NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- The Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) has introduced a unique training curriculum, aptly named Train to Qualify (T2Q), for the prospective officers of the deck (OOD) for the Navy's first littoral combat ship PCU Freedom (LCS 1).
The training began at SWOS in July for the men and women who will guide Freedom in its missions, with the goal of sending them to the ship with the skills needed to make a direct impact as soon as they report aboard.
"Train to Qualify establishes a baseline objective. The intent is to equip the prospective LCS OOD with the requisite mariner skill set and tactical awareness within the maritime environment required to proficiently handle the ship immediately upon reporting aboard," said Rear Adm. John Christenson, the former commanding officer of SWOS. "From an engineering perspective, students will depart the course with about 65 percent of their personal qualifications standards (PQS) completed."
The T2Q concept is new to the surface warfare community, but it has been used successfully by the Navy's aviation community and civilian maritime industry for years. Just as with aircraft, where a small one or two-man crew is required to operate high-cost, high-risk complex systems with no margin for error, the LCS demands a similar level of training for its OODs. On a traditional surface vessel, the OOD is backed by a bridge team consisting of redundant layers of highly skilled individuals focusing on specific parts of the overall picture. On the LCS, the OOD must be able to do it all, often in tight maneuverable quarters at speeds in excess of 40 knots.
"The LCS OOD curriculum was designed with two primary areas of focus: reinforcing the basic lessons that every OOD must understand, and exploring, identifying and honing the skills that are critical to the officer operating in a high-speed environment," Christenson said. "The idea is to produce consistent, measurable, objective training outcomes for all students, which the student can immediately and directly apply to the real world."
The most vital tool in this T2Q curriculum is the simulator used at SWOS. The LCS simulator is unique in that it is approximately an 80 percent replication of the bridge of the LCS, including the placement of controls and seating positions. This is the essence of the T2Q methodology because the simulator experience not only teaches the OOD how the LCS handles under any given condition, but it also teaches "muscle memory." Put another way, because of the fast-paced, littoral environment the OOD must operate in, he or she must know exactly where to reach without looking down and the simulator teaches that.
"These simulators are of the highest quality and provide realistic training that matches real world operations on a ship," Christenson said. "As a result, the students leave the course highly trained and with a level of confidence that is usually not obtained until having spent a significant time on board their platform. By dedicating focused training time at SWOS, the path to qualification is not hindered by their other job demands at sea."
Christenson is pleased with the response to the training he has seen from the students. This has been especially apparent as the curriculum has shifted from classroom lectures to simulator exercises.
"The students are enthusiastic, open-minded, hardworking and vocal. They understand that they are the pioneers of the LCS OOD program and that their input and feedback will directly affect the training program in the future," he said. "My overall impression of the performance of students and instructors in the LCS OOD course is incredibly positive. Anytime you have people preparing to serve not only on a new ship, but an entirely new kind of ship, the motivation to get the most out of training is unparalleled."
Freedom is scheduled to be commissioned in July 2007 and will be homeported in San Diego. The ship will be manned by two rotational blue and gold teams, much like the crews of trident submarines, and augmented by one of three mission package crews during focused mission assignments.
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