underwater-basket-weaving-degreeFirst, let’s not pretend that an ENS, JG, LT, or even RADM isn’t better or worse because of the degree they have. Secondly, let’s not pretend that the degree one earns determines who they are as a person–let’s not be education deterministic. Thirdly, there’s a nascent form of literacy emerging that combines both hard and soft sciences, and the Navy is largely ignoring it.

You walk through my door as a newly minted non-prior service ensign and I’m not going to care what school or what degree you earned from that school–you know nothing just like every other ensign in the Fleet. This isn’t a slight, this is a reality. All that is going to matter to me, to the LCPO, and to the rest of the guys in the division, is whether or not you’re a pleasure to serve with. There isn’t much more to belabor in this regard. As an officer with a STEM degree, you’re not going to be the one doing any of the labor that your education informed you how to do. You’re supervising at best, or drowning in administrative duties for the division that you know nothing about, because no one gets a college education in “Naval Administration.” What’s more, is that despite anything you learned from a college, you’re still going to have to get through your career field’s warfare pin qualifications before your superiors trust you to do the job. Your education only got you to OCS, or to your commissioning date, and the distinctions between where you chose to go to school are negligible to me, and non-existent to your most junior sailors.

Reading the words of officers in this ongoing degree debate strikes me as parochial and based in little more than confirmation bias. We all want to be emulated, we all want to champion the bits of wisdom we’ve picked up along the way. The path we’ve taken we know best, and so we can recommend it, as being so familiar to us. Neither side, neither the STEM-guys nor the liberal arts guys have much going for them to detract from the efficacy of the other guy’s degree. ‘With a liberal arts degree, one should be able to reason through the challenges inherent in emerging technologies.’ Or, ‘with a STEM degree, one understands the nuance, direction, and technical details of technologies, and the likelihood of its success.’ Those are both true statements. But, the reality is, that neither type of degree confers the wisdom required to actually make such a call unless years have been spent in the naval service learning exactly what the Navy is, how it works, and all it’s quirks–a degree confers no wisdom, just the greater ability to obtain wisdom, eventually. ‘Degree determinism’ is a red herring, a 23 year old is not yet complete as an individual nor as a sailor. Who they eventually grow to become is arguably more influenced by their naval experience than their undergrad experience (unless you’re an aviator, then you never grow up… heh.).

This isn’t an either-or debate. Quite frankly, it’s a false dichotomy, as indicated by the emergence of numerous multidisciplinary fields of study. A prime examples of which is Computational Social Science and Artificial Intelligence. Where the parameters of society and the mind, as defined by the soft sciences, are incorporated into programming and hardware design, that are rooted in hardware and software engineering. Advances in this field are indicative of the STEM-Liberal Arts dichotomy being false in an academic sense, but also demonstrate how the same dichotomy is false in terms of the Navy; where a junior officer has to manage people, and master their career field, and understand the nature of the technology which they will be responsible for.

Like the title of this blog states. No one asked me what I think, and as an enlisted guy, what I think doesn’t matter much. But, the multitude of voices jumping into the fray regarding this topic has kept it on my mind.

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

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  • Why can’t we do what the British Commonwealth Navies have done

    • YNSN

      What do they do?

      • Kolohe

        I imagine he’s talking about the separate tracks for engineering officers and commanding officer for RN submarines. (though I’ve only ever heard this brought up in the specific context of the USN submarine community, as that’s the one which is nuke stem uber alles by deliberate choice)

  • Matthew Hipple

    I read you loud and clear, but the degrees SHOULD matter (otherwise, throw it out) and that they don’t is a failure on the system. That’s like saying an A-school doesn’t matter or a technical certification doesn’t matter. What you’re saying may be true, but is a reflection of our system’s failure to make any good of the resources it has collected.

    • YNSN

      No, I agree, not much is made of degrees that are earned. But, just the same, education doesn’t stop just because you’re not paying to take notes in a classroom. Which is what I am speaking towards in terms of the influence of service upon an individual.

