I'm not sure why they are. They don't get paid enough to do the job they are tasked with...but more importantly the pure idiocy of their job.

10/31/2010 3:02 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the submarine going the way of the dodo will be good in a small way - in ten years almost all the boats in service will be <15 years old. There may be fewer submariners,but the ones on duty will have better lives!

(Unless they're at sea 98% of the time)

10/31/2010 8:39 AM

 
Anonymous SPD said...

Aft one,
I can assure you (as a soon to be transferring detailer) that we are NOT 'twisting numbers to paint a rosy picture'. It's certainly not within our best interest to over promise the fleet Sailors. Trust me, as a guy who looks at the manning on every boat, every day, we're well aware of our manning woes, and certainly bring it up to our ECM and NR consistently.

10/31/2010 10:14 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you know manning is good when detailers stop using lies and scare tactics to try to get you to stay in.

10/31/2010 1:05 PM

 
Blogger Do You Think I G.A.F. said...

Like said before, there are many variables when it comes to command retention.

Having been a CCC for three subs, I recognized the command climate as the biggest factor.

Boat 1 (SSN PH). I got there just after the new CO took over. Previous CO beat the crew up, so much the crew hated being there. CO XO & COB started anew. Set specific goals. CO's bottom line was to have fun being a submariner. Retention went up. Went from #29 on the SUBPAC list to #11 when I left.

Boat #2 (SSN PH) CO and XO good (both are flags), but COB was not a team player. For enlisted, it was his way or the highway. Not a fun place to be. Retention was low and stayed low when I left. Was #30 on list, moved to #28 in 2.5 years. CO was mentioned by CSP in WSJ article for lousy retention.

Boat #3 (SSBN Gold Bangor) Great crew. CO XO and COB were outstanding. Worked together as a team and made the boat enjoyable. We had a good few years, CO XO and COB left. COB fought constantly with CO. CO was an idiot. Retention went down. During COs tour, not ONE dept head stayed in. Even ENG who was a great Eng and successful, got out. WEPS and NAV, gone! At CO Change of Command, he was awarded a Navy COMM as a end of tour. Later upgraded to MSM. CO once said to ORSE baord member,the Navy doesn't pay him $140,000 a year to inspect rivets in engineroom.

Lets face it, the Navy is a unique environment. Many people stay or leave the Navy for various reasons. It's those that are undecided are the ones the Nayv wants. There are many incentives offered, SRB, pay for college, choice shore duty and the pay and benefits. Those are constant for everyone whether they are top or mediocre performers.

It is the environment. How one views thir present command and how they feel ther are perceived as part of the team. Treat people like crap, and they will seek approval elsewhere; either in or out of the Navy.

I loved the Navy. It gave me opportunities that I would have never had in the civilian world, My service allowed me to obtain a bachelor degree and two Master degrees! Made tons of friends and lifetime memories. I have over 500 friends on my facebook, over 300 are people I served with!

STSCS(SS/SW) USN RET

10/31/2010 5:37 PM

 
Anonymous 3383 said...

I'm curious-
How much of a "good" boat/ "bad" boat disparity is there between blue and gold crews (of the same vessel, of course) generally?

10/31/2010 8:48 PM

 
Anonymous STSC said...

Does the command climate of a submarine influence the boat's retention rate? Or is it mostly the ship's operational schedule that's the driver? Or a combination of factors?

It is absolutely a combination of factors in my opinion. Boats that do two COHP in one normal sea tour duration typically have lousy retention #'s.

Boats that deploy can end up w/ good OR bad #'s, depending on where they went, what they did (on mission & on liberty) and who was leading them.

Leadership also plays a part. Divisions that have a great Chief (or CO) will typically have better retention than ones being led by someone on the ROAD program or is a raving lunatic.

Another point to consider for enlisted retention is that a HORRIBLE command climate boat may STILL have decent enlisted retention because of the STAR program.

Sailors will STAR re-enlist (for cash & training) which also has the added benefit of them leaving well before their normal proscribed sea tour of 4 or more years. They'll fufill the remainder of their sea tour (& possibly some extra time) after training. But they get off the boat 2yrs (or more) early - win for the Sailor leaving a command he hates and the command gets a bump in their re-up #'s.

The fleet gets a trained technician on the backside of C school, which we're hurting for everywhere forward of the door (ET's of all flavors, FT's, and for STS).

11/01/2010 4:09 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what the retention stats are for shipyard (non-newcon) boats vs operational ones. Every time I've been in the yards it's just sucked the life out of the crew. "sad pandas" up, dui's up, and work control pain steadily ramping up until the men are almost afraid to write a waf or hang a tagout. Even two great COs couldn't really save morale.

