SWO/IW vs IW

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SWO/IW vs IW

Postby megsmegs » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:26 am

Hi, I am graduating college soon, and I am hearing that SWO/IW is safer bet for me than going straight for IW. I understand that I would server as SWO for 1.5 years than have a guaranteed lateral transfer. Can anyone go into more detail on the pros/cons of each approach? I am pretty set on IW.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Schlag » Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:02 am

So MILPERSMAN 1212-050 (available here) dated 30 Oct 2014 reiterates the "6 months from LT" requirement which has been in place for a while. It does say that it could be waived to a "single Division Officer tour" provided the community has room in the LTJG paygrade. That'd have to be up to the OCM though.

So the way it's written, that actually puts you closer to 3.5 yrs as a SWO then automatic lateral transfer. Again, looks like that requirement could be reduced, but I wouldn't bank on that. It would depend on numbers at the time you want to transfer.

I think it comes down to a couple of things; the experiences you want to get and quota availability. A lot of IW end up serving as a Division Officer onboard a ship after their initial tour as either an LTJG (small boys) or LT (big deck/carrier). As a SWO-IW, you'd be knocking that requirement out early. Also, if you're dead set on getting your SWO pin, then you would need to go SWO-IW because IW are not eligible for SWO qualification anymore.

WRT quota availability, I think you'd have to ask which designator has the better selection rate but in my mind its another option to put down if you really want to be an IW. It might not happen immediately, but at least you know it'll happen.

I was a SWO-IW and wouldn't trade the experience I had as a SWO for anything. Not going to say it was easy (because it certainly wasn't) but my SWO skillset has paid dividends as an IW.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby COMEVIL » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:15 pm

megsmegs wrote:Hi, I am graduating college soon, and I am hearing that SWO/IW is safer bet for me than going straight for IW. I understand that I would server as SWO for 1.5 years than have a guaranteed lateral transfer. Can anyone go into more detail on the pros/cons of each approach? I am pretty set on IW.


Not sure what you mean by a "safer" bet. If you are talking quotas or availability I can't speak to that. Otherwise, my advice would differ a bit from Schlag's and that is --- get into the IW community as soon as you can! It is a highly technical field and every single tour matters. Your first tour as an IW Officer really sets the foundation for the rest of your career, exposing you to both national and tactical cryptology and possibly cyberspace operations as well. Going SWO first, while potentially a rewarding experience, would sidetrack you for up to 4 years. At the same time, your peers that went straight to IW have quite an advantage. Both paths work, but I would advise going straight into IW.

v/r

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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Sum1 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:19 pm

I went straight IW, but did a tour on a DDG as a LTJG/junior LT. I will humbly offer my experience. I learned more about leadership from my 2.5 years with the ship than I did in 7 years enlisted (up to E6) and 3 years in my first tour as an IW officer deploying on afloat units. While I know my IW-centric skills eroded, I wouldn't trade the experience and leadership growth for ANYTHING. I was above the worst of the fray because I wasn't a SWO, and I was a little more senior than the other newbies. There were advantages and disadvantages of being in that position on the ship. I'm also pretty proud of my SWO pin, even though it has less value in our community nowadays.

Frankly, my suggestion is you're going to find yourself afloat at some point, so it's just a matter of personal priorities. Would you like to earn your SWO pin, be fully immersed in shipboard life, and then have a guaranteed lat transfer into IW? Or do you want to go straight IW, start your learning with that stuff, and then go play SWO later on?

If it was me and I knew what I know now, I'd do SWO-IW, get that leadership experience, and then use that to carry me forward in the IW community.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby CNO Guy » Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:16 pm

Going SWO-IW will give you experience as a SWO and may be a better option for you to get commissioned; however, you will get SWO credit for going afloat vice IW credit for being afloat. As an IW the Navy is going to want you to earn a BI2 designation by doing a tactical tour as an IW. That doesn't have to be on a surface platform, but if you go IW right away it gives you more time to get the tactical tour as an IW. For that reason alone I would encourage you to try IW before seeking out SWO-IW, but recommend you put that into context of your personal desires and situation.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Schlag » Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:42 pm

COMEVIL wrote:Going SWO first, while potentially a rewarding experience, would sidetrack you for up to 4 years.

If you're looking at it from an officer development perspective then I would have to respectively disagree with you. Then again, I do say that as a SWO-IW. If you're looking at it from a box-checking perspective, then I would agree with you that 4 years as a SWO would sidetrack you. But that said, which is more important?

