This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.
Seventeen years ago, Allen Iverson gave one of the most epic press conference rants in NBA history. Yes, Baby Boomers, I’m old enough to remember it. In fact, I agree with every word he said!
We are the United States Navy. First round draft pick. Undisputed league MVP 28 years running. Back-to-back world champs. We do not need to worry about PRACTICE!
Fleet exercises? C’mon man! We gotta get these ships on deployment for the real deal! Just certify them like we’ve always done it: scripted scenarios, serialized training events, predictable adversaries, zero risk, check the block, done, see you in nine (maybe ten) months! All this talk about challenging high-end exercises? Totally unrealistic, we’re too busy. Just get the ships underway and they’ll reach basic proficiency halfway through deployment—then extend them on station and, voila, you’ve got a combat ready force! And now CNO wants to conduct a “Large Scale Exercise 2020?” Fine, as long as it’s a one-off event that only uses non-deployable assets, includes lots of photo opportunities, and haphazard lessons learned are locked away in a vault. That would be OK. Hey, maybe we should call Lieutenant General Van Riper out of retirement again!
SWO Training? I hear people like these junior officers saying we need to improve our training pipeline. Gimme a break. Our ensigns need to toughen up, report to their ship, and hit the ground running. This is the best navy in the world and we’re focused on hitting 355 ships before the Great Power Competition! We don’t have time to train every little butterbar running from one mistake to the next!
Some have even suggested we give newbies a full training regimen with stick time on Yard Patrol (YP) craft. Others even going so far as to suggest SWOs earn their pins before they report aboard their ship. What are we, aviators now? So what if the flight school model has contributed to developing the most lethal and proficient naval air force in the world? We are black shoes! Twin reversible screws, 100,000 horsepower, automatic plotting radars, electronic charts with GPS input, and coffee are all we need!
The next thing you’re gonna tell me is we need to send our best SWOs to be instructors, like aviators do! Don’t be ridiculous. We need to send our top performers to be detailers in Millington so they can optimize the personnel management system and give us the perfect next set of orders!
In the end, maybe there’s one thing on which we can all agree. Allen Iverson said it best: this is not a game.