SWO/IW vs IW

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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby COMEVIL » Wed Nov 12, 2014 12:17 pm

OK, I'm honestly a bit surprised here. Many of you relish your surface time, PCS and/or DIRSUP, as do I having done both. You also point out that these tours are available for you as an up and coming IW Officer. At the same time, most of you seem to recommend SWO-IW as the best option. Does this say something about our own community, the initial tours we offer, and the experience you garner in those tours? If it doesn't, why in the world would we want to send a future IW Officer to a community that admittedly eats its young -- brings in ~4 potential SWOs to make ~1 -- for their initial introduction to the Navy?!?!?

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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby yoshi » Wed Nov 12, 2014 3:16 pm

i think its more about a Navy experience. Most people associate the Navy with going to sea. Being an IW from the beginning is an experience specific to our community, not necessarily the general, going-to-sea Navy (save the one divo afloat tour possibility). The value of working outside the community is it teaches how we fit into the Navy fabric and provides an appreciation/perspective for what else is required. We are but one component of a much larger picture, and being able to recognize and understand the picture is what correctly defines our value in it (important for future senior community leaders and a current weakness). It also explains how other communities view us, and why. It answers the question - why can't they understand how awesome we cryppies really are, what great work we are doing? Finally, those divo tours show how the Navy gives more to the IW community than it receives. In fact, most of our IW efforts are highly reliant upon the Navy, whereas the Navy is not so much reliant upon IW to execute its mission

Recommend being brutally honest with one's self while using one of the following two lines of thought:
if you are blue water Navy first (you want to be an officer), do the SWO-IW option. The single biggest asset to SWO-IW option is just that: the OPTION. You can go IW if you want, or you can stay SWO. There is no option to starting as an IW (you will not be able to get out of IW). In my view, having options is always the better choice. If you are looking for leadership opportunities and challenges, you probably aren't a computer dude/dudette first and foremost and would likely be more comfortable aboard a ship, anyway.

If you are a computer dude/dudette first (you want to make the next landmark discovery in computer science) and the Navy is simply your vehicle, do the IW option from the beginning and line up a civilian job in 4-6 years. The rationale is, if you are a cyber person (what IW is becoming), work is location agnostic as our community is quick to point out (helps maintain authorities from COCOMs and all that). If the Navy doesn't need you at sea past divo, why not be a civilian (pay, stability, etc)? What is the value of being in the NAVY vice in some other organization, or as a civilian?
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Sum1 » Wed Nov 12, 2014 8:11 pm

I'll be frank.

DIRSUP and national tours on a watchfloor (compared to leadership at sea) teach you almost nothing about organizational leadership, performing under stress, "operationalizing" your job, coming together as a crew to accomplish a mission, etc. SWOs have an "eat your young" mentality because failure isn't acceptable. If you fail, the ship fails an inspection, a certification, etc and DRRS-N shows you down a warfare area to the geographic combatant commander. You may no longer be a relevant asset to the fight.

What experience does an Ensign IWO have that's equivalent in both responsibility and impact? I watched brand new Ensigns check onboard the ship, and in a month they were the Ordinance officer or the GUNNO in charge of major combat systems onboard that ship. Fail a basic phase warfare certification and you could be the guy holding up an entire ship's schedule, which could impact things like deployment schedules. That's huge.

The other side of the coin... how many command-wide events does an IWO go through with the rest of their shipmates on a National watchfloor? On a ship you're going through ship-wide certifications in MOB-D, MOB-E, 3M, etc that requires literally EVERYONE onboard to train, have a plan, and execute flawlessly. All while still doing your admin, your own personal qualifications, tracking the quals of your Sailors, planning for relief/turnover periods, standing watch on the deck, standing watch in combat, etc, etc. There's a different kind of camaraderie when you're PCS to a ship, either as a SWO actual or an IWO playing SWO for a tour. It's not an experience to take lightly.

I thought that being a sub rider taught me a lot, and it really did, but it was a classic case of not knowing what you don't know. I didn't know how little I actually knew about being a division officer until I was at sea doing it with 18 Sailors (including part of the time with a SWO ensign as an EWO).
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Mjölnir » Thu Nov 13, 2014 1:11 am

While making a wide generalization when I say this, my opinion is that JO's learn more/better leadership as a JO 'out there' than as an IWO.

