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The article “Fast Attack Refit Crews”  in the January 1993  SUBMARINE REVIEW posed a realistic option for the submarine force.  There is a multitude of benefits to this program.   Our Congress and  military structure would be well advised to listen to the many ideas that are brainstormed by all ranks.  In massaging the above mentioned proposal other possibili-ties arise that should be contemplated and debated.  Obviously, any idea must be fiscally responsible and easy to implement.

As our 154 submarine crews dwindle to 100 crews, approxi-mately 6000 submariners will be left without a future in the Navy. One benefit of the downsizing is that we will be able to reduce expenditures on personnel. However, let us assume that the Department of the Navy can keep 1 out of every 6 submariners that faces the chopping block. That will still reduce our force down to 70 percent of present personnel levels and leave 1000 extra submariners. That equates to 10 more crew members for each ship. The following scenario applies specifically to fast attack crews, so spread the 1000 submariners over 80 SSNs and each ship will have about 13 qualified and trained bodies. (Even more as the 80 SSNs drops to 60.)

The supplemental crew will be assigned to fast attacks with the intention of keeping 13 crew members ashore for~ underway. Essentially, this happens periodically anyway when additional ‘riders’ depart with the ship. Some crew members stay ashore and either are required to take leave or spend unproductive time with the squadron. The crux of this proposition is to implement a method to allow this time to be beneficial. This time will be supervised by a chief and an officer off the ship. Specific goals will be tasked. Thirteen personnel can accomplish significant amounts if given proper direction.

This is a list of some of the positive aspects of this proposal:

  • Administrative tasks performed efficiently by personnel that are not 6 on and 12 off watchstanding with drills, training and maintenance to perform. These tasks include: ordering parts and having them available for scheduled maintenance when the ship returns, having work packages written and ready to go, preparing training outlines, having tagouts for maintenance in standby. etc. This allows the crew at sea to concentrate on drills and qualifications.
  • Incentive to Only those Qualified ln Submarines can be left ashore for the underway.
  • Forces watchstation gyals and As different members of each division are left inport the rest of the division will be exposed to different watchstations. Instead of being a lower level engine room watchstander for a year. MM3 Smith will get a chance to rotate to the upper level watch and will be pressured to qualify on additional watchstations. This applies to officers and battlestation responsibilities. In over three years. I only stood two different battlestation watches. This system will inherently force the ship to be a better war fighting machine.
  • Exposes all division members to all aspects of the division. If the petty officer staying inport for a certain division is required to order parts, then he must learn how to be a Repair Parts Petty Officer (RPPO). The same is true for quality assurance {QA) packages, etc. All collateral duties will soon be easily passed between divisional members. The dilemma emerges when 2 RPPO logs are required. One log is on the ship and one is on shore. That is a minor issue.
  • Forces responsibility downward. Commands are always reluctant to let a chief stay inport especially the Machinery Division or Auxiliary Division chief. This systems ensures that everyone will eventually be left on the pier. This forces the first class Leading Petty Officer {LPO) in every division to test his leadership and management ability. This can only better prepare him for being a chief. Overall, the entire ship will be better prepared for the next rank.
  • Forces tbe mana&ers to plan All paperwork will still need to be routed through the chain of command. This forces the division to plan one underway period in advance. The inport section will be working on the projects for the next inport period. The packages and tagouts for the current upkeep will be routed through the chain while the boat is underway.
  • Allows flexibility for leave and scbools. This is primarily for inport periods or it defeats the purpose of having an inport section.
  • Additional crew for inport periods. lnport periods are the most labor intensive. This system will add bodies to the watchbill allowing for at least a four section duty rotation which will immediately improve morale. I know a nuclear trained ET2 that was better than 1 in 3 duty over a 4 year sea tour. That was his primary reason for leaving the Navy.
  • Provides a measure for evaluation pumoses. This system gives the CPO and department head an excellent method to gauge his division/department. He assigns specific tasks to the inport section and the tasks will either be completed or not completed when the boat pulls in.
  • Improves morale. For all of the above reasons morale should improve. If the XO and COB rotate personnel in each division properly, then the inport section proposal will make sure everyone is better trained and able to ‘get away’ from the ship periodically.
  • Better retention of well-rounded oersonnel. As morale improves, retention will improve proportionally. This is not necessarily a goal, but no one can refute keeping highly trained sailors as a benefit.
  • Easy to implement. No transition period or added cost is required for the system as stated.

The only aspect not mentioned is where does the inport section perform the assigned tasks. This is the part than can cost money. Some possibilities are available without additional cost. Allocate current classrooms off the tender or a base complex to the boats . The most preferable solution will take a capital outlay.

Buy a series of trailers to be put on base for the boats to use. Close to the pier is optimal, but not essential . One or two boats could be assigned to a trailer. Those ships would ‘own’ that space and be accountable for it. The added benefit of having a trailer gives the ship flexibility of having more space. While the ship is inport, it can be another location for divisional training. An off-hull trailer is a much better location for training than crew’s mess during a weapon loading evolution. A trailer will also give the engineer more room to store the multitudes of pub I ications that are required.

Boats in the shipyard already utilize trailers (or barges). This is essential due to the condition of the ship at the time. A barge has, however, proven to be very useful regardless of the state of the ship.

Overall, this system provides a method of maintaining a well-trained crew with higher morale and better integrative knowledge. That seems to be what every service is going to be striving for in these lean years.

This may not be the answer to helping the submarine force downsize through the 1990s. There are many benefits, but Congress may want to put all 6000 submariners on the unemploy-ment line. A point that transcends this proposal is that this idea and others like it discussed in wardrooms and periodicals must be debated at the proper level. Our service is known for its intelli-gence. Intellect and creativity are what we are going to have to rely on in order to make the best from what will be a challenging future.

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