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by Lt. Cmdr. Nick Kristof

The Personnel Exchange Program
The Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) originated during the Cold War to sustain and enhance cooperative maritime relations and interoperability with U.S. allies and partners. Originally limited to our closest English-speaking allies, it now includes 18 nations as diverse as Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Japan, and Korea. Of more than 100 PEP officer billets, 15 are open to submariners. Eight are specifically designated for unrestricted line officers qualified in submarines (1120s)—four in the U.K., three in Canada, and one in Australia. (See The U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy Relationship: A Partnership to Educate, UNDERSEA WARFARE, Summer 2007.)

In an April 2008 PERSONAL FOR message to flag officers, commanders and senior executives, then Chief of Naval Personnel Adm. John C. Harvey, Jr. noted that "PEP has contributed markedly to the stability and depth of [our] naval alliances. The effectiveness of our global maritime partnerships also depends heavily on our development of collaborative relationships with new friends in increasingly critical geostrategic areas." Predicting that the number of participating nations would grow to as many as 40 in the coming years, he urged the U.S. Navy to "change the perception that [a PEP tour] is a disassociated, or worse yet, unvalued tour of duty. PEP should be viewed and rewarded as a preferred career milestone [and] valued as an instrument of the Maritime Strategy, employed and designed to achieve an enduring effect."

Unfortunately, the perception that Adm. Harvey spoke of continues. Many still regard a PEP tour as a paid vacation of sorts. It is certainly pleasant—and educational—to spend leave time traveling through Europe, but we get no more leave than anyone else, and our billets carry significant responsibility and require the same dedication as any Submarine Force job. U.S. Navy submarine PEP officers contribute to the Royal Navy in real and meaningful ways, serving in diverse roles, including work that, for example, affects current and future British submarine capabilities, helps to address key interoperability issues, or even involves going to sea with U.K. forces. In the process, we learn important skills and learn valuable lessons from which both navies can benefit.

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Lt. Cmdr. Drew Preston (left) with other officers from COMUKMARFOR during their deployment to Iraq in early 2008. Photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Nick Kristof.

Where We Serve and What We Do
Our four billets in the U.K. demonstrate the wide range of duties available to U.S. submarine officers. All were challenging and extremely rewarding. Not one of them was a 'figurehead' or liaison role, created solely to ease bilateral communication. Each involved integral RN business, as the following descriptions demonstrate. I am certain that the PEP billets in Canada and Australia are similar.

The Maritime Warfare Center (MWC), located at HMS Collingwood, in Fareham, Hampshire (many RN shore facilities have ship names), is the focal point for RN doctrine and tactical development. Its mission is to "provide the focus for operational knowledge exploitation (OKX)—the requirement to observe and process front-line operational experiences as quickly as possible so as to improve our fighting power." It is a "'one-stop-shop' for the evolution and dissemination of maritime doctrine in a joint environment through tactical development, operational analysis, doctrine development, education and war gaming, and the development of operational-level war fighting, planning and decision-making."

Lt. Cmdr. Boerner served in MWC's Underwater Warfare (UWW) Division, which is analogous to and works very closely with COMSUBDEVRON TWELVE. His primary responsibility was as a "reachout" officer for four Trafalgar-class SSNs, consolidating best practices and lessons identified into timely tactical guidance in the form of TACNOTES, similar to the SUBDEVRON TWELVE Newsletter. His other tasks varied with the needs of the fleet, ranging from coordinating with the U.S. Arctic Submarine Laboratory for U.K. participation in ICEXs to developing and conducting tactical trials for new equipment. He deployed aboard HMS Ark Royal during the July 2010 "AURIGA" deployment to the U.S. East Coast, serving as the MWC's forward presence to support the Ark Royal Carrier Strike Group in assessing and improving ASW tactics and coordinating tactical development trials.

The U.K. Maritime Battle Staff (COMUKMARFOR), at HMS Excellent, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, is a scalable operational command whose primary role is to command U.K., allied or coalition forces worldwide. Staffed by officers of the British services (mostly RN) as well as naval officers from most Western European nations, it has the expertise and manpower to deploy as a Maritime Component Commander overseeing several naval task groups in a campaign. When not deployed, it develops maritime capability and coordinates operations through fleet, joint, and allied exercises.

The Maritime Battle Staff has subject matter experts (SMEs) in various fields to support RN exercises, operations, acquisition, training, and doctrine development. Lt. Cmdr. Preston was the future operations submarine planner and targeteer. He served as a member of the Submarine Element Coordinator/Submarine Advisory Team (SECSAT) supporting task group operations, assisted with antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aspects of campaign planning, participated in Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile (TLAM) planning exercises and operations as a launch-area coordinator (LