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.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Malcontents On Submarines

We covered the Memphis cheating scandal in extreme detail back in November, but stories are making the rounds again after the AP got some information (much of which we already had) from an FOIA request. I wasn't going to rehash the old news, but enough people E-mailed me about it that I figured there was some interest. Excerpt from the new story:
An investigation report obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request describes an atmosphere aboard the USS Memphis that tolerated and even encouraged cheating: Sailors were emailed the answers before qualification exams, took tests outside the presence of proctors and openly asked officers for answer keys. One sailor told investigators that test-takers were encouraged to "use their time wisely" during breaks, insinuating that they should look up answers to exam questions.
A submarine force spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, said the Navy holds its officers and crew to very high standards and denied that cheating is rampant.
"The evidence we have shows that it's very rare," said Rousselow, who is based in Norfolk, Va.
But three former officers said the episode aboard the Groton, Conn.-based Memphis was an extreme example of shortcuts that occur aboard many of the roughly 70 American submarines in service.
[I couldn't find anywhere that the AP writer posted the report he got from the Navy; has anyone seen it online?] The article goes on with quotes from one former Submarine officer who claims that cheating is pervasive throughout the fleet, and bragged earlier about how he refused to cheat, resulting in him failing what I assume is the BEQ test several times.

How did you deal with malcontents on your boat who wouldn't "go with the flow"? Personally, I generally liked them and encouraged them to question things (to a degree), but I'll admit it could get old after a while when they just didn't know when to stop tilting at windmills.

Update 0850 23 August: For the purposes of this discussion, remember that "malcontent" is not the same as "disgruntled", as shown in this story about a Sailor off "the USS Springfield submarine". The article was written by the Michael Milea reporter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A submarine force spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, said the Navy holds its officers and crew to very high standards and denied that cheating is rampant."

Sounds like Monica hasn't spent too much time underway taking and grading divisional/qualification tests.

In order not to incriminate myself, I will only say thank god for EXCEL and the grading spreadsheet. Easy to use and give the "proper" scores.

I retired way back in April of 2011, so unless things have changed a lot in the last 3-4 months, "cheating" (that's such a strong word...I prefer "selective time and administrative management of on board knowledge") still happens forward and aft.

8/19/2011 4:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you open the COB's lockers, the CPO bunk-pans, SR drawers, etc on a surprise inspection of the entire sub force, we'd see how bad test integrity really is (rampantly awful) in the fleet.

We are making strides but until the tail stops wagging the dog, I don't foresee wholesale change happening soon. NR training mandates are well intentioned but cause a lot of pressure on the crew / COC to do well or at least document the crap out of any perceived weak areas.

8/19/2011 8:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The written exam questions and answers are posted for FAA qualifications - by the FAA. Just saying....

8/19/2011 9:12 PM

Anonymous t said...

Joel: it seems like you are promoting the status quo by calling people who suggest that it is intellectually dishonest to foster cheating under the table while publically railing against it malcontents. Are you being facetious here?

If not that's just sad. This aspect of the submarine force is completely indefensible. One day, a boat will be bad enough in this respect to lead to a real problem with material consequences

8/19/2011 11:42 PM

Anonymous tw said...

Exam integrity is not compromised fleet wide. There are boats where exams are legitimately taken, graded, and reported. I'm on one of those boats.

It seems some wish to lessen the sting of their own lapses in integrity by assuming it must be a rampant problem caused by the system or that non-colluders must be troublemakers. Just saying...

8/20/2011 12:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Officers prepare for the Engineer's exam primarily by studying the question bank. Jusy sayin...

8/20/2011 4:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Officers prepare for the Engineer's exam primarily by studying the question bank. Jusy sayin...

It's not the actual exam bank that NR uses, genius. It's old questions.

8/20/2011 6:42 AM

Anonymous t said...

Tw: I agree, but my pretty informal polling suggests that most boats cheat in various degrees. Keep in mind there are also boats where the CO thinks everthing is on the up and up, but the dhs and senior enlisted facilitate the cheating.

The problem is that collectively, exams have been mad so difficult that literally nobody can take them and pass honestly. Another jo and I tried to take an eng dept exam without cheating the week after we passed pneo, and both failed. That's insane. Guys who are qualified junior watchstations only are expected to be able to pass those exams.

8/20/2011 6:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read Brownfield's book and came away with the impression that the author is a prissy screamer who is deeply in love with himself.

8/20/2011 6:56 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

If you open the COB's lockers, the CPO bunk-pans, SR drawers, etc on a surprise inspection of the entire sub force, we'd see how bad test integrity really is (rampantly awful) in the fleet.

If that were truly the case, then we have a leadership problem more than an integrity problem. Any khakis who 1--tolerate this, 2--know about it and do nothing (see #1), turn in your collar devices and hit the brow. Your services are no longer required.

8/20/2011 7:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cheating" will continue until exams are administered external to the boat. This would both require more work for those on shore tour and be a pain in neck for getting people qualified. Thus, it's not going to happen. When the only way to take an exam is at a shore command proctored by someone with no negative consequences to a failure, the problem will have been fixed.

8/20/2011 7:49 AM

Anonymous T said...

I think the other answer is that NR designs the Exams and answer keys for a training program that runs fleet wide. This is actually one thousands times better than the status quo, where a 1995 Powerpoint is recycled over and over again infinitely, and each slide consists mainly of typing out the Immediate actions.

