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q a: How Open Architecture Trainers Have Changed a Boat’s Inter-deployment Life with Command Master Chief Kurt Smith
(above)Sailors observe Master Chief Smith demonstrate how to use the trainers at NSTCP.
U.S. Navy photo

by Lt. Cmdr. Brett Levander

Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMDCM) Kurt Smith has served on USS Sam Houston (SSN-609), USS Tunny (SSN-682), USS Cheyenne (SSN-773), and USS Columbia (SSN-771). In addition, his shore tours have included duty as the Submarine Squadron ONE (CSS-1) Staff Fire Controlman; Commander, Submarine Pacific Fleet (COMBSUPAC) Tactical Readiness Evaluation (TRE) Team Fire Controlman; and his current assignment as the Command Master Chief (CMC) of Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific (NSTCP). Master Chief Smith sat down with UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine to share his thoughts and extensive experiences.

Which fire control systems have you worked on during your career?

I learned my trade on a system that doesn’t exist anymore! I attended C-school in San Diego, Calif., in 1985 where I was taught the operations and maintenance of the MK 101 Torpedo Fire Control System. That system was used on USS Nautilus (SSN-571) and is now exhibited in several Submarine Museums.

During my sea tours, I have seen everything from the MK 112 Analog Fire Control System on Sam Houston, my first boat, to the AN/BYG-1 TI-02 APB-02 on Columbia during my chief of the boat (COB) tour. Additionally, my shore tours on the CSS-1 Staff and the COMSUBPAC TRE team enabled me to witness operations on almost every boat in the Pacific. My current assignment as CMC of NSTCP affords me the opportunity to have some hands-on involvement with the latest state-of-the-art ARCI and BYG-1 systems as well as providing guidance and leadership to some of our most talented sailors.

How has growing up in the digital age changed today’s young Sailors?

As a COB, it was a whole new world of digital recreation during off-watch hours: iPods in the chow line, DVD players in racks, and computers for playing games in the crew’s mess. It was very different from the way we spent our off-watch hours when I was a young Sailor.

Additionally, the technical savvy of today’s recruits is quite impressive. C-school is just not required to instill the technical foundation in these Sailors; it is almost innate in their growing up in a digital environment. As the chief fire control technician (FTC) on Cheyenne, the high cost and limited availability of personal computers allowed the Navy to feature unique opportunities to work on systems that pushed Sailors beyond their technical know-how. Today, the Navy faces a lot more competition in this arena. Nearly every Sailor has an iPod or DVD player in their bunk, and most are very computer savvy and can almost program the computers. The fire control technicians (FT), electronics technicians (ET), and sonar technicians (ST) that I had were, as a group, eager to learn the Unix and Linux Operating systems and on most occasions could have the Submarine Fleet Mission Planning Library (SFMPL) system up and running by simply editing some Unix commands. This kind of stuff is just not in the technical manuals. I have even witnessed young Sailors going to a bookstore and spending their cash on a Unix Programming book to enhance their in-rate knowledge and understanding.

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Master Chief Smith gives one-on-one lessons on the trainer.
U.S. Navy photo

How has the fire control technician business changed?

The BYG-1 operating environment very closely resembles the operating systems our Sailors use on their own personal computers. In the days of “green screens,” I had to attend a month long course in UYK-7 Diagnostics in order to learn to troubleshoot the computer systems and program in machine language. In today’s Navy, the FT’s are able to figure out many of the BYG-1 functions intuitively; which can present some not so intuitive challenges.

On the positive, it takes almost no time for a young seaman to sit down in front of the console and be comfortable operating the system. Additionally, when that sailor reaches the end of their comfort zone with a display or function he is using, he can usually intuitively figure out the next step and move on. Finally, “maintenance” is mostly a thing of the past and most of the effort is akin to the work performed on your own personal computer.

On the negative, an FT can gain a false sense of confidence while operating the system if he does not have the theoretical knowledge required to understand the contact analysis functions used. With the operator aids inherent in these new systems, it could be possible for an FT to develop a perfect solution while at the same time not be able to explain the physics behind it. We are trying to overcome this negative by developing an electronic plots course to help teach the basic theory behind and capabilities inherent in the new whiz-bang fire control systems.

Additionally, transferring technical manuals from books to Integrated Electronic Technical Manuals residing on the system helps encourage the operators to execute a self-study program to improve their understanding of both theory and procedures.

Can you tell us about how modern trainers have changed the inter-deployment training cycle?

Here, at NSTPC, we have Legacy, Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer (SMMTT) TI-02, SMMTT TI-04, Common Operational Analysis and Employment Trainer (COAET) and, in the near future, we will have a SMMTT TI-06/TI-08 trainer. Our command organization allows us to satisfy the individual boat’s training objectives with the trainers without requiring an overwhelming time investment in the preparation of scenarios and metrics from the command’s leadership. We have standard scenarios, at various difficulty levels, with standard evaluation metrics, that allow us to provide feedback to commands that tell them exactly where their skills stand compared to the requirements. We have taken data from years of submarine deployments and attempted to create training scenarios that are identical to situations the watch team will face on deployment. Additionally, we are able to simulate the bathymetry and sound propagation wherever in the world we choose to run the scenario.

As a result, squadrons are now able to evaluate watch team performance in as close to a real situation that they will face on deployment without crossing the dateline, thereby revolutionizing the deployment certification process. Now, prior to putting to sea in the locals for a final evaluation on complex functions such as command and control, decision making, and risk management, the squadron can already have certified the watch teams to possess the requisite basic skills in contact management, contact identification and tracking, and weapons employment to succeed at sea.

Alternatively, when a boat finishes their deployment stand-down and inevitable large crew turnover, the trainers become an invaluable tool for introducing new crewmembers to their at-sea watch station, polishing the basic skills that may have degraded post-deployment, and develop watch team fundamentals. These basic building blocks are accomplished prior to the boat going to sea, and makes underway time more productive by allowing focus above the basic level skills right away.

Recently, the Submarine Force has taken this concept a step further. Some skills required to be demonstrated during TREs are difficult to simulate in the local submarine operating areas. The densities of surface contacts found in some places in the world are not seen here off of Pearl Harbor. So, a portion of this command evaluation is sometimes performed and graded at NTSCP.

Finally, our facility also allows boats a maintenance environment to sustain and improve their skill level. Junior members of specific training groups are able to work on fundamental skills without inspection-like evaluation, and individuals or watch teams, who are struggling in a particular mission area, have the opportunity to improve.

NSTC P supports the submarines of Squadrons 1, 3, and 7 in Pearl Harbor, submarine command courses, sailor qualifications, and a myriad of other courses and training opportunities.

Lt. Cmdr. Levander serves as the military editor of UNDERSEA WAFARE Magazine, in addition to being the congressional liaison for the Director, Submarine Warfare (N87).

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Master Chief Smith instructs one Sailor on the trainer while the group looks on.
U.S. Navy photo


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