1614310_10100624057071435_2121156332_oThe illustrious Charles Berlemann and LT Hipple (pictured on left, in a way) started up a conversation on facebook earlier based on Dr. Holmes’ latest at The Diplomat, How Not to Prepare for War.

Our conversation centered around whether or not Dr. Holmes is correct in asserting that that peace time militaries shy away from making scenario’s too difficult, and whether or not our Navy should “make the simulation harder than real life.”

My reply to the good LT was that I agree with Dr. Holmes, we should be making our training harder than real life. But, I also want to know what the logical limit to such a line of thinking is–that we need to falsify ‘harder than life’ before we can say what our training should really be.

The Kobayashi Maru is a striking example from science fiction of a no-win scenario used to train a ship’s crew. But, such training immediately runs into the limits of human endurance already strained by the daily routine of shipboard life.

USS_StarkMany moons ago, aboard the SAN ANTONIO, I placed my first suggestion in the CO’s box. I suggested that we run DC drills that ran about a day or more. The COLE, SAMUEL B. ROBERTS, and STARK all had GQ set for longer than any DC drill I had ever ran.

The thing about it though, all those ships are afloat today, or made it to their ‘naturally decided’ DECOM date. So, while I point to those examples of why we should train harder, the examples already show training programs that were (at least back then) able to train their crew well enough so that the ship didn’t have to be given up.

So, what is it?.. Is our DC training a mere shadow of what it once was? It is only half what it should be? Or, does the fact that the US hasn’t lost a ship in decades mean that we don’t need to radically alter our training paradigm today?




Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Hard Power, Navy, Tactics, Training & Education
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  • Matthew Hipple

    Not necessarily harder than real life… but at least start with something comparable with real life. We need to get -there- first!

    • YNSN

      Oh, I agree ‘comparable’ needs to be included at the very least.

      But, look at what ‘comparable’ is: day(s) of DC. Or, am I limiting my criteria to narrowly?

  • Tony

    I thought the mass conflag drills at GITMO in the late 80′s were very useful: kill off the leadership, kill the firemain, cut comms, keep throwing damage at the crew, see how they did…

    • YNSN

      I’ve never ran a drill like that. It must be incredibly helpful.

      • Ken Adams

        Absolutely is. I went through GITMO 3 times in 5 years. Endurance on mass conflagration drills wasn’t the answer though, it was repetition of the basics that built up readiness. Preparation didn’t start at GITMO, it started in the shipyard before the next phase of the training cycle.

        One of the earliest evaluations we did during refresher training was as basic as it gets – how well can the crew set condition Yoke? Can’t pass Yoke, not safe to get underway, try again.

        Our CO demanded that we ensure Yoke was set properly every evening in port, for many months, before GITMO. He expected the CDO to personally inspect every space on the ship before turning in, and to verify the material condition set. As a CDO, I did two things every night I had the duty – (1) follow the captain’s orders; (2) expect exactly the same of my duty department heads in their spaces. I did not start my walk until they reported their spaces were ready, and if I found something not right they heard about it right away. (That was really fun when Duty Ops was the Chief Signalman and the OSs had dorked something up).

        Net result of all this effort was that every department knew every space it owned, and understood its material condition in gory detail, and had taken positive action to ensure that every fitting was capable of being set properly. EVERY FITTING. The JOs who were going to have to step into leadership roles during the battle problem knew that ship backwards, forwards, top-to-bottom and upside down. We had all spent quality time in every space on the ship, knew the problem areas, and knew the strengths of our crew.

        We also had time, every duty day, to talk about what-if scenarios. When we took the ship through training in early 1987, we had already gamed out potential solutions to every problem thrown at us. One of the benefits of 3-section duty was more frequent opportunity to think and talk about those what-if scenarios.

        That’s the same training environment and set of expectations in which those FFGs of the late 80s took their hits and survived, and I have little doubt they operated in similar fashion.

      • CAPT Mongo

        You will note that FTG GITMO is no more, and that the REFTRA now provided is a pale shadow of what it was there.