It would take some of the admin burden from the boat (something supposedly important), drop it somewhere that in theory is more suited to handle something like this (NR), and allow you to compare knowledge levels across boats. I'd also recommend that NR requires the boats to keep the exams to cross check grading on like 20 during ORSE. The real beauty here is this will truly allow NR to compare knowledge levels across boats, rather than pretend knowledge levels of how brazenly the Training PO blazes grades across the department.

Also, cheating ass boats will tend to stick out like a sore thumb (either that, or the few that actually stick to the rules will).

8/20/2011 8:05 AM

Anonymous Been There, Doing It Now! said...

Been away for a while and catching up on one of my favorite blogs. Funny how this topic is one of the first I read.

Time: just a few weeks ago, evening watch, a few days prior to entering port after deployment and/or patrol

Location: classified, at-sea, in the control room of a nuclear powered submarine

XO quickly enters control and sees CHOP on the dive. Asks where Mr. so & so is. CHOP says he is down below taking DOOW test, I am the proctor. XO responds with something close to a direct order "good, CHOP I want that graded tonight, and make sure he is at the CO's stateroom first thing in the morning with the watch qual binder" . Make it happen". CHOP responds with a hearty "AYE, AYE".

XO looks at the PO1 sitting behind the COW and asks what he is doing? The COW says he is taking his COW exam and it will also be graded by the end of the watch. PO1 has OP in his lap.

Turns to the Engineer who has the Deck & Conn and happily states "I love it when it all comes together!".

Now this XO is no slacker. He even outshines the CO (who is also a great guy and the best there is in shooting torpedoes) in many ways and is one of those fast risers that you know just by his glow will be an Admiral someday.

The Engineer is well respected and always has his finger on the pulse. Well respected forward and aft.

We have a great ship and great crew! We just passed a couple of inspections (fwd and aft) with great grades. Five guys have been selected as Chiefs (including my LPO0 and are getting the run around from the goat locker.

Thhis is only my second boat (first was in the yards for a while) and don't have much to base things on....

But this is business as usual. As the training PO, the admin consumes most of my time, my LPO/Chiefs time, my DIV O and DH's time. Not to mention XO/CO reviews. I am not saying this is right but it is what it is.

I know this blog is mostly nucs and guys who haven't been to sea in a while and that is what the focus is on. But forward or aft, this is pretty standard. Also, everyone knows this blog is read by the higher ups so hopefully know one tries to pin point my boat and get us in trouble. Just take this as a lesson learned and try to fix the admin burden. Off boat exams would be awesome!

8/20/2011 9:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes some people cheat.

But Chris didn't fail because he didn't cheat.

Chris was a douchebag and couldn't pass the BEQ exam because he didn't study.

Or most of the CTE exams either.

Huge douche.

Oh, and he cried like a baby after the grounding. He doesn't mention that much, does he?


8/20/2011 11:14 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

@t - I'm not advocating cheating, I'm speaking more broadly about the guys on the boat who frequently practiced "malicious compliance", where they said "we can't do that" because of some obscure rule. As I'm sure you know, if a submarine crew were to allow all the rules in force, they couldn't do all "required" tasks in the time allotted. Some "rules" are commonly swept under the table; the ones that are important are the ones that get checked during inspections. At this point, clearly, Big Sub Force has put out the word that running properly proctored exams is one of the rules that needs to be followed.

8/20/2011 11:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one gives a crap abut Brownfield, or his gossipping biatch JO shipmates either!

Off boat exams seem like a good idea. I took 3 BEQ/EOOW tests in the course of a year due to rides with other boats (mine was in ERO). There was a very large variation in difficulty across the tests.

Presumably there isnt that much variation in required nuke knowledge, and we really want reliable LOK checks coming in through Engineering exams. Standardized testing is the natural solution to a problem like that.

It also would level the QoL between sea and shore. People at sea work continuously while people on shore work less than 40hrs/week. Give the operating folks 5-10 extra hours of downtime per week, and make the shore people work for a living. NR sets the standards, Pac/lant write the tests, squadron administers and reports.

CO remains responsible for all performance, but inspections measure performance on evolutions rather than skill at training record correction parties. I might have stayed if things were more like this!

8/20/2011 11:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"malicious compliance". Love it, Joel. I am saving that one for future use, don't think I have heard it before.

8/20/2011 1:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read Brownfield's book and came away with the impression that the author is a prissy screamer who is deeply in love with himself.

I know Brownfield, and your comment is a huge understatement. You can also add to your assessment "not terribly bright".

8/20/2011 1:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having the PNEO question bank isn't cheating for a number of reasons. First, NR knows about it and doesn't do anything about it, which means it's within the rules. Second, the official NR answers don't go with it - the best a student can hope for is a well-researched attempt at an answer in the notes of a predecessor. Third, the volume of the questions in the bank and the depth of the answers they require both mean that you can't help but learn the material even if all you do is read someone else's notes. Finally, NR can introduce new questions at any time (though these typically just wind up being new ways to ask for the same material) and you still have two interviewers there who can ask you anything they want; if the guy who designed the NIs woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day and decides you don't know enough about them, there's no defense against that.

There's a huge difference between that and handing out the answers to the exact ten questions appearing on a department exam.

8/20/2011 2:35 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...
6 Atlanta school educators removed amid cheating scandal

Screw it, everyone is doing it...

Anyone ever attend the Atlanta Georgia school system or taught school in it?

Look at the big businesses, chamber of commerce, that brought in this ideoreaucracy...then they all covered it up to protect their corporations and themselves because they self chose Beverly Hall as school superintendent.

Atlanta Ga school test cheating scandal

I visited the major and worst low income public housing projects in Atlanta during the later 1990s...I still can stop crying about it to this day.

