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Would an idea derived from some old piece of research be useful for attacking a present day problem and be considered “a new idea”?

One such intriguing piece of submarine officer research done in 1954 — which is here resurrected — may or may not apply in the changed circumstances of our submarine Navy, a Navy which is now heavily computerized, nuclear power oriented and with a fundamentally different major mission– ASW. Still, human problems which seem more difficult to get a handle on than technical ones, appear to be repetitive enough to suggest that what seemed reasonable in a 1954 submarine Navy of diesel boats might still have some application to today1s fire-control jobs changed as they’ve been over a thirty-year period.

The 1954 study used the scores of an officer’s five aptitudes to determine his efficiency in five fire-control jobs. The aptitude marks were, at that time, filed in every officer’s record and were readily available to evaluate the performance of Submarine School officers in their tactical course.

The Sub School test-population was chosen because of the consistently high motivation of each officer throughout his 26-week course, thus reducing the overall effect of motivation on the marks achieved in doing any of the five firecontrol jobs. As shown on a Form 318, the five self-descriptive aptitudes in battery were Verbal Reasoning, Mathematical Reasoning, Mechanical Reasoning, Spatial Relations and Relative Movement. In other similar aptitudes-for-job studies (as in the famous Harvard experiments) it was recognized that the motivation of particular individuals had played a greater part in job success than the inherent capabilities of the individual.

The five fire-control jobs examined were: Torpedo Data Computer (TDC), Dive, Sonar, Manual Plot and Assistant TDC. Why it might be valuable to derive an aptitude profile for each job made good sense in 1954. Then, another war was believed to involve the rapid construction of large numbers of submarines. Their consequent manning by a high percentage of inexperienced submarine officers might thus involve insufficient training time to master any or all of these jobs before exposure to torpedo attacks against an enemy. The placement of inexperienced officers in the fire-control team, using their aptitude scores, promised a more efficient way to maximize team effectiveness.

Two successive Submarine School (Officers) classes, (170 officers in two classes), were evaluated, with the fire-control job ratings of each student matched to his aptitudes. The correlations derived are shown:

TABLE 1 Correlations Between Fire-Control Jobs and Aptitudes of Submarine School Officers Combined Classes

View full article for table data

These correlations appeared to be very good compared to other attempts to provide a job description, based on aptitudes alone. The dominating importance of Relative Movement in four out of the five jobs, suggested that officers with a high score in Relative Movement might excel in the Sub School tactical courses.

Significantly, the average aptitude marks of the students in the two classes evaluated were quite high — with Relative Movement closest to being “average.” These scores are shown in the following table:

View full article for table data

These students were the result of a screening process — with more than double the number of volunteers to those actually selected for Submarine School. The candidates had had at least two years of service — mainly in the fleet — had been recommended by their Commanding Officers, and were for the most part qualified Officers of the Deck. This latter factor could have had a significant impact on the Relative Movement scores of the two classes tested — since low Relative Movement scores seem likely to have influenced OOD qualification.

Shortly after the above results were made known, the selection for the next officer’s class at Sub School, of those candidates “in the gray area” — those without outstanding fitness reports or recommendations, but not easily rejected — was made on the basis of having high Relative Movement scores. At the conclusion of that Sub School class. the Commander of the Submarine School reported that “they were the stars or their class in the Attack Teacher.” The same selection process was used for the next Sub School class and a similar report or success in the Attack Teacher was recorded, for those officers specially selected because of their high Relative Movement aptitude.

Had the U.S. gone to war in 1954, a quick differential-placing of submarine officers at the five fire control positions could have been made, using the “weighting factors” (Table III) applied to an officer’s aptitudes to derive an overall score.

View full article for table data

Although today’s nuclear submarine firecontrol team has little semblance to the 1954 diesel-boat team, there might be wartime situations which could benefit from a recognition of an officer’s aptitude profile. A sabotaging or a submarine’s computer system, a temporary loss of auxiliary electrical power, war damage to the fire control system, or a rapid construction of some less sophisticated type or submarine for replacement of losses, might reintroduce aptitudes into the “war-fighting” equation. Best placement of officers for prior training in these emergencies might be done this way.

Breaking off a war patrol because of outages of the fire-control system is not an acceptable solution — particularly in light of the great dependence placed on submarines to achieve decisive results early in a conflict.

Naval Submarine League

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