      • ken

        Damned shame, that.

    • Ken Adams

      I got to be the surviving leadership on the bridge once. Critical systems all worked, but I had been on the starboard wing when the hit came in from port filling most of my team with shrapnel. Managed to restore comms with DCC and Main Control within a minute or so, where both Cheng and DCA were among the “casualties.” The second class petty officers who were still “alive” had trained for this kind of situation a lot, so we were successful.

  • Matt White

    From 2007-2011 I read every daily OPREP from every USS in C7F AO. Not once was an FXP reported as UNSAT…..hmm. We’re talking about 8-10 THOUSAND OPREPS reporting a few to well over a dozen FXPs daily, what does that tell us?

    • PeaceFool51

      if sufficiently substantiated, i’d say it prob tells us it’s not releasable in an unclass setting!

    • Ken Adams

      Easy. No one reported the missed opportunities.

  • Beachinnole

    I always had a problem with the GQ being in the plan of the day, half the crew was at their GQ stations 15 minutes before the drill. We set Condition One in like two minutes on an LPH! Bull. Best drill I ever saw was ship riding the old USS El Paso, the skipper walked on the bridge wing, tossed two concussion grenades over the side and announced to the OOD to set Condition One. Now that was a drill!

    I triaged the wounded in Beirut, and I learned to always respect the other guys ability. He ain’t ten feet tall but respect him and your more likely to come home.

  • Charles Berlemann

    Okay first off whether it’s the security drill at the base, a GQ on USS NeverDocked DDG-2999 or similar sort of thing. We need to approach this the way that Fighter Weapons School or Strike U or some other drills of old. You show up and die first exercise out of the gate. The cardinal rule that will make this work is that no one gets punished for the mistakes besides being dead. However, in the hot wash the afterwards the evaluators do this: YNSN Sacodonuts really stepped up as the fire party leader for the forward locker, but GM1 was stupid for taking the forward fire party into that magazine instead of flooding It. That OS2 is afraid of his SCBA because of issues, he also is signed off to be a lead investigator. Yet, he knows nothing of his tool bag nor how to do proper space investigation. So he needs to be revoked and start all the way at the bottom. Meanwhile, Lt. Doge who has never been a DCA was able to keep the ship afloat long enough to abandon ship.
    The biggest thing is that people don’t get punished for mistakes. Those that are found to have pencil whipped through or gun deck thier training need to be fired. They are worst then any active strike against the ship, since they don’t know how do thier jobs.
    The thing is that killing them and being nice about it, then come back in a couple of weeks with a new scenario that let’s them win and build blocks. Work up again to the super hard graduate level event and watch your team win.
    Just look at the GW fire from a few years back to what goes wrong with “everyone wins” exercises.

  • ProjectWhiteHorse

    Good pieces by both Dr. Holmes and CTR1 Gauthier, but when opening the door to “harder than expected” exercise events, I think we only scratch the surface and indeed may be missing crucial aspects. First, everyone who wears or wore a uniform believes they know the exercise business (certainly guilty here) because they know they’ve been through enough of them.

    But when we start talking creating failure within the event – and when you say “harder than real life” that’s what you’re implying even if failure was not the intent – we’re into a whole new ball game in exercise design, objectives, metrics, analysis and how you use the results.

    Designers must consider what they’re really after? more hard work and duress so that as Dr. Holmes said, the real thing seems easier? Or is the interest in observing and understanding where failure points are? Or how the unit reacts “after” failure? Or are we trying to create a learning environment for what to do when the game no longer matches the plan?

    The bounding of the exercise is different for each, and unthoughtful design can create a mostly worthless (and probably expensive) mess.

    A very hard exercise may do no more than reinforce “doing what you know,” and that’s OK unless your focus is on learning “to know what to do,” i.e., adaptability in the face of uncertainty and novelty.

    • YNSN

      I’m not completely wed to the notion of simply making drills harder than real life. Rather, I think I am more invested in the notion of having training evolutions – not all, but some – that are as spontaneous as real life, that flexes adaptability in ways other drills simply don’t.

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