8/20/2011 2:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would this blog be without Mike Mulligan...

8/20/2011 3:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What would this blog be without Mike Mulligan..."


Anyway, assisted learning happens now and it has happened for a long time. Is it right or wrong...I could go either way. But obviously it has been working for decades.

Bigger things are coming down the road that are way more important than some on board exam that has little meaning. Time to focus on the budget and see who is going to get a chair when the music stops.

8/20/2011 4:06 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

@Anon 1335: I'm surprised -- I thought "malicious compliance" was a fairly standard Submarine term.

8/20/2011 4:17 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Sorry corrected:

I visited the major and worst low income public housing projects in Atlanta during the later 1990s...I still "can't" stop crying about it to this day.

Strange, malicious compliance is following a law or procedure knowing it will cause damage, injury or death...but what do you call malicious compliance in a group or culture when you follow their illegal laws or codes until damage, injury or death...

I really like that now in Navy with the big brass talking about command and CO honor, integrity and truthfulness...

8/20/2011 5:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One day, a boat will be bad enough in this respect to lead to a real problem with material consequences.

Ain't gonna happen. Why? The type exams we're talking about have zero bearing on how well a crew member (nuke) performs his duty - maintenance or casualty situation. Until the higher ups understand that the type exams they are demanding are worthless trash, they will continue to have "problems" like on Memphis

8/20/2011 5:50 PM

Anonymous T said...

I agree that the exams are absolutely worthless, but I fear that it fosters an environment where people are comfortable blazing other, more important things (see Hartford). It's not inconceivable that somebody stupid could decide to blaze off important QA tests or maintenance (primary samples, anyone?), and miss an important problem.

8/20/2011 6:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anon 1335: I'm surprised -- I thought "malicious compliance" was a fairly standard Submarine term.

Yeah, you know how it is...gaps in your knowledge, you don't know what you don't know. It so perfectly describes so many situations though.

8/20/2011 8:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember back in the day at NPTU, I think Joel was there, when a CTE was found on a copier not in the Staff Training office. We all got called in and the OIC put us on lockdown until someone confessed. No one said anything, we all hated the CTE because it usually covered topics that weren't included in the training plan. You could take notes in training, study your notes, and then take the CTE and nothing you studied was on it. It was a dreaded event that removed 1/4 of watchstanders once every quarter. After about two hours an EM1 stood up and asked the question of the day; "why do people feel like they have to cheat to pass the CTE?" The CO said something quietly to the OIC and we all got to go home. CTE's were different after that.

8/20/2011 9:24 PM

Anonymous Curtis said...

Good grief, no wonder subs run aground or run into other ships. Everything about seamanship is subsumed by NR and meaningless reactor tests. With the whole ocean to play in at very nearly any depth, one would think that target motion would be stressed, but no.

It's all utmost tip top classified the wasted $ spent in colliding with stuff vice operating $ for a fairly simple nuclear plant. Trust me, if it was at all difficult there would be evidence.

8/21/2011 12:36 AM

Anonymous flem snopes said...

@Anon 1335: I'm surprised -- I thought "malicious compliance" was a fairly standard Submarine term.

Ahhhh.... Malicious Compliance. The enlisted man's secret weapon.

Been around as long as the Navy I'll wager.

8/21/2011 12:38 AM

Anonymous MM1/SS said...

After a successfull (thank god) EDTA tour, I can affirm that this topic was at the top of my mind at all times.

Quite frankly, you can do the job 100% correctly. Write tests, only the EDTA and EDMC and ENG see them, proctor them, and then grade them. All legit.

But the second the "real" results are posted, a storm appears on the horizon. I cannot tell you guys how many times I was forced to go back and "regrade", or "find points, or "refine" the key so it wasn't so easy.

At some point, you just give up. I did my best to do the job legitimately for 6 months. Then the prior EDTA gave me his Excell spreadsheet and said "I told you so".

Cast indignant...Whatever! 99% of you have never been in the hotseat writing and proctoring and grading tests for a department of 30+ individuals. And at the same time being told that a certain # of personnel must fail and a certain grade AVG must be maintained (roughly 2.99 to 3.04 in my experience is a good benchmark for the Department avg btw).

And you always have some conniving little turd who will dig through your trash, or convince the Lan Techs to give them access to the Exam Folder. Yes, I've had that happen several times.

A few years back, NR even had the gall to send out a message. The message stated that exams scores had to fall within certain guidelines. Not too hard (people had to pass), but not to easy either (token failures). I officially gave up on Nuclear Power training on that day. Pissed me off so badly that I quit and the EDMC had to find another whipping boy.

People can ride their high horses all they want. Until NR pulls their collective heads from rears, it will always be this way. The whole exam process has only gotten worse in the last 10 yrs.

8/21/2011 2:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very calm, confident prediction: the system will not change.


It's been this way for DECADES.

The End.

8/21/2011 4:20 AM

Blogger Old Man from the Sea said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/21/2011 5:29 AM

Blogger Old Man from the Sea said...

The fact that all requirements cannot be met (in the current system) is the problem.

When I was a nub, if you were in A-Gang, M-Div, or E-Div and slept on a duty day, that was a bonus. However, bad stuff happened on the midwatch (one of my boats initiated XC based on a bonehead mistake, others were worse, like Ben Franklin when the ventilation "flipped the page" in the EDPO's RPM), so we got a new set of marching orders and CO's had to authorize work past 2000. And we added 3 hours of PT per man per week into the work week, with no increase in personnel (my math says that's ~4 more billets worth of "work" per week for each SSN).