COMEVIL wrote:At the same time, your peers that went straight to IW have quite an advantage

I also respectfully disagree with you on this point. There is only an advantage if you allow there to be an advantage. Coming into the community fresh from the boat gave me the knowledge, experience, and drive to immediately take jobs commensurate with my LT peers and knock out my IW and IDWO quals in approximately 7 months. Those 7 months sucked really bad (like equal to being on the ship) but it was certainly doable.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few SWO-IW that are behind the pack (one at my command did non-attain) but most of them are hungry and are very much in the hunt. It is really up to the individual.

CNO Guy wrote:Going SWO-IW will give you experience as a SWO and may be a better option for you to get commissioned; however, you will get SWO credit for going afloat vice IW credit for being afloat. As an IW the Navy is going to want you to earn a BI2 designation by doing a tactical tour as an IW.

You have to get BI2 before you go up for LCDR. That's approximately 9 years from commissioning. SWO-IW only burns 4 of those years, leaving 5 years to get the AQD which is completely doable.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby LIVINGIW » Sat Nov 08, 2014 7:06 pm

I have mixed emotions, as I was a direct IW (cryppie) out of college and wouldn't trade that for anything in retrospect.

My first tour as an ENS 1645/1615/1610 was invaluable. I had a great skipper who looked out for me and I was able to be a National Watch Officer, Subsurface Direct Support Officer, and extend and complete a surface/IO deployment with COMSEVENTHFLT. I know many others with similar first tour experiences. That said, others have not been as fortunate.

The other side of that coin is that you will learn and grow as a leader in a DIVO ENS tour on a ship in a different way than as an 1810.

So really, it comes down to what you want and what the recruiter/OCM offers you...
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Wolfpack » Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:35 pm

So long as being an IW is the goal, both are great options. The experiences of being a SWO will impact you as long as you are in the Navy ( in a positive and negative way). If that is what you end up with, learn as much about naval,operations as you can. Dont't get stressed about IW, but be the best damn SWO you can be. Embrace it, learn from it. Know the operators perspective.

And when you become an IW officer, be the best damn IW officer. Take everything you learned as a SWO and use it to improve how the IW community and the IDC can shape and impact naval operations.

I was a lat transfer, while may be a behind in some aspects, it will all even out by your first IW tour. You will be fine, you will excel - if you want to.

Either are great options. Mad a lag transfer from SWO, I like the SWO-IP option, but I am a little bias. Good luck, you will love being an IW.
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Sum1 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 9:15 pm

The other thing I've seen with the "option" tracks (SWO-IW, SWO-IP, SWO-Metoc) is sometimes - if you have people looking out for you - you will get pushed into directions somewhat relevant to both your SWO experience AND your future development in your option track. For example, a young SWO-IP option Ensign on my ship was made the COMMO and COMSEC officer (the latter, much to his chagrin). This allowed him to get very familiar with the equipment and how afloat communications work - things that will be directly relevant to his future career. Another IWO colleague onboard a cruiser in Hawaii had a SWO-IW option Ensign check onboard. He managed to convince the CO to let her work for him, and she scored her TS/SCI early and was running SSES with his supervision. There's no more direct IW experience than that.

Are these typical experiences? Perhaps not common enough. But the point is they do happen. Couple the possibility for that kind of experience with the leadership experience that you WILL gain as a SWO, I still would lean towards that (if it was up to me).

Good luck with whatever path you choose!
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Re: SWO/IW vs IW

Postby Mjölnir » Wed Nov 12, 2014 12:18 am

My first three tours:

DIRSUP Submarines (deployed for 25 of 36 months)
DIRSUP Air (deployed for 21 of 39 months)
PCS Afloat DDG (deployed 9 of 24 months, other underways for about 5 months, and an INSURV)


I personally would lean on the SWO-IW option. While on a DDG as SIGWO/EWO & drafted into being OPS for over half my tour I learned more about "the Navy" than in the previous two tours. I think the potential to develop leadership skills, presence, organization etc. would also be more available during your time as a SWO.

Other considerations:

1. Are you married / planning on getting married right before / after commissioning? As a SWO you will be very busy and will deploy a couple of times before you lat transfer.
2. Do you want to be a Naval Officer (regardless of what designator you get offered) or do you want to be an IWO? If you aren't so much into 'the military' but like the idea of it and being an IWO etc, don't go SWO-IWO. I know a couple former SWO-IWO options from my time on a DDG that hated the SWO part of the SWO-IWO route and they let the dissatisfaction of being a SWO impact them beyond recovery (both separated before lat transfer to IWO.)

Good luck to you either way.
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