      Everyone is constantly learning, and the demands of the service, change a person more by the mere amount of time spent in the service. Four years in your late teens and early twenties are nothing compared to all that will be done in four years of active duty.

      So, yeah, the system needs to change. And there’s any number of ways it could change. But, it remains, that the debate STEM VS. LIBERAL ARTS is a false dichotomy.

      • Matthew Hipple

        A.) Hey CT1… fix your tag line 😀
        B.) Totally agreed on the general concept.
        C.) It’s not a false dichotomy. Base ways of thinking. The navy may THINK everyone can be mixed and matched, but you get different kinds of thought. Put an engineer in front of a problem, an IR major, and an anthropologist in front of a problem, and they’ll all approach it differently.

        Also, the STEM vs. Liberal Arts dichotomy represents the tip of a significantly LARGER iceberg.

      • YNSN

        I’ve been YNSN from day one! That’s going waaaay back to 2006!

        For C – yeah it is a false dichotomy, because you need *all* those perspectives in approaching strategic problems. As well, at the bleeding edge of technology the distinctions inherent in the technology are irrelevant.

  • das

    So, just to throw a wrench in the works from the RC IDC:

    How do you handle the people with multiple masters, or even a PhD…

    …and ALSO 10, 15, or 20+ years technical experience — some with many years as supervisors or senior managers — in “cyber” or other tech fields, including for federal intelligence or law enforcement agencies? How do you handle the GS-15 who is now also that Ensign? How do you handle the people like Eric Garcetti in the bunch, who is that hapless “JO”, but is also the Mayor of Los Angeles?

    Sure, these are extremes, but that’s the dilemma we face on the RC side of the IDC, particularly for Officers. The whole argument of, “You may be an expert on the outside, but here you’re just an Ensign, so shut up,” only goes so far. Some of these people already know exactly how to serve, and how to serve and take care of their subordinates. Some might say, “Okay, then those they serve with will figure that out soon enough.” Well, that’s great in their 25-person remote reserve unit — how about for Big Navy?

    • Ken Adams

      Maybe the IDC RC needs direct commissioning commensurate with experience and certification, just like the Medical Corps.

      • Matthew Hipple

        Unfortunately, that might open far too many unpleasant doors that might scare people who like sitting on their haunches quietly until the promotion board comes.

      • Ken Adams

        Scaring people sounds like a good reason to open those doors.

      • Matthew Hipple

        I’ve focused my statement. See above 😀

      • Frozen

        That’s fine for communities like medical and even legal, but the IDC is a line community and officers in it need time as JOs in the “fleet” to know their specific jobs before they command. Not calling anyone out specifically, but holding elected office or working on Capitol Hill is not comparable to the experiences gained as an O1-O3.

  • Herbal

    You’re absolutely right. Actions matter. Attitude matters. Even a degree in “Naval Administration,” as you call it, won’t matter. Some have it, some don’t. We recruit both.

  • Bart Kemper

    Two seperate but related issues. Within that field, how you skin the cat / solve that problem and to what degree does matter — to the officers. Its no different than engineers on the civilian side. To the troops … and in the civilian world, to the plant workers… what matters is can they stand to work with you and are you effective in dealing with them. Have the best solution means squat if you can’t communicate it and work with others to implement it…and that’s where it comes together — making it work. (And this is why I wear my GCG and NCO Dev Ribbon but drop off some of the various other times off my “short rack”)

  • AJ Ketchum

    I don’t know how the Navy is, but I doubt much different than here in the Army. Officer jobs are handed out based on class rank not what degree or major the new officer has. This is why we end up with a Signal Corps officer with a degree in pharmacology and officers with computer science degrees as Field Artillery. I have also seen Intelligence officers with Phys Ed degrees and an Infantry officer with a Masters in Aerospace Engineering. Common sense tells anyone that is no way to conduct business.

