OOD Competency Checks: Obtaining a Fix on Fleet Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling

By Capt. Scott Robertson
Commanding officer, Surface Warfare Officers School Command

In the wake of the 2017 fatal collisions involving USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) , now is the time to assess surface warfare officers’ individual training and certifications to ensure we have it right, adjust as necessary and identify areas that will make us better surface warriors. As the surface warfare community works diligently to implement the recommendations from the Strategic Readiness Review and Comprehensive Review , Surface Warfare Officers School is reviewing how we train our officers and collecting information on their navigation, seamanship and shiphandling skills sets. One way we are gathering this data is through the officer of the deck (OOD) competency checks.

Two weeks ago in San Diego, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet partnered with Surface Warfare Officer School and Navigation, Seamanship and Ship Handling Training (NSST) San Diego to carry out the first set of OOD checks. A SWOS post-command assessor conducted checks on 40 officers representing 10 different ships and four ship classes. The checks focused on OOD-qualified first tour division officers, randomly selected from ships in port. Over the next couple months, SWOS will continue to work with the type commanders and NSSTs to conduct checks in other fleet concentration areas. SAN DIEGO (Jan. 31, 2018) Officer of the Deck, Ens. Zachary David Hirsch, checks a monitor from the bridge in a navigation, seamanship and ship-handling trainer during a simulated evolution to evaluate the proficiency of the officer of the deck. These competency checks are designed to inform Commander, Naval Surface Forces, and Surface Warfare Officers School, on where training gaps lie between classroom and real world application at sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lenny LaCrosse/Released) Let me attempt to answer a couple questions that came up during a discussion I had with major commanders in San Diego:

What do these checks provide for the SWO community?
First and foremost, the OOD checks will give us a sizeable dataset (~200 officers) by assessing mariner skills proficiency across all fleet concentration areas and multiple ship classes. The dataset, which is roughly 10 percent of the fleet’s inventory of OODs, will allow us to identify fleet-wide strengths and weaknesses in watch standing performance and in mariner skills training. We believe the data will identify community-wide training effectiveness and isolate how we can deliver better training to future SWOs. These competency checks will give our community the line of position and, when coupled with the results of the Bridge Resource Management workshops, Ready for Sea Assessments and several other ongoing initiatives will inform course changes for our community in 2018 and beyond.

While collecting this data, I would be remiss if I did not inform the individual officer and their ship’s commanding officer of personal and ship-wide respective performance. Each officer is provided an on-station debrief at the conclusion of the scenario, and the ship’s CO is provided an end-of-day report that […]