“Pride Runs Deep”, “Fearless UnderwaJer Commie Killen”, “Ain~ no Sllll:k in Fast Alttlck”; these and other T-shirt and bumper sticker slogans bespeak the image our Submarine Force wants to project — professional, tough, and ready to win the fight. But the real issue is manning vs. training vs. habitability vs. retention. Sounds a little like the line-up for a television tag team wrestling match.
In a recent article in The Dolohin. Submarine Base New London’s weekly newspaper, the commissioning crew of USS PASADENA. (SSN 752) shows 15 officers and 17 CPO’s in a crew of 136 – a tremendous corps of leadership and experience to guide our most advanced hardware and the fleet’s finest people.
The improved 688 class has berthing for 12 officers and 12 CPO’s. This is where the trouble starts. The augmented crew concept for manning our SSNs presents us with the dilemma of having plenty of people but a desire to take too many of them to sea.
Junior officers reporting on board are motivated, trained in the fundamentals and anxious to see what the “REAL NAVY” is all about. A sense of belonging to their first boat is something we all remember. The young division officer on an SSN will usually bunk with the crew for his first year on board. The junior CPO who is desperately seeking his new identity will also bunk with the troops. No room in the wardroom and CPO quarters puts these important members of the crew where they don’t belong, “BUT ITS ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY.”
The trickle down effect of this is that there isn’t room for the crew to berth so the overflow goes to the torpedo room, or hot bunking is used – a tough situation, “BUT WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT THAT WAY.” We must take enough crew to make up a watchbill. That fills up the boat. We must take our junior non-quais to sea so that they can learn and qualify and we have to take midshipmen, YIP’s, squadron staff, and inspectors. “THATS THE WAY ITS ALWAYS BEEN.”
It’s a hard enough life for a young unqualified submariner to saddle up for a major deployment without having to sleep in the torpedo room on a skid bunk and live out of his seabag. Is it any wonder our Career Counselors are meeting resistance? That retention is low?
This scenario is not the way it has to be, it’s the way we have let if become. It’s time to practice what we teach; foresight and good management. Let’s look at future manning requirements with a realistic eye and specify the design of our new boats to accommodate the crew we must take to sea.
We demand that our people be: professionals, loyal and dedicated. Can we be any less dedicated in our efforts to provide the best for them.
Bill G. Elrod