  • William F Steagall Jr

    The ship is USS SAN ANTONIO, not SANTONIO. That said, I disagree that a prior enlisted ensign knows “nothing, just like every other ensign in the fleet.” I disagree because that is not my observation. I was a naive economics major ensign in the fleet, and on my way to captain, met quite a few former enlisted ensigns, and they were some of the most capable ensigns I ever met. Yes, we need a mixed bag, academy, ROTC, OCS, and direct commissions, because we have leadership challenges that need leaders with a variety of backgrounds. But, as ensigns, give me the prior enlisted, if I have to choose only one, and with only that bit of background on whom to choose. William Steagall, Jr. Capt, USNR (ret).

    • Habap

      You missed the first half of that sentence, “You walk through my door as a newly minted non-prior service ensign….” He’s not talking about prior enlisted ensigns.

      • William F Steagall Jr

        Yes, I did miss that. I believed when I read it that the author was lumping all new ensigns together. I stand corrected. It is my belief, still, that those petty officers I recommended for direct commissions (several over my career) were some of the best junior officers because of their experience. Thank you for pointing out my misunderstanding.

      • YNSN

        I messaged the admin to get my bio corrected, thanks.

      • Habap

        Agree completely. Mustangs make excellent junior officers because they understand the system and have already demonstrated the most important skill: leadership.

      • Tony Carr

        But should that point be dispositive? Should an ensign’s bio be studied before s/he arrives to the fleet so everyone can decide how much respect and latitude is deserved?

        I transitioned from enlisted to officer service with 6 years under my belt but stayed in the same functional area. I didn’t go around telling SNCOs my background, I simply made decisions and contributed naturally. It was an interesting experiment. Ideas I favored were cast in serious doubt until I revealed my experience, at which point the fog of doubt was usually blown away by some sort of instant credibility. But it was total BS . . . honestly, the quality of the idea needs to matter more than the pedigree of the person offering it. But that quality is artificially obscured when we have a default rule in place that a junior officer knows nothing.

    • RightCowLeftCoast

      Why not have all our officers have to prove themselves as enlisted first? They will gain seamanship/soldiering skills, learn to follow, gain technical abilities, and those who are later chosen for commissioning programs (such as OCS, ROTC, maybe even the Academies) show an aptitude for leadership to be offered the opportunity for these programs.

      Granted on the downside our junior officers will be older, but on the upside they will have time to mature and have had experience in their craft.

  • QnsGambit

    This discussion suffers from a lack of acknowledgement of the difference in the raison d’etre of the enlisted and the officer. This difference isn’t irrelevant and makes sense of an organization where an E-6 with an M.S. from Harvard doesn’t outrank an O-1 with a B.A. in poetry from Arizona State. Education most certainly does matter for the officer corps of any service. It just doesn’t matter in their technical capacity for performing their first assignment or two. It does matter in the professional branches such as JAG and MD’s, and perhaps it should matter more broadly to capture the Engineers and Nuke guys…but in all of these cases, the officership is not as relevant as the skill. The Doctor has rank because otherwise he couldn’t order a soldier. His rank is incidental to the organization he is in, not to his profession or job. The Line is different.

    All in all, the services do place an unusual low level of priority on the educational background of the people it recruits as officers. Any U. and Harvard U. are not equals anywhere else but in DOD. This does deserve more reflection, but to that question the difference between the officer and the enlisted is irrelevant.

    • RightCowLeftCoast

      On choice of Universities, although many Ive League schools have superior liberal arts majors, not every school is great at every major which a student may study. For instance if you want to learn IR or FA you try for George Washington U. Why? Because you’re more likely to intern at Foggy Bottom. If you want to learn how to become vintner do you go to SUNY Maritime? No, you go to UC Davis. Why? Because you’re closer to Napa Valley and more likely to intern at one of the wineries that are in and around Napa.

      So when we talk about Ive League education, it isn’t so much the content one learns at that school, but the contacts and social ladders one can access in attending that school. Same can be said about going to a service academy as compared to attending a ROTC program; granted there has been a lot of work done to level the playing field when it comes to opportunities for promotion for officers from each program, however the contacts one make through going to a service academy does assist those junior officers during their careers.

  • Jason

    Good post – but there’s more to it. For officers, leadership on the line is a paramount function, but also a responsibility that, later in a career, is closely interrelated with strategy and/or organizational management. The development of strategy, planning joint operations, management of major programs and complex maintenance, in part, on having a solid combination of both experience as well as education. You may think these are simply senior officer responsibilities and there’s a way to magically take a class as an O-5 or O-6 and make the transition – but there’s not. It starts with a reasonably rigorous education and continues for a career.

    Are those considerations pertinent to the first couple of division tours? You’re absolutely correct — they’re not (in most cases). It would be pretentious for a young O-1 Harvard grad to think he’s any better an officer than the O-1E out of STA; there’s a very good chance that the initial brush with the fleet will favor the O-1E of a State U. (although I’ve certainly seen O-1E’s who have assumed that they’re capable based on experience, and come to rue the assumption). Does STEM vs. lib arts really matter to the deck plate? I guess it also depends where you’re at and what you’re doing, and whether it feeds a relevant degree of technical competence expected of a junior officer, but I tend to agree that it’s often immaterial.

    Yet those considerations –higher-order thinking skills, for lack of a better term– are important for senior levels of leadership and staff. I’ve seen one unit almost ruined by an CO who couldn’t let go of his uber-aggressive, NCAA Div I, charismatic platoon commander attitude — wasting time, money, careers, and likely lives. Commanding and managing large units and large operations requires an aptitude for reflection and analysis honed as much in the classroom as through hands-on experience.

    • YNSN

      I agree with everything you’ve said. The important part to me, is that education for an officer only begins at college, and continues through to the day they retire. Someone once told me, ‘if you stop learning, you stop leading.’

      And I agree with that.

      • grandpabluewater

        Minor quibble. You keep learning after you leave, because the habits of lifetime make you. After transitioning to the wilds of CIVLANT/PAC the new career holds your day to day attention, but the brain and the heart remember and still process. You just let the internal dialog run in the background.

  • Kolohe

    This was a really great article, h/t to CDR Salamander for bringing me here.

    “Who they eventually grow to become is arguably more influenced by their naval experience than their undergrad experience”

    I agree, mostly, as this is the paradigm in the rest of URL land.

    However, the IDC community is in its adolescence now, and is going to have a harder time finding its own ‘culture’ the way SWO, Sub, and Aviators have – and for that matter SEALs too – in the absence of platform-centric communal experience.

  • Grant Petersen

    While their larger point is to make a plug for multidisciplinary fields of study, they make some ridiculous assertions in their set up that should be “belabored” much more.
    1. Undergraduate education definitely is a huge factor in the quality of a Junior Officer / productivity of any worker- even if you control for IQ or some other measure of innate smarts. It is not an empty signal… if it were, national undergrad attrition wouldn’t be 50%.
    2. Education probably is somewhat formative on you as a person, and the degree you choose to pursue probably says something about you. There is a good amount of feedback here and also a good amount of information. This article dismisses this information as useless while building their STEM vs. Liberal Arts scarecrow. This is reflective of a much bigger problem in the Army- its failure to talent manage what-so-ever. Instead of dismissing different data points concerning human capital- like your major (and potentially a valuable accreditation), or whether someone speaks Creole (and should’ve been sent to help in Haiti)- the Army should pay attention to this data and leverage it in a productive manner.

    • YNSN

      In your first point, you insinuate something rather significant, ” Undergraduate education definitely is a huge factor in the quality of a Junior Officer / productivity of any worker”

      Most enlisted have degrees (up to PhDs) they’ve earned over the course of much more than four years, from usually more than one school, that is also augmented by credits earned via Navy COOL. To be honest, the quality of education is not very high, yet we are rewarded for simply having that degree.

      So what is the quality of enlisted having an arguably subpar degree?

      To your second point, education is somewhat formative, and it probably does say something about you. But, the word I used in my essay was ‘deterministic’ and an education is far from being deterministic of who a person is.

      As well, I actually call the STEM-Liberal Arts debate a red herring; I could have called it a strawman, as you insinuate it to be. But, I felt that the logical fallacy to be closer to a red herring than strawman, and still do.

  • KDude

    Not that my opinion merits much weight, I advocate for tossing the current system entirely. The enlisted / commissioned paradigm is time honored; however it is based on a class system with peasants and nobles. This is inherently Un-American and based on the wealth of your parents and the total stability of your childhood. I would suggest eliminating E7-E9 and O1-03. I would then repurpose the warrant officer corps to bridge the gap. Speaking from an Army perspective, these redesigned warrant grades would command platoon and company sized elements. Upon reaching E6 in grade, one would apply to a command track or a technician (staff) track. Another application process would be required to move into field grade and so on. This would eliminate the requirement for the duality of the NCOIC and OIC. Furthermore, I feel it would mitigate the cancer of out of touch senior leadership and by extension eliminate the need for enlisted advocates. I am aware how radical, perhaps pipe dream, this is. As President, GA Eisenhower investigated eliminating the tired rank structure of the Armed Forces. It was decided the level and availability of higher education during the period was insufficient to allow this idea to be workable. This has most definitely changed.

    Whenever I have engaged in discussion concerning this I tend to be dismissed out of hand or laughed out of the room with the typical refrain of “why change what has worked so well for so long?” As I near notching the decade mark in my career’s belt, my observations have brought me to the conclusion that it hasn’t worked as well as advertised. Furthermore, I have noticed an increasing number of officers who look down their noses at ‘enlisted swine’ and I think that is a serious problem. “How such different system would be implemented considering the vast cultural and administrative changes that would be required?” is another. I do not have the answer to that legitimate question but honestly I’ve never managed to engage anyone of intellect in this discussion. I also understand there are quite a few holes in what I suggested as it is very broad in concept, but applying a traditional view to a vastly different paradigm is pointless. Discussion of the concept is my interest. I think the resistance to discuss this, even in professional forums where I have attempted to initiate discussion, is similar to the point of view shared by the flag and general officer corps that the talent management system works because it got them to the stars after all.

    Then again, regardless of my 143 IQ, experience leading soldiers both in combat and garrison for 8 years, hard earned and refined subjective reasoning abilities, and widely traveled and diverse observations of human nature gained both in the military as well as corporate experience prior to enlisting, I am but a lowly Staff Sergeant. What do I know?

    • QnsGambit

      I’ll bite! Full disclosure, I’m an Army Armor O with 11 yrs on the LES.

      My first reaction to your proposal is actually not negative. There are practical obstacles, sure, but that has nothing to do with concept. I actually agree with the idea that we have too many Officers, and perhaps a fair share of that lies in having too many JO’s. But there is a certain point of view that we don’t share that makes it difficult to support your proposal (and one that the original article doesn’t recognize either).

      1. The enlisted, warrant, and commissioned grades as they exist purely organizationally is nothing set in stone. Should there be E-9’s, or O-1’s, or Spec 7’s? All that is variable and has changed often in the past. Whether you argue for 9 E grades and 3 O grades, or 5 E grades and 12 O grades is organizational minutia.

      2 However, the distinction between the enlisted grades and the commissioned grades isn’t organizational, it is one of different fundamental purpose. To put simply, one is a tradesman of a skill (E) hired by the other, the representative of the executive (O). The O is charged with the employment of the E using powers delegated by the executive authority. This isn’t some aristocratic hold-over. In fact, it is how our entire economy has been structured and functions since ancient times. Owners who employ tradesmen in their enterprise, and when the enterprise grows, they delegate the owner’s authority to managers, who sometimes become a class of their own. The one exception, the socialist/communist model, fell on its face.

      If you want to say that the trade-skill mastery is critical before being entrusted with its management, then sure, you can say an O must be an E first. But that is hardly the point. It doesn’t take 10 yrs to master infantry tactics well enough to manage their use. Maybe 2, at most. It does however, take years to master the trade skills involved in those tactics. The small unit then needs a steady supply of master infantrymen to supervise and train “apprentice” infantrymen.

      At the end of the game, the O’s must be educated, proficient (enough) in the skills of warfare to understand how to employ them, and truly masters of tactics and strategy that are mostly invisible at the unit level. If you take someone that has spent a decade honing their skills and habituating their mind to the unit/skill level, it will be a hard shift in their 30’s to become tacticians and strategists.

      • DDC

        I’ll bite too.

        The system Doc K espouses would effectively demand that all admirals are “renaissance men” (or women) who, in the span of a career of 30ish years, master the intricacies of a vocation, deckplate leadership, unit management, program management, strategy, and politics of all levels. Are there folks who can do this? Yes. Are there enough to fill the ranks appropriately? I sincerely doubt it.

        This is also problematic in that the next Arleigh Burke or George Patton would never reach such lofty ranks if their recruiter couldn’t get them into a rate that they could master as a technician or if they just couldn’t cut it as a helo mechanic or fire controlman.

        I understand the egalitarian sentiment–and this is still viable with the many opportunities to be a mustang of some stripe, but there are only so many years of viable service, and so many types of skills most can master that make this as an undue artificial restriction on growing our senior leaders.

        Consider also that officers are appointed by the President and enlisted are serving under a contract. In our day-to-day operations this distinction seems transparent, but its ramifications are far-reaching. Should I select you to drive my race car because you’re the best at rebuilding a transmission on my team? The skills are so disparate, despite their interwoven nature, that requiring such a breadth of experience limits the pool of talent while stealing time from one or the other to become even greater masters in their chosen fields.

        Oh, and for the record, the wealth of my parents is and has always been the fruits of 34 years of enlisted service. If that is the bar one has to clear to be in the noble class then that bar seems to be low enough for everyone posting here to clear.

  • grandpabluewater

    The problem with the all too common these days meme of ” toss the current system entirely” is that you throw away the good with the bad – and wind up with the unknown selected by reasoning by analogy; and/or by theoretical abstraction divining the “timeless principles”; (those which support your agenda), and the point of view you have reached after vast (or maybe somewhat half vast) personal experience and prejudice. It takes time to find out, and moral courage to point out and eventually fix, the unforseen consequences of what has not been taken into account. Read a newspaper lately?

    Revolutions wind up as bloodbaths for somebody, over and over. Just like unchanging arrogant oligarchy eventually falls to change of environment from changing circumstances or catastrophic stress that cannot be coped with absent rapid change and rapid indoctrination of the fundamentals by those implementing the change – the old guard and the rookies both.

    For complex systems, evolution under forced draft works better than revolution guided by theoreticians (and the young or inexperienced are the most doctrinaire of theoreticians unless guided and mentored by the experienced who can keep a somewhat open mind. Like Chiefs and JO’s, Div O’s and Dept Heads, Captains and Commodores and COB’s.)

    That is why you manage by walking about, command by negation, listen to your subordinates, and keep the chain of command informed. It’s also why forgiveness is easier to get than permission. It’s complicated.

    JO’s sine qua non is ability to learn from manuals, books, subordinates, peers, and superiors FAST. What to learn? EVERYTHING. Some a JO will know, some he won’t and some he thinks he knows and has the wrong answer. No two know the same things upon arrival College students and strikers need to do this too. Which why we recruit officer candidates from those successful at those two things, i.e., the newly degreed and the recently and rapidly advanced Petty Officers. Smart is better than dumb, but it isn’t near enough. Buell (sp?) channeling JPJ laid down some wisdom. It starts out “It is not enough…”.

    Mother Navy, fickle and bullheaded bitch that she can be. was designed by genius to be operated by the dull normal. Guided evolution in action.
    She only changes only when forced to, and it is best to force her “by littles”…all the damn time. My advice…if your math is a little weak, get a tutor and work problems every day. A LOT of problems. You are going to need it, but you will never know when or how…until right now.

    How do I know? Scar tissue, mes enfantes, Scar Tissue.

  • Tony Carr

    A degree is confirmation of the ability to learn. A degree in a specific field of study indicates a specialized ability to learn in that field. Some degrees say more about application, but most don’t. Where someone went to school and the character by which the degree was earned may not be dispositive for you, but it should be a considerations. Not all schools and degrees are created equally. But beyond these principles, I don’t find a whole lot to quarrel with in what you say. A stand-alone debate about types of degrees seems like a waste of energy.

    Your more general tone concerning the expectation that junior officers show up to the fleet seized with fawning deference to senior enlisted Sailors represents one of the more annoying cultural artifacts of modern military service. Experience is important, but not controlling or even primary in the development of a leader. We shouldn’t wish for self-loathing, defensive-minded junior officers. We should want them to make decisions, take risks, and develop confidence. These impulses are suppressed when the local Chief serially reminds them how stupid they are.

    • YNSN

      I don’t expect a junior officer start off fawning, or to be extremely deferential to senior enlisted. As I stated in the essay, I expect/hope for them to be pleasant to serve with–take that as you will.

      • Tony Carr

        Here’s how I take it: your expectations are at once misplaced and too modest. You should recognize that it’s not your place to expect anything. But to the extent you expect, you should expect more than pleasantness. You convey a view that new ensigns are helpless without your intervention. It’s a bit much in my opinion . . . but hey, it’s your show.

      • YNSN

        Helpless? You’re putting words in my mouth, and grossly mis-characterizing my position. Perhaps, I’m too modest because you want me to take a position I’m not?

      • Tony Carr

        No intent to mischaracterize. I’m telling you the message your tone and words convey to someone beyond your frame of mind.

        This: “You walk through my door as a newly minted non-prior service ensign and I’m not going to care what school or what degree you earned from that school–you know nothing just like every other ensign in the Fleet. This isn’t a slight, this is a reality. All that is going to matter to me, to the LCPO, and to the rest of the guys in the division, is whether or not you’re a pleasure to serve with”

        …envisions a helpless officer from whom you expect nothing. I realize we have a time-honored tradition of conveying this attitude in all our services. I’m questioning its usefulness. A new officer is an opportunity. S/he brings energy, fresh perspective, and a demonstrated ability to learn rapidly. It shakes things up in healthy ways sometimes. But it only works if we don’t force junior officers to lay on their bellies and get walked on by their self-appointed senior enlisted “mentors” . . . which it seems to me you hint at quite strongly with phrases like “you know nothing.”

      • YNSN

        Well, I guess you’re the only one “beyond my frame of mind,” and the only one who still assumes sentiment despite when it is explicitly stated.

      • Tony Carr

        You should no expectation when you write things for public consumption — especially opinion pieces — that they’ll be digested using a lens of literal textualism. You certainly meant to convey a negative tone concerning the capability of a new officer, so it shouldn’t surprise you I would want to discuss it.

        Like I said, it’s your show.

  • Zack Howitt

    Hi CRT1, I’m assuming the type of new JO you’re talking about is line officers, especially those in the unrestricted line. Most staff corps (and even some restricted line communities) – JAG, Medical Corps, professional engineers, chaplains, etc all are a value-added when they walk through the door and their degree is directly relevant.

  • Busta Ruckus

    I agree that officers don’t need to be Electrical Engineers or Chemists to be good officers. They do need heavier training in practical construction and maintenance though to know what types of things they should be looking for. The Navy tosses ensigns straight into the fleet and watches them get burned repeatedly to learn these things rather than give them some hands-on training outside of their first command.

    This STEM hike may be a reaction to the rampant neglect in following proper maintenance procedures in the fleet. Can’t tell you how many times I found sailors royally fucking up their maintenance. The scheduled spot checks usually go great because it’s like that scheduled health inspection at Taco Bell…but the fun one as a DIVO was when I pulled maintenance cards from the week at random and went and did my own spot checks. Things usually start to straighten out after a few counseling chits.

    But ultimately, this is Big Navy’s fault for taking away SWOS. What they should do is send Ensigns to another ship of the same type, in the same port, as their eventual first command for about 2-3 months before so they can do nothing but learn how to spot-check every type of division on the ship and not be so green before being sent to run a division with an empty tool kit and taking all the usual ridicule of having been on a ship “since breakfast.”