My thoughts on this are based by my personal experience, my first Navy tour was at NSGA Ft Meade (later NIOC MD) and there were way more JO's than divisions to lead. I was a Sub DIRSUP Officer so I go to lead while at sea and eventually was a DivO my last couple of months on board. My second tour at NIOC GA was much the same way, way more JO's than divisions, less of a chance for the JO to learn to be a DivO and I don't too often see good DH's sho weren't DivO's at some point. I am really glad I have my USMC background, otherwise the lack of leadership assignments for the first 6 years of would have made the DDG expereince and my time since then extremely difficult. As @Sum1 said, I also have alot of DIRSUP underway time and that experience is good, but a side by side comparison in my experience is that I learned more about 'the Navy' as a DivO/DH at sea playing SWO for 2 years than I did in my previous 6+ years of Submarine & Airborne DIRSUP.

Our community has a good history of taking officers who start in the URL communities and lateral transfer in (RDML Filipowski and ADM Rogers being two that come to mind) and if a lateral transfer can move right into the community and be a NIOC XO or CO, then the leadership they learned along the way is likely solid. We also have really good leaders who are straight IWO's (Capt Heritage for example) ... so there is not a cookie cutter path or mold to success.

yoshi wrote:There is no option to starting as an IW (you will not be able to get out of IW). In my view, having options is always the better choice.


Actually there is, it is really hard to do (paperwork intensive, need to get a flag endorsement from a SWO etc) but can be done. I know of one who has done it (last I saw him he was the CSO on MONTEREY. I began the process and then gave up -- In order to screen for command at sea you have to have 60 months of time at sea and complete at least one LT DH tour, I selected for O4 the week I left the ship so would not have been able to complete that LT DH tour ( was ad-hoc ops for over half my DDG tour, but not there on orders from BUPERs) and would never have been eligible for command at sea.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby COMEVIL » Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:14 am

Sum1 wrote:SWOs have an "eat your young" mentality because failure isn't acceptable. If you fail, the ship fails an inspection, a certification, etc and DRRS-N shows you down a warfare area to the geographic combatant commander. You may no longer be a relevant asset to the fight.


A few thoughts here...

-- Every warfare area is "no fail." Surface Warfare is no different than Air, Subsurface, SEAL, etc.
-- SWOs have a reputation of being a nasty community to come up in, period. SWOs take in ~4 Ensigns to make ~1 career SWO for this very reason.
-- Much of a baby's SWOs first tour is spent qualifying -- OOD in port, Aft Steering, CICWO, Helm Safety, Boat O, OOD at sea, SWO. I would argue that, for most, their head is in their PQS while there division is run by their Chief. First two years complete --- and how much of that is beneficial to becoming an IWO?
-- The second tour is very different, where they are qualified and have much more responsibility. Years three and four complete, it is time to lat/xfer.
-- SWOs need programs like this (SWO-IWO) to make their numbers, period. They benefit. Whereas us.....that is debatable. I'd rather have an IWO get experience in the surface Navy by doing IW work, vice being a trainee for 2 years followed by a tour as Electro, Weps, or MPA Assistant.

So, do we really want to encourage (key word, we have no way around this) outsourcing of our initial officer training to a community such as this?

Again, what is wrong with what we do to lead us to encourage someone to start elsewhere first? And what is right?

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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Sum1 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:45 am

Stalwart wrote:Actually there is, it is really hard to do (paperwork intensive, need to get a flag endorsement from a SWO etc) but can be done. I know of one who has done it (last I saw him he was the CSO on MONTEREY.


When I left the ship my XO (he's now the CO) did nothing but talk about his IWO from his days on CHAFEE who lat transferred to SWO. We may be talking about the same dude. My XO dropped hints all the time about me swapping over... I respectfully declined :)

COMEVIL wrote:-- Every warfare area is "no fail." Surface Warfare is no different than Air, Subsurface, SEAL, etc.
-- SWOs have a reputation of being a nasty community to come up in, period. SWOs take in ~4 Ensigns to make ~1 career SWO for this very reason.


Absolutely agree... every warfare area is "no fail." I really don't want to take anything away from the work our community does, but I'd argue that the ramifications of failure is higher in many cases in the URL world than I've personally experienced at my Big 4 initial ascension tour. My experience may be atypical, but failure as a subsurface DSO got you pulled from the rider rotation (no more deploying), sent on IA (when they were career enhancing), and then Divo jobs with visibility at the command. Deploying DSOs were disadvantaged in the FITREP process, a fact that was easy to see when you stacked all of them up, and a point I brought up with the XO during my FITREP debrief. People who failed as a DSO and were doing shore gigs were being ranked ahead of people who were representing the command forward.

Failure as a SWO in your primary job is failure overall. There's no wiggle room. It's a different world.

As far as subs go, their community is just as nasty as SWOs, but just in different ways. Their academic requirements are unlike anything else, and three section duty for an entire military career is probably one of the worst fates I could imagine. Subs have to throw insane cash at JOs to keep them around for DH tours, too.

