I’ve been looking through the couple of EVALs I’ve had. As most of you know, it’s one EVAL for every year of service, with the possibility of a special EVAL due to exceptional circumstances. Going IA and transferring in the same year has given me three EVALs this last year… I’m pretty sure that PERS 32 is getting sick of seeing EVALs with my name on it.

The most interesting thing I noticed in my EVALs comes from my first EVAL as a YN2. The reporting period is from 08MAY23 – 09MAR15 (first two digits are the year). This covered all but a few weeks of SAN ANTONIO’s maiden deployment. Block 29 is where a Sailor’s “Primary/Collateral/Watchstanding duties” are listed. Here is how mine reads:

Primary Duty: TADTAR MANAGER [Official travel funds manager]. Departmental YN-5 [I was responsible for Combat Systems and Health Services departments]. Coll: Legal YN-4, Official Mail Funds Manager-8, Registered Mail Courier-10, Assistant Dept PFA Coordinator-6, Dept RPPO-4, Dept Training PO-10, Asst Dept ESWS Coordinator. Watch: SCAT-10, POOW-10, SRF Team Leader-10, Navigation Detail-10, Repair 5S Investigator-10

I’ve had to reformat from how it looks on an actual EVAL so that it can be more readily understood. The numbers after the tac mark are the number of months I performed that duty during the evaluation period. You’ll notice a lot of ‘4s’ up there, this was due to a fellow Yeoman having to go cranking. While he was gone, I was the best one to take up the duties he could no longer perform. The ‘8’ next to Official Mail Funds Manager is due to SAN not requiring this program prior to deployment. “SCAT” stands for “Small Caliber Action Team”, we manned the 50cals when required. “PFA” is the Physical Fitness Assessment, as a coordinator I had to assist in making sure everyone did the ‘paperwork’ prior to the PFA. “SRF” is the Security Reaction Force, basically the ship’s SWAT team. “Repair 5s Investigator” was my General Quarters station and Condition II Damage Control station, I would have to go out and investigate for damage after a casualty and report what I saw to the repair locker officer, basically.

There were other duties I had as well, though due to the space limitations of an EVAL I couldn’t list every duty I had. There were others; not many, but a few more. I can’t remember exactly what they were, so I will omit them here. Additionally, this EVAL doesn’t mention the things you ‘just have to do’: Equal Opportunity training, in-Rate training, Information Assurance training, ‘don’t get drunk and do dumb things’ training, ‘don’t sleep with your shipmates’ training, medical training, ‘Don’t drive while tired’ training, and of course all the training and qualifications one has to get to earn their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin. To give context and underscore how typical my duties were, my trait average for this EVAL was 4.0. The Summary Group Average for this reporting period (The trait average of all evaluations during this period–all E-5s aboard) was 4.01. In other words, I was completely average.

So, why am I posting this. Because I believe it gives a good snapshot of what it is like for a midgrade Petty Officer aboard an Optimally Manned platform. If we’re expected to be hybrid Sailors, then we are living up to expectations. Often enough, I’d have to be two places at once. QMC (Chief Quartermaster) would be giving bearing taker training up on the bridge wing at the same time that FCC (Chief Fire Controlman) would be giving SRF training in the starboard P-way. I’d have to submit my financial report for travel funds at the same time I would be off ship for SRF-Advanced training. I’d have to submit the monthly training report to my Dept. Head at the same time I was trying to go see EN1 (Engineman First Class) to get my Ballast PQS signed off on for my ESWS pin. It would be up to me–with the blessing of my Chief–to decide what I wouldn’t do, or what I’d do later. “doing things later” sounds rather benign. But, what it amounts to, is having to do something quicker, with less time to QA, and with probably some ‘nasty-grams’ sent to the XO by SURFLANT, or something. Given a long enough time line like this, it becomes just how you operate–‘I will only do this when forced to’. Because, when being forced to do something is when it becomes important enough to be at the top of the pile. A Chief once told me “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”. I will never accept that the Navy charged me with a range of duties I just was not able to accomplish. I ‘won’t give up the Ship’ in a sense. But, I will accept the fact that a lower standard of accomplishment was expected of me.