11/01/2010 7:29 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friends and I on the waterfront have unanimously agreed that the "two-look for department head" is an awesome thing. Firstly it may cut some of the dead weight from the submarine force, however, we seriously doubt it but it will let them pair down the numbers for Department head. This two-look for Dept head was very exciting for a number of my friends who want to stay in the navy but will now be given an earlier opportunity to lateral transfer to other communities. This opportunity to lateral transfer early was one that other communities had, but in the past, the detailers would rather you get out of the navy than be of any assistance. We are hoping that the detailers will put out a volunteer not to screen signup but doubt that would happen as generally the most capable people would leave the sub force. It's not like we had them anyway considering the most technically savvy people are going aviation instead thanks to advanced eye surgeries, there is profiling to back this up FYI. Its sad to say but even without this process the only JO's staying in from my boat were the prior enlisted with too much time in to get out and even some of them would rather lat transfer than sign up for the big $30,000 carrot (if the economy is so bad, why keep the bonus at all right?)
You ask why will the best of the subforce be getting out or trying to, here's a couple things that have transpired to help force reshaping:
One of the JO's told his XO when he was taking the GMAT to get into a business school (during shore duty) and submitted leave to make sure he wouldn't have duty that weekend day. The XO quickly had said JO scheduled for duty on that day and said "I don't help people who I think are getting out of the Navy," this comment was relayed to the CO who said "what's your point?"
Another favorite of mine was a friend who was doing well on a boat and saw his PRD extended and the more incompetent JO's PRD moved up. The result was people who were the slugs (28 month tours) got really good deals while the studs (42 month tours) got really bad deals, the detailers fully supporting this idea. Personally, I think that this policy is a very bad way to motivate top performers; watching someone who doesn't do his job get to the boat after you and leave before you.
For those of you that will post for me to complete exodus from the subforce, don't worry I fully intend to. To my credit, being ranked highly on all my FITREPs, holding the more challenging DIVO positions, I'm sure I will be well received in a new community or enjoy a transition to the private sector and by the way I've worked in the private sector before so yes I know what I am getting back into. I'm not scared of the economy and have several job opportunities available when I chose to get out. It's not that difficult to figure out that the Navy can't wave the economy flag at people with a degree, clearance, proven work experience and common sense, however they continue to do so and I laugh.even if it's just inside. Yes, I'll take a pay cut for a little while, but I'm sure a divorce would cost me more long term. I'll be happier and I will be paid based on merit, which is more than welcome. As far as job security is concerned, anyone who makes good money will tell you it comes at a cost, usually at a lower salary. You would be surprised at how many companies are continually seeking high powered talent, especially if you are willing to travel.

11/10/2010 7:53 PM

 
Anonymous FA sailor said...

My friends and I on the waterfront have unanimously agreed that the "two-look for department head" is an awesome thing. Firstly it may cut some of the dead weight from the submarine force, however, we seriously doubt it but it will let them pair down the numbers for Department head. This two-look for Dept head was very exciting for a number of my friends who want to stay in the navy but will now be given an earlier opportunity to lateral transfer to other communities. This opportunity to lateral transfer early was one that other communities had, but in the past, the detailers would rather you get out of the navy than be of any assistance. We are hoping that the detailers will put out a volunteer not to screen signup but doubt that would happen as generally the most capable people would leave the sub force. It's not like we had them anyway considering the most technically savvy people are going aviation instead thanks to advanced eye surgeries, there is profiling to back this up FYI. Its sad to say but even without this process the only JO's staying in from my boat were the prior enlisted with too much time in to get out and even some of them would rather lat transfer than sign up for the big $30,000 carrot (if the economy is so bad, why keep the bonus at all right?)
You ask why will the best of the subforce be getting out or trying to, here's a couple things that have transpired to help force reshaping:
One of the JO's told his XO when he was taking the GMAT to get into a business school (during shore duty) and submitted leave to make sure he wouldn't have duty that weekend day. The XO quickly had said JO scheduled for duty on that day and said "I don't help people who I think are getting out of the Navy," this comment was relayed to the CO who said "what's your point?"
Another favorite of mine was a friend who was doing well on a boat and saw his PRD extended and the more incompetent JO's PRD moved up. The result was people who were the slugs (28 month tours) got really good deals while the studs (42 month tours) got really bad deals, the detailers fully supporting this idea. Personally, I think that this policy is a very bad way to motivate top performers; watching someone who doesn't do his job get to the boat after you and leave before you.
For those of you that will post for me to complete exodus from the subforce, don't worry I fully intend to. To my credit, being ranked highly on all my FITREPs, holding the more challenging DIVO positions, I'm sure I will be well received in a new community or enjoy a transition to the private sector and by the way I've worked in the private sector before so yes I know what I am getting back into. I'm not scared of the economy and have several job opportunities available when I chose to get out. It's not that difficult to figure out that the Navy can't wave the economy flag at people with a degree, clearance, proven work experience and common sense, however they continue to do so and I laugh.even if it's just inside. Yes, I'll take a pay cut for a little while, but I'm sure a divorce would cost me more long term. I'll be happier and I will be paid based on merit, which is more than welcome. As far as job security is concerned, anyone who makes good money will tell you it comes at a cost, usually at a lower salary. You would be surprised at how many companies are continually seeking high powered talent, especially if you are willing to travel.

11/10/2010 7:55 PM

 
Anonymous Sibilla said...

I saw a lot of useful material in this post!

8/25/2012 8:16 PM

 

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