If we want people to meet all the current requirements, then we need to take a look at what we consider normal working hours or the manning levels on SSNs (cannot speak to SSBNs, but SSGNs seem to have enough personnel to meet their requirements). If working all night on duty days is not acceptable, we need to look at the requirements. Either all the rules are important, or none are.

Kind of like getting a speeding ticket when you're just going with the flow of traffic. If it is that important, then everyone should get pulled over.

8/21/2011 5:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having another shore side establishment out to 'help' the boats is a great idea! They can write exams, administer them, then tell the boat and SQDN how f@#$ed up they are. Then the CO can write to NR and explain why he is such a substandard performer that never deserved to don a uniform in the first place. Awesome! You can even get some losers that are about to lose their bonuses, because they are not good enough to go to sea, to head it up.

I gotta better idea. Stay off the f@#$ing boats. Let the CO/XO/COB/Eng/EDMC to their job without all the 'help'. If there is learning happening then what you call cheating is probably secondary to the big picture. Submariners kill people and break things, period. Get over yourselves.

8/21/2011 6:15 AM

Anonymous MentalJim said...

Old man in the sea said:

"The fact that all requirements cannot be met (in the current system) is the problem."

That just about sums it up for me. It is truly the root cause here. Create a system where it is impossible to meet all requirements and at the same time zero defects are allowed and what comes out of it is guys working their tails off who have to pick and choose which requirements to follow and which ones to let slide.

These are facts. I know some who will say that they are good enough to meet all requirements, but I would say they are either flat out overestimating their abilities or they really don't understand the requirements. [Disclosure, I have not been on a boat since 2006.]

8/21/2011 6:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I left a boat in 2006, the training program had become such a joke and burden. In 88 when I first got to a boat, it was 1 hour of admin for 1 hour of training ratio. When I left the boat in 06, it was 5-6 hours of admin per 1 hour of training. If you had a 20-30% failure rate on your test, you were good. Had more, test was too hard; or less, test was too easy.

Either way you were spending another few hours to document the failure, then a few hours on the remedial plan to fix the failure and another few hours to write the retake! Submarine training is a joke!

And I am not a nuke. I can only imagine how much more of a burden it is.


8/21/2011 7:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

XOSR mid-90s. I'm chatting with the XO and a JO comes in to discuss his failed exam. XO tells him, 'didn't you learn anything in college?...' (pertaining to cheating). That XO made Admiral. Nuff said.

8/21/2011 9:18 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I served in the dark ages, but it sure seems like it was better before computers, spread sheets, and bell shaped curves. I don't remember any requirements for a certain percentage of failures or forcing the curve. The BEQ exam was what it was and most passed the first time. The Eng had a bank of questions on 3x5 cards or in a note book and the ENG Dept Chief or the Training PO selected an appropriate number for the test. Back then there were so many variables regarding class and plant type that, although the questions may have been the same, the answers were unique to each sub. In fact, I remember getting the same question on my ENG exam at NR in PCO training as was on the ENG exam I took some ten years before. Funny thing, the correct answer was completely different on my PCO test than on the ENG exam because it was a different type of plant and the advances in understanding of how the plants worked. I suspect the same may be in place today - A correct answer for an OHIO Class SSBN/SSGN may not be correct for a SEAWOLF or VIRGINIA. In my day, even the same class and plant had different answers if they were built at different shipyards. I also remember the battles between the two NPSs regarding the NPS Comp exam answers. Sometimes, NR would tell us we were both wrong. Then there was a real investigation of the course outline and what each school was teaching. My point is, back in the day, it was difficult to get the same question and answer for each ship. That is why each sub was responsible for their own exams and grading. Judging from the comments above, the "system" has become too anal regarding testing compared to the pre computer days.

8/21/2011 11:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This observation (no opinion involved) will rankle some ring-knocking feathers, but fuck that noise.

Observation: this may well back up all the way to culture at the Naval Academy.

In my NNPS classes, one of the things most sought after by USNA grads and others was "gouge" academy term for meaty insights as to what was going to be on the fill-in-the-blank exam.

Some instructors were more straightforward about this than others, some of whom absolutely refused to provide any.

Can recall any number of times that with the right instructor the class would be trying to charm as much info out of the instructor as possible by chanting "gouge... gouge... gouge!"

Just calling it like I saw it and with 99% certainty like it still is. If you don't like reality, that's not my problem.

8/21/2011 11:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. Once knew a well-regarded CO, who later became the 'Dant at "the" Academy (and later a fleet sub commander), whose wardroom-pronounced opinion on this subject was that he'd seen this same (let's call it what it is) integrity issue during his academy days and his opinion over time had been shaped such that: " long as the guy ends up knowing the right answer, who really gives a fuck?"

You can see that same attitude in any number of the above comments.

Not to play judge: given the kind of chickenshit asked on both the PNEO and any number of Eng Dept exams whose sole purpose is to create a pretty bell-shaped curve -- not valuable/useful/practical knowledge -- they may well be right.

Full disclosure: I'm a served SSN Engineer Officer, and I hated the training system that was foisted upon myself and others with a burning passion. But if you didn't play the ORSE/PORSE, NR paperwork game, you were burnt toast. It was -- and is -- a top-level leadership issue. Just the facts, ma'am.

8/21/2011 11:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone here ever been told that they were the designated failure for the Eng dept test before the test was given? I was cramming for the test when the EDTA walked by and said "Don't worry about it your re-exam will be ready for you next watch. You know how baseball has a DH? Well your gonna be one of our DF's this time." Gotta love nuke training.

8/21/2011 12:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like to ignore coincidences? Disdain conspiracy theories? Were you also taught that the simplest explanation usually applies?

Ever served on the jury in a criminal trial? Occam's razor, my friends, may not apply at all to the defense. One day that could be you.

This scandal seems to have re-surfaced just-in-time to assure the public never forgets the allegation of widespread cheating on navy subs.

Soon, women officers will report aboard subs and some will have to take the same exams that we all now know most male officers already passed by cheating.

Relax guys. The big deal is, whether the cheating was universal or not, that the ladies are going to get all the "help" they need to keep from bombing out and you guys are going to have look the other way and STFU while the standards to which you may have been accustomed are relaxed more than ever.

As we all know, there is a fundamental problem with tolerating relaxed crew standards on submarines, most of which has nothing to do with the nuclear plant.

Bon Chance!

8/21/2011 12:43 PM

Blogger etc_ss_ret said...

I served on 5 boats and at NPTU with BH. I always looked at training as a 2 part program.

Part 1 was trainning. I wanted my RO's to know how to fix any equipment that was broken so I spent as much time at etms doing troubleshooting training and with the guys and the schematics as we good fit in. For theory/operations training we wouldn't spend more than a few minutes on IA's and the rest on overall plant recovery and the why behind what was going on. The guys knew their stuff and it showed during ORSE/work ups and thru the guys advancement.

Part 2 was admin. Frankly, as long as the binder looked good I couldn't care less about it. To me when ORSE gave RC div grades on LOK and drill performance thats when we knew whether or not training had been effective.

Worked then, my guess is it would work just as well today.

8/21/2011 1:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NR doesn't set the standard for exams or training, the Fleet does. NR is a bunch of Engineers who have no real knowledge of Fleet Operations. Now, maybe the Line Locker at NR plays into the training and exam standards but guess what? The Line Locker is Fleet served Officers who are going back to the Fleet.

8/21/2011 4:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"NR doesn't set the standard for exams or training, the Fleet does."

Really, now? And who wrote the EDM...the Easter Bunny?

8/21/2011 4:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Really, now? And who wrote the EDM...the Easter Bunny?"

Wrote it or approved it? NR approved it, but the training sections were not written there.

8/21/2011 6:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep reading these stories about the current state of affairs with respect to training and realize with a sad shake of my head that things have only gotten WORSE since I left the submarine force a long time ago.

I personally saw the amount of paperwork that I filled out as the EOOW triple in my sea tour and that was just to start the damn reactor up under normal circumstances....the training paperwork was exploding at the same time as well.

Luckily we did not have the BEQ or other exams that are mentioned on this blog - what is a CTE?? Never heard of that one...I guess I should be grateful for my ignorance.

I do remember back in the day people being worried about the passing average and dictating that a certain number of people should fail. So that bullshit has been happening for at least three decades by my personal count. Nothing new would think that we would have eventually come the conclusion that mandatory compliance with a bell curve testing regimen is going to cause more problems than it ever was going to solve.

My CO had a personal policy of putting his most junior officers in the crucible of ORSE. He must have had a strong backbone when me and the other two nub ORSE EOOW's tanked the test! What the fuck was that all about on the exam??!!?? And do not even get me started on the ORSE interview...MF wanted me to describe for him the reactions of the plant during an emergency start-up....dude, other than latch and snatch, there is not much to say if you are in such extremis that you are actually doing that reactor procedure!!

Fast forward three years and my second CO had the policy of loading the deck with the most experienced EOOW's. This time around I nailed the test/interview, but was greatly helped by my PNEO experience.

Training is a necessary evil. But all to often it assumed a life of its own and that led to unintended consequence, normally BAD. The few times we were honest about the training and focused on what we needed to know to make the plant run things were fine. It was when we deviated to meet some "goal" that we usually got ourselves into trouble.


8/21/2011 6:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wrote it or approved it? NR approved it, but the training sections were not written there."

I would point out that the CO on most boats does not literally write the CO Standing Orders on most ships either. Nor does the ENG literally write his standing orders. But they still come from him.

I'm pretty sure this does not work:
ORSE: Hey, ENG your Standing Orders violate the RPM
ENG: Oh, not my fault, the MPA wrote that one. I just signed it.

NAVSEAS08/COMSUBFOR/CJCS/WHOEVER need to get their dicks out of each other's asses and actually fix something for once.

8/21/2011 6:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...and actually fix something for once."

Best Bill Lumbergh voice from Office Space: "Mmmmmmm, yeahhh...I'm gonna need you to (fill-in-the-blank)."

But tell me, do you think this fix-it process will somehow vary from the one-boat-at-at-time, whack-a-mole process that's been in place for decades, just like the bell curve system approach? Count me doubtful of anything less than more TPS reports.

People do what they know and are comfortable with, and the status quo is a known quantity. "It is what it is" has never applied more.

8/21/2011 11:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog series reminds of the 5% of guys who sit on the mess decks complaining about how boat life sucks while 95% of the guys are busting their butts standing watch, fixing stuff, or studying. I have spent 20+ years on the boats and on the inspection teams and anyone who takes a real objective look knows that we are running an outstanding organization. We are meeting the mission and have an excellent operational and nuclear track record. For those of you with nothing better to do, enjoy poking fun at this post. I wish I could respond, but I have to go to sea tomorrow to do the real work. Shut up and move on to real problems like shrinking budgets, integrating females, and a rising threat from the western pacific.