On MIDRATS I said that one has to quickly internalize the training they were given. Because, sooner rather than later, you would be the one giving training and signing off on their qualifications, let alone being the person who is solely responsible for performing that duty. By that, I meant that a Sailor has to take tacit knowledge and make it explicit knowledge. Hybrid Sailors are demanded to understand the whole system as well as the niche that their Rate fills.

Complexity is a funny thing. Like an Escher drawing, it all depends on how an observer is able to look at it. There are ways to conceptualize it, to where it does not seem complex any more and the salient details become apparent. But, operating in a complex environment demands an amount of tacit knowledge that when tied into the amount of training given in ‘A’ school, the ability of a Sailor to properly perform their duties is far below what is needed. The argument is made over and over again, that tacit knowledge is best given in the environment it is from. You might have heard this argument phrased differently, ‘You’ll learn that best in the Fleet’. But, I believe that many metrics are indicating that more of a baseline and abstract understanding of the tacit aspects of shipboard operations are needed by the Sailor before reporting aboard, or being responsible for that duty/knowledge. I learned to be TADTAR manager by doing, and by doing my old XO used to get quite a few nasty grams from SURFLANT. I learned how to be a Legal YN by screwing up mast packages. I learned how to be RPPO by spending copious amounts of time down in S-1 and redoing orders multiple times, and by ending up not getting what the office desperately needed. I won’t tell you how I got qualified as Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW); it’s a funny story best told in person.

I am not saying that there shouldn’t, or can’t be things that one has to learn aboard ship. But, I do believe that there are far too many things I had to learn by doing wrong. I am saying that I really wish I had more training for duties of mine before I was wholly responsible for them. I am saying that when you add a system (even if automated) to another system, you inherently increase the complexity of that system and there by reduce explicit (opposite of tacit) knowledge of that system. Systems require additional training, additional maintenance. To cover these increased needs for training and additional maintenance, it seems that we’ve outsourced to civilians to accomplish these tasks–giving the impression that workload and training demands have been reduced for Sailors.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Navy

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  • Byron

    Lucien, I’ve always worked learn “how things work” with the Navy and thus have always watched carefully how they go about their tasks. I’ve learned to watch the faces of their Chiefs and officers and listen to the tone of their voices. What I see and hear is that the Navy has spread themselves too thin. I expect that’s partially because of IA…and partially because there’s far too much “tooth to tail”. I feel for you. There’s no doubt in my mind that any sailor with outstanding capabilities is getting worked like a dog. I’ve seen that with my own eyes: An EN1 who (during a repair period) who had to work close to 12 hours a day because the CHENG wouldn’t let his ENC approve tagouts. This EN1 had to 1) do the eSoms thing and 2) make sure that Engineman Timmy understood where all the valves/breakers etc where to accomplish a thorough tag out. I repeat: The ENC wasn’t trusted to do it. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news/bad news: The EN1 made ENC shortly after…but was transfered off the ship.

    Bottom line: you can do a few things exceptionally well, or many things poorly. In an armed service, especially one who’s playing field is primarly the oceans, that’s a sure way for bad things to happen.

  • Chuck Hill

    Good luck getting MSC personnel to perform all the collateral duties, and when you replace Navy sailors with civilians those collaterals will redistributed to even fewer sailors.

    What you really need is not more training ashore (more tail), what you need is more senior, experienced people on board to mentor you and show you how it should be done (more tooth).

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Chuck Hill is dead right in his para 1).

    As for para 2), more of both are needed.

    Optimally manned ships…aren’t. The mistakes cost more than any
    payroll you may save.

    Thank God for the fidelity, zeal, and obedience, the brains, the heart and determination of “average” sailors. There is nothing average about a good sailor.

    Where else do you have people cleaning the head and standing armed security guard who are so dedicated that the only way you can exasperate them is to block them from doing their duty the best that they can? You know, a “fleet average” sailor. Lucky Navy, lucky U.S..

    Lucky us.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Lucien, great example of the results of optimal manning.

    Grandpa, “There is nothing average about a good sailor.” A very quotable statement.