COMEVIL wrote:-- SWOs need programs like this (SWO-IWO) to make their numbers, period. They benefit. Whereas us.....that is debatable. I'd rather have an IWO get experience in the surface Navy by doing IW work, vice being a trainee for 2 years followed by a tour as Electro, Weps, or MPA Assistant.


You chose areas where there is little overlap with IW, but what about COMMOs, CICOs, OPS officers, EWOs, etc? My baby SWO EWO learned more about electronic warfare and anti-ship missile defense than a lot of newbie IWOs will learn. This is especially true if the ship has an active system.

COMEVIL wrote:So, do we really want to encourage (key word, we have no way around this) outsourcing of our initial officer training to a community such as this?

Again, what is wrong with what we do to lead us to encourage someone to start elsewhere first? And what is right?


Depends on what kind of officer we want to build. Do we want an IW specialist with minimal exposure to leadership, or do we want a generalist with leadership experience? I think we go back to the generalist vs specialist argument, honestly. With how we currently do initial officer ascension assignments (everyone to one of the "Big 4") there are limited opportunities to run divisions, and even the divisions we run are VERY different from divisions at sea. The scope of responsibility is like apples vs oranges. If we're being direct, I see leading at sea to be varsity, while leading a shore-side division, a watchfloor team, or even a DIRSUP team to be JV.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Schlag » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:37 am

So IMHO, the difference between a SWO-IW and a PCS Afloat IW (particularly since the SWO pin is now off the table for IWOs) can be summarized by this...

Image

When I was a SWO, the IWO onboard told me that he felt sorry for me. I had to play the reindeer games of a SWO until the day when I would magically become an IWO. If I didn't, that day might never come.

He on the other hand could always retreat to his rack until PRD and his nightmare would be over. I think this picture captures the difference perfectly...
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Schlag » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:42 am

Let me go through your points to make my argument. So full disclosure, I've been at a Big 4 for over 2.5yrs now. First 2yrs were on the "National" side (only 1yrs was really national, the other year was doing various staff positions for the Navy Task Force) and now I've been DIRSUP Air for almost 9 months and I'm doing my OIC det right now. I'm not quite sure what your experience is as an IWO or at a Big 4, but I for one am very disillusioned after having spent so much time here and cannot wait to get away from it.

COMEVIL wrote:-- Every warfare area is "no fail." Surface Warfare is no different than Air, Subsurface, SEAL, etc.

True, but IWO community has a problem with accountability. Trying to hold someone accountable at a Big 4 is like trying to get a bill through Congress after a 3 drink minimum. At worst, someone is given a wrist slap.

COMEVIL wrote:-- SWOs have a reputation of being a nasty community to come up in, period. SWOs take in ~4 Ensigns to make ~1 career SWO for this very reason.

Life at sea is tough. There's no getting around it because the sea has no tolerance for stupidity. SWO understand that and ingrain that at an early age. That said, the community has been working hard to change the culture of abusive leadership and my time on the ship (2009-2011) was very different than what I heard it would be pre-commissioning.

WRT 4 ENS for 1 careerist, what do you consider a careerist? Someone who does 20 yrs or someone who gets command? If you're talking 20 yrs, then the IWO community is in an unusual community in that there is a disproportionate number of prior enlisted officers in the community (typically at least 5-10 yrs) which changes the name of the game when it comes to doing 20 yrs. I think our retention through O-4 board of being 90%+ is a function of that and less because of "quality of life".

COMEVIL wrote:-- Much of a baby's SWOs first tour is spent qualifying -- OOD in port, Aft Steering, CICWO, Helm Safety, Boat O, OOD at sea, SWO. I would argue that, for most, their head is in their PQS while there division is run by their Chief. First two years complete --- and how much of that is beneficial to becoming an IWO?

Really depends on what division you're running. If you're in Engineering; forget it, you're running the division because your Chief is probably illiterate so you get to own all of the admin (personal experience with the 3 divisions I ran in Engineering). If you're in Combat Systems or Ops, then you'll have your Chief do more of the admin for you. However, IMHO Surface Chiefs are SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER at training JO than CT Chiefs are. I'm really quite disappointed with the technical expertise of CT Chiefs and found that straight out of IWBC I was better equipped than a lot of my Chiefs were on the watchfloor. I've also found that since coming to the Air Shop that several of the Chiefs I've worked with are not where I would hope they would be WRT cryptology. Their NATOPS knowledge is spot on; but then again, an AWV2 knows as much as NATOPS as they do. I need someone that can be a CT expert and I haven't seen it yet.

COMEVIL wrote:-- The second tour is very different, where they are qualified and have much more responsibility. Years three and four complete, it is time to lat/xfer.

Agreed, but the application of Navy doctrine & tactics and leadership development are CRUCIAL skills that are highly valued by the IWO community. If we do not understand how the Navy works, then the IW, much less the IDC communities are of no valued added to the Navy.

COMEVIL wrote:-- SWOs need programs like this (SWO-IWO) to make their numbers, period. They benefit. Whereas us.....that is debatable. I'd rather have an IWO get experience in the surface Navy by doing IW work, vice being a trainee for 2 years followed by a tour as Electro, Weps, or MPA.

So our communities core capabilities are SIGINT, EW, and Cyber. At a Big 4 site, you might be lucky to get a Cyber billet as a JO in which case you will get full-frontal cyber. That's awesome, but those billets are hard to come by; particularly as a new JO. You have a 50/50 chance of getting into a decent SIGINT job, but there's no guarantee that you're going to be trained how to do SIGINT. If you have a questioning mindset and push the envelop then you'll get there. But the vast majority of JO who are pushing qual don't have that skillset developed, much less are in a position to instill it. WRT EW, I'm hardpressed to think our community still cares about EW, but that's a different story.

I'm rambling, but let me get to my point. The Big 4 are not nearly as good at developing our core capabilities as we think they are. And they're certainly not good at teaching JO about the Navy or about leadership. In fact, straight-stick IWO JO are at an increased risk of being dropped on their head from an officer development perspective when they're at a Big 4 than I think they are on a ship because you always have the threat of the Agency's "Purple Kool-aid". We've had several JO go native and it's cause significant problems.

COMEVIL wrote:So, do we really want to encourage (key word, we have no way around this) outsourcing of our initial officer training to a community such as this?

IMHO, hell yes we do. Until the Big 4 do some soul-searching and figure out how to train JO and stop fussing over NDB, Chief's Season and all the other crap that detracts from the mission then yes, I think we need to continue the SWO-IW experiment. I'd even like to see the billets increase in that program because I think it has a higher likelihood of producing a better Officer who is equipped for the IW community.

Full disclosure, I plan on making this career and hopefully command. I also don't plan on being a bitter IWO; I actively work to improve things where I am and to pass on the knowledge and experience that I've had as both a SWO and an IWO to anyone who is willing to listen. That said, it is discouraging that I feel I am in the minority. I also feel is discouraging that I feel like with my limited time in the IW community that I can go toe-to-toe with someone in my same YG that has spent their entire time in the IW community.

I'm all ears to any comments/questions/concerns/flamespraying anyone has. I want to add value to the community and the Navy.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby COMEVIL » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:49 am

Schlag wrote:IMHO, hell yes we do. Until the Big 4 do some soul-searching and figure out how to train JO and stop fussing over NDB, Chief's Season and all the other crap that detracts from the mission then yes, I think we need to continue the SWO-IW experiment. I'd even like to see the billets increase in that program because I think it has a higher likelihood of producing a better Officer who is equipped for the IW community.

Full disclosure, I plan on making this career and hopefully command. I also don't plan on being a bitter IWO; I actively work to improve things where I am and to pass on the knowledge and experience that I've had as both a SWO and an IWO to anyone who is willing to listen. That said, it is discouraging that I feel I am in the minority. I also feel is discouraging that I feel like with my limited time in the IW community that I can go toe-to-toe with someone in my same YG that has spent their entire time in the IW community.

I'm all ears to any comments/questions/concerns/flamespraying anyone has. I want to add value to the community and the Navy.


Thanks, Schlag. You are the first to really get to the heart of my question, which isn't so much focused on what SWOs do right but what we do wrong.

Do the vast majority of our new accessions still go to the "big 4"? Is the "big 4" construct broken? Do we incur risk by sending so many to so few commands? Is there benefit in creating a greater balance of new accessions across the claimancy? Will those initial tours at smaller commands get them what they require to complete their qualifications? Are there leadership opportunities available for them there? Is leadership what we need initially, or technical expertise?

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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Wolfpack » Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:03 pm

The reason the almost all the accessions go sub/SWO/aviation (it is really the big 3) is that own the farm. They own ALL the important jobs in N1, BUPERS, and the Navy staff. Also, The Navy remains based on platforms. Until those two realities change, accessions will not.

BTW, the SWOS Hate SWO options. They see them being the bill payer for accessions (even though IW, Intel, OCEANO gave them the money and billets pre-IDC). also, it pisses them off because the options are often the top JOs on the ships. They see that train the JOs, and once they become useful, they leave. Two years ago, they tried to get rid of the program, and are probably still trying.
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