8/22/2011 1:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an RCLPO when NR posted the "guidance" about what divisional and department exams should score at. Going through crew combine prior to decommissioning I was constantly being told that my division's scores were too high and the tests were too easy. We had a Big Johnson EDMC there was no cheating on the tests, but guys took notes and actually spent time to study. The breaking point was when the RCA was the token failure, he was so busy working on ship's quails and OOD stuff, he didn't have time to review and scored low or failed regularly. A division of nine including me, had 4 first classes, and six of us qualified EWS. We routinely crushed the department exams, and the ORSE LOK exams, because squadron sent out messages of what were hot topics, and we made a LOK notebook and guys studied it. There will always be cheating on exams, but not everyone cheats.

8/22/2011 6:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Salty One - this is a blog with a 50/50 mix of active and separated commenters. We don't all have to accept "it is what it is."

If you don't like the discussion, shut up and leave yourself. Your comments aren't adding much anyway at this point.

You can see from the previous threads that many of the separated folks have gone on to do very well for themselves, and you should be happy to receive their perspective on points for improvement in the sub force. After 20+ years on boats and ORSE teams, you can be sure that your own perspective is thoroughly inward-looking, and that you've lost the ability to think critically about the shortcomings of the organization.

NR/PAC/LANT can't control gays, women or budgets. What they can control is the depth and frequency of self-inflicted wounds which drive the most talented people out of the service. That's what you should be focusing on, rather than your training binder.

Lastly - you may find it acceptable that the sub force has had ~5 groundings, gundecked primary plant chemistry adds, a couple blown diesels, cheating scandals, ~3 collisions (1 fatal) and several allisions over the last decade,but not everyone would agree. These operational problems are a symptom of structural problems in the way the sub force is run, and that's what is being discussed here.

8/22/2011 7:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With a little luck, some higher ups are reading this thread with a smile on their face and the right attitude, which is to say: "Wow, look at all this crap...where's the pony in this barn?"

So here's a few meant-to-be constructive suggestions:

* ^^Actually train naval officers and CPOs on how to be top-shelf trainers rather than relying on the process of osmosis to (hopefully) convey this information.^^ One of my biggest come-to-Jesus moments as a LCDR was the realization that my job -- aside from becoming the best possible 1120 -- was to be a (gag me with a fork)...teacher. While there's certainly some things to appreciate in it -- being able to set the training agenda probably being at the top -- in all honesty, I very sincerely resented this role at the time, as I felt woefully unprepared for it, completely 'bilged' by the dogshit-quality way-too-manual system I'd inherited, and...last but certainly not least...I felt that the Navy had pulled a massive bait 'n switch on me in terms of being being a schoolhouse nanny versus an operator. I did not like it, Sam I Am...but with years of perspective since the experience, I have ZERO doubt that it was the I-ate-the-dogfood-and-you-can-too mentality that creates and recreates the worst aspects of the Navy 'training' experience.

* ^^Hire some consultants and create a 'real' cross-platform nuclear training system.^^ Most importantly, actually listen to what they come up with and be willing to admit to shortcomings. How do I, a many years out ex-nuke know it's still a mess? By reading here of the use of Excel spreadsheets to digitize the bell curve dogshit.

* ^^Get involved. Stop sticking your head in the sand; you KNOW what's going on out helped invent it!^^ Conduct both announced and unannounced proctored LOK exams for the nukes on a more frequent basis outside of the purview of ORSE, which should focus almost exclusively on the Big O -- OPERATIONS -- not 'gotcha' oolies on best admin practices in the pinky-extended paper-chase ballet.

Just a couple of freebies off the top of my head.

Final note for overly-defensive types: I don't think anyone who didn't care would take the time to post here, including the invocations via intentionally provocative comments like "it is what it is." If that sounds defeatist, maybe it will sound a call to battle for those who can and should fix the big pic problems -- including, let's face it, morale -- that have clearly been out there for decades.

Semper Fidelis.

8/22/2011 9:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I have had the joy of taking qual exams on a CVN. There was some "Can you rephrase this in the form of an answer" but for the most part, pretty honest. More of an issue with CTEs than qual exams. Bigger problem was the RO who was going to sign off on a MM1's board because she used her reenlistment bonus for a boob job (seriously) If the new RO hadn't been in there, the old perv would have qual'd the hot idiot.

8/22/2011 9:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After I got out I did some teaching in the Civilian World. Training is expensive and is supposed to have a purpose. The goal is for the students to meet the standard, all of them. If any student failed, I was looked at as the source of the problem because I wasn't teaching the material. What I found is the less gouge given and the more I challenged the class, the better they did (I used pretty much the same exam class to class).

Setting a percentage of failures is asking for real problems. Set a standard, and if your training is good everyone tested will meet or exceed the standard.

It turns out class attitude and expectations seem to effect exam performance more than anything else. Setting up a percentage of your people for failure and remediation when they are perfectly able watchstanders sends a message that the beatings will continue, abandon all hope ye who enter here. That's counter productive and wasteful of time better spent on actual maintenance or running drills, or god forbid some sleep (look up the studies on sleep deprevation on decision making.)

Set a standard, train to a standard, test to a standard. If you are doing it right, you will have 100% passing.

8/22/2011 10:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you are doing it right, you will have 100% passing."

To play Devil's Advocate for a moment, there's a credible argument that the above is a fine academic standard, but a piss-poor one when it comes to combatant operations.

Part of the not-so-hidden agenda of "someone must fail" approach is to provide a pathway for conducting a bottom blow of the ship's consistently worst performers. Arguably, this is a 'need' in order to avoid hazarding a vessel's operations by way of tolerating mediocrity and, worst-case, malingering.

