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Subject: Comment on the PCO trail – CDR Mike Bernacchi, USN
Ref: NSL Review of October 2005; page 119

Commander Bernacchi in his article A LITTLE CLOSER LOOK AT TODAY’S SUBMARINE OFFICER FOR OUR SUBMARINE FOREFATHERS makes the statement that today’s Submarine Officers are highly skilled in Nuclear Engineering and Navigation
This is true: but I see a lack of an ingredient that has been lost in the Submarine Force. This ingredient is BASIC SEAMANSHIP.

The submarine officer is limited by a lack of training in seamanship, rules of the road, piloting and ship handling. It seems to me that the heavy reliance and the breakdown of the Navigation Team has resulted in some avoidable incidents.

I spend a year in Destroyers in the Gunnery Department and had the duties of Boat Officer, Division Officer, qualified as an OOD and observed the Breeches Buoy, Fueling at Sea and Ship handling, Navigation, and other Sea going operations.

In early days of Diesel Boating I had the pleasure of piloting, ship handling and that of a department head. I would never have entered a harbor without a local chart and a good feel for the territory before relieving the 000.

I know that the Airedale Navy had their pilots stand deck watches at sea as JOOD when the 000 was a LTJG and the JOOD was a LCDR.

I propose that short tour on a surface craft be part of the Command Path for Submariners.

As an example in the case of SAN FRANCISCO; I would have backed her back to Guam to take the pressure off the ruptured ballast tanks forward- I realize that the reverse turbine blades on the DD would have been handled with care for such a task. My nuclear only trained friends are of the opinion that you can not back a single screw vessel and maintain course- this I have learned to do successfully during my seatime with small craft and as Captain of 100 Ton Schooner.

As the Submariner Officer moves up the career path it is unrealistic to ask them to take command without the surface experience.

Frank A. Walker



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