In the April 2003 edition of this magazine, I reported on the submarine force’s new approach to tactical training. Since then, Sailors have been asking, OK -What’s in it for me?
To recap the April article, the essence of this new approach is that the submarine Type Commander staffs define what is important and what the expected performance is for each evolution and task. This is accomplished through the use of published attribute sheets. The Tactical Readiness Evaluation teams (during Tactical Readiness Evaluations) and Squadron staffs (during Basic Submarining Assessments and Pre-Overseas Movement Certifications) use these published sheets to measure performance. 1 As a result, for those appropriate evolutions, operational effectiveness is determined by a combination of performance (time for fire hose, off-track error, etc.) and the degree of procedural compliance. This contrasts with previous methods that did not quantitatively define performance expectations and relied almost solely on measuring the degree of procedural compliance.
The benefit to the Sailors is a dramatic improvement in training efficiency. All ships have essentially the same amount of time to dedicate to training. Yet, given this constraint, some ships demonstrate significantly higher levels of operational effectiveness than others. Those ships utilize their training hours more efficiently. Another benefit to the Sailor is standardization among boats, squadrons, and forces. Now, when a Sailor transfers among ships, his emphasis and focus should be easily transferable, making the transition more smooth for both Sailor and ship.
Based on our observations during Tactical Readiness Evaluations, training is most efficient when it is operationally oriented and clearly focused on specific objectives. This is the vision espoused by the Submarine Readiness Manual.
“Operational” refers to practical performance. Typically, this means a drill, evolution, or walk-through. However, operational could also mean that a seminar has an output or product -for example, the Temporary Standing Order, or naval message that would be appropriate for a certain scenario.
“Focused” means the team understands what is important and what the standards of expected performance are. This is where the attribute sheets, along with the standards, can be of tremendous value. They define what is important (as defined by the Type Commanders) and what the performance standards are. These can be directly useful for any training session.
Ships that tell their teams ahead of time what to focus on (the critical attributes) and what the standards are will evoke better performance from their teams. Beyond (or instead of) tracking overall attribute sheet scores, ships may choose to focus on one or more of the critical attributes. The benefit to quantitatively defined attributes is that they can be tracked, graphed, and analyzed. Performance can be analyzed by watch section, initial condition, or any number of other parameters.
Since the mechanics of recording and displaying the performance data can become an administrative burden, it is important to select only the most critical attributes to measure.
The key at this point is what the ship does with this data. When performance falls short of the standard, the ships that do well will gain an intimate knowledge of their process and figure out how to change that process for sustained and permanent improvement. Exhortations and repeated training will lead to short-term gains only. Performance will quickly return to the mean for that team unless the process is changed. This is the net result of “That was bad, do it again.”
The requirement for sustained improvement is to modify the process. Consider the initial fire hose response for a fire. Gaining an intimate knowledge of that process may require standing next to the fire hose and following its deployment, or alternatively, standing next to the ship’s assigned responders and closely monitoring their behavior.
One side note while on this issue: having watched many ships respond to fires, it seems to me that a fragile system results when the fire hose response is the responsibility of the “rapid response team.” Unexpected events can result in significant degradation of performance. On the other hand, a robust system results when the crew, as a whole, considers it their responsibility to respond with the fire hoses. Then, if an assigned responder becomes unavailable, there is little degradation in performance.
By following the responders and the hose, the ship’s leadership understands where the bottlenecks are, and where the most time is lost. The result is assignment of different personnel, reapportionment of equipment or responsibilities, or training on the optimal sequencing of events (hose to adjacent compartment, breathing protection on while pressurizing, test hose and advance into the affected compartment).
The benefits of this type of focused, operational training are apparent on chart I. Chart I shows the time to get a pressurized fire hose to a fire during Tactical Readiness Evaluations. Over the past 18 months an improving trend is evident.
The long-tenn objective of this transformation is to make the ships significantly more efficient at training. This is accomplished by the force leadership publishing what they think is important for each task and what they think the standards will be. The benefit is that the Sailor on the deckplate should know what to focus on for a particular evolution and what is expected of him. For trainers. once the expected performance is attained, effort can be shifted to other areas where performance comes short of expectations. This will result in more effective training at the Sailor level, as Sailors learn to focus on the operationally significant attributes. It will also result in more effective training at the unit level, as trainers allocate training time to the evolutions that most require improvement.