There is no similar need in the world of academia, which is paid by its attendees for an education, not an attitudinal kick in the ass, even when deserved...much less any reasonable threat to human life by way of 'failure.'

The business world does periodic bottow blows too, in its own way. Oracle Corporation, for instance, routinely fires its bottom-% employees in order to free up the overall system to improve.

Not to give the Devil a free-throw when it comes to the status-quo on training nukes, but this is a reasonable argument for the method to the madness.

8/22/2011 11:09 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

That is the world for bureaucratic cowards...the worst kind of leaders you want in a foxhole with you...that is the roll of sailor evaluations.

8/22/2011 11:43 AM

Anonymous t said...

That would be a valid argument, except for the system does not even sort of work that way. The navy kicks people out mostly for dui and being fat. Everyone wink wink nod nod knows that exam failures are meaningless because cheating is rampant, as is doctoring the grades to get the necessary distributions in the situations where cheating is not rampant.

There should be somme form of concrete regulatory standard that applies to nukes fleet wide that all nukes must meet. It should be clear, concise and focus on verifying that operators are safe operators. There are plenty of other ways to break people out for separation if that's what the navy wants to do. (Of course this is not really an option in most nuke rates in most years anyway)

8/22/2011 11:45 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Yep, it is hard to transform a large organizations. Most times you can't from inside no matter how hard you try. So why don't you get a senior officer (with permission) to talk to the New York Times...that knows what he is talking about. Who know what the NYT's will accept for stories now a days. Tell them the intimate details of the problem, let them see it for themselves...then the power of the NYT's, all the civilians, the resultant actions of our political system comes in and helps you transform...along with the inside player themselves. By your actions you just might transform the whole nation!

The outcome is look at the new admirable Navy. They voluntarily discuss intimate problems to the nation, show their sins, make a commitment to change and then do change. Honor, Integrity and Truthfulness to the nation is behind it all. The Navy cares about what service they do in the name of the nation and they really care about the people who man this complicated technology. With all this cheating and lack of truthfulness out in the civilian world...maybe we should all aspire to be like the military.

Actually, I think all of the military should be what the rest of the nation aspires to be...Honor, Integrity and Truthfulness. Our military has always set our nation standards on ethics...we always looked up to our military leaders to inspire us to be better people.

Don't you wish the rest of the nation was like the Navy...?

Don't you wish the rest of the nation was like the Navy...?

I thinks the kids seeing this (and their parents) would want to join the Navy....?

8/22/2011 12:31 PM

Anonymous Cupojoe said...

I remember how we were trained to make aggressive use of our exam proctors. They used to say "if you're unsure what the question is asking, make sure you get clarification from the proctor." We used to get pretty crafty in asking the right question of the proctor to head down the right path on the exam.

My favorite inquiry to the proctor at prototype: "I'm not exactly certain what this question is asking when it says 'What are the loads on 2SB.'"

8/22/2011 4:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a couple of posters have mentioned, the training admin monster is not just back aft. This crap has become entrenched up forward also. Fortunately, being the fighting end of the boat, we go more with the "if you're not cheting, you're not trying"!

"it is what it is" was the smartest thing typed so far.

8/22/2011 8:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Don't you wish the rest of the nation was like the Navy...?"

OH Fu$% all - NO!

8/22/2011 8:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Training has usually been a joke unless you are a new guy to the boat, or a new guy in EOOW/EWS quals. There is so much shit to memorize and learn. The work load other than exams is already a struggle. It is an impossible feat.

I understand our knowledge is important, but a lot of our training is to know where to find it, not necessarily the exact answer. Then you get the exam and you have to know the entire damn procedure.

The IAs are important and knowing key parts of OIs and OPs are beneficial, but when taking a retest is hinged on knowing half of the book, you will have people cheating because when you work 12 hours a day, the last thing you want to do is work 2 more, or lose out on sleep on a duty day.

They are seriously looking past the obvious answer on this one. Most sailors aren't lazy. As long as QA and other maintenance is completed SAT, I could care less about exams because I have seen that even guys who cheat still learn a lot and when it comes down to crunch time they perform admirably.

8/22/2011 8:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malcontents on submarines? Here is the latest: Cory Dion Caldwell.

Cops: Navy sailor charged in Conn. 'disgruntled'

R Hurley

8/23/2011 1:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

AK-47 and a few stout pistols in his house. Nice black eye for the 761... I wonder if it was a Springfield rifle, LOL!

8/23/2011 3:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:08 PM

Not a black eye for the CO and crew of the 761 at all. Wait! Could I be wrong about a relatively recent policy requiring some sort of high-level, eye-to-eye contact with enlisteds to periodically ascertain stability and fitness, perhaps something to do with suicide prevention? Hmmm. Could definitely be a black eye. Good bye COB, CO, etc.

G Foster

8/23/2011 3:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe MM3 was the designated failure for his division's training exam and he didn't like that?

8/23/2011 4:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stay off the f@#$ing boats."

This is a policy that is serving me quite well so far!

8/23/2011 5:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

AK-47 and a few stout pistols in his house. Nice black eye for the 761... I wonder if it was a Springfield rifle, LOL!

Maybe you mean a black eye for a leftist state - one that prohibits even members of the military from possessing firearms. Precisely why I refuse to work, live or vacation in some of those northeastern cesspools.

8/23/2011 6:04 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

or lose out on sleep on a duty day.

You got to sleep on duty days?

And seriously, a semi-auto rifle is somehow going to drive the CT cops apoplectic? God help them if they ever came up to NH.

It always amazes me that in CT and MA, you can't own weapons that are manufactured in those states. (Colt in CT, Springfield in MA.)

8/23/2011 7:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cry about gun laws in CT all you want, if he had 'gone postal' on upper base by the NEX instead of being arrested you'd be singing a different tune. From the article, his anti-government rhetoric was strong enough to get a buddy so concerned as to rat him out. He clearly knew he was breaking the law to bring the AK into CT.

We may have dodged Our own submarine version of the Army's Ft Hood tragedy. We will probably never know but better safe than sorry I say.

8/23/2011 8:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the nukes I served with mere malcontents, it is one of the requirements to becoming a nuke. Suck it up and do your time. You volunteered for it.

8/23/2011 8:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little late to the thread, but have a little different take, my guys (from the time I was Eng thru CO) always complained about the time to 'prep the ttraining binder for routing'. They always wanted to make it pretty, re-type the whole damn thing. I wanted it dog eared and coffee stained and used. I wanted to see the Div O and Chief comments scrawledd in the book. I wanted them to comment that the last training was crap or that it was presented well. I'd rather see them use a white/chalk board and explain a concept vice recycle an old inappropriate powerpoint. Get an old piece part and tear it apart, really find out how it is made an how to fix it. That's much better than the BS you are hearing on the board about training binders and failure rates. The inertia was incredible. Couldn't get the Chiefs to do it. I always said the Chiefs hated to route the training binder, not because of the admin burden which is pervasive on this thread, but rather it exposes the fact the tthey didn't spend the time to EFFECTIVELY train their division and the CO was going to crap on them for it.

8/24/2011 5:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will probably never know but better safe than sorry I say.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

8/24/2011 6:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suck it up and do your time. You volunteered for it.

I did. All six years of it. Now I'm reaping the benefits: $200+k/year.

8/24/2011 6:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I always said the Chiefs hated to route the training binder, not because of the admin burden which is pervasive on this thread, but rather it exposes the fact (that they) didn't spend the time to EFFECTIVELY train their division and the CO was going to crap on them for it."

Close...real close...but no cigar, skipper. No doubt you're onto something, but the bigger picture regarding submarine training is that it sucks so much, you'd just as soon crap on yourself as deal with the training program process.

Who EVER got a serious, lasting attaboy from routing the training binder? It's a one-way shit pump...and as we all know, it flows downhill.

The derisive 'admin' label fits as well. It's just a shitty way to run the show.

Seriously, ask yourself: if training is so important (and of course, doing it RIGHT is), why does it take a (hated!) training binder to communicate what's going on?

"The beatings will continue until morale improves" should be emblazoned on every ship's training binder.

8/24/2011 7:31 AM

Blogger Below Decks Watch said...

If the idiot had just bought an AR-15, there wouldn't have been a problem with him having it. *Excluding certain features on the rifle of course because Connecticut is so damned paranoid about rifles.*

8/24/2011 8:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The training binder is the modern-day flog. That simple.

Things could be worse. And are.

Everything's relative.

8/24/2011 9:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the roll of sailor evaluations."

Worst. Midrats. Ever.

8/24/2011 12:44 PM

Anonymous Former Squadron Rider said...

“They always wanted to make it pretty, re-type the whole damn thing. I wanted it dog eared and coffee stained and used. I wanted to see the Div O and Chief comments scrawledd in the book. I wanted them to comment that the last training was crap or that it was presented well.”

Uh, Skipper. Did you ever tell the Chiefs or more importantly the Department Heads or REALLY more importantly the XO that? If the Chiefs "wanted" to take the time to make it pretty, they probably thought they "had" to take the time to make it pretty.

8/24/2011 10:06 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

We may have dodged Our own submarine version of the Army's Ft Hood tragedy. We will probably never know but better safe than sorry I say.

Look at CT's violent crime rate. Look at NH's.

'Nuff said.

Oh, and I doubt it--unless the kid was named Abdo, Hasan, or Akbar, or other good "Irish" names like that. All the CT cops have done is simply reinforced the kids (IMO whacked) opinions.

Flame away.

8/25/2011 1:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not gonna flame ya, sparky...but have to throw a flag on the over-generalization play.

The sub force has a high quality officer with the last name Al-Jihad these days, as one example.

Easy mistake to make...but unnecessary.

8/26/2011 7:40 AM

Blogger Below Decks Watch said...

fyi: One bad falafel can push someone over the edge.

8/27/2011 11:27 AM

Anonymous Squidward said...

That poor bastard. I can only imagine being an ENS named Al-Jihad in 2001-2002. That he got his dolphins and went on to a successful ENG tour makes him worthy of huge respect. He must either have balls of steel or an amazing sense of humor.

8/27/2011 2:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm told that he much enjoyed wardroom viewings of "Team America: World Police." Kinda says it all.

8/27/2011 2:26 PM

Anonymous pauljose said...

Durka Durka Durka!!!!

8/28/2011 2:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?"

8/28/2011 5:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Still say our little Aganger could have turned into a tragedy.

8/28/2011 7:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I have never heard of the Team America movie.

After looking it up it seems like it was hilarious. Puppets!? Thanks for the tip. I will be watching it.

9/01/2011 2:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I have never heard of the Team America movie.

After looking it up it seems like it was hilarious. Puppets!? Thanks for the tip. I will be watching it.

9/01/2011 2:24 PM

Anonymous Derka Derka said...

''Team America' is entirely on YouTube these days as well.

Here's Part 1 of 10.

Not one for the kiddos, BTW.

9/08/2011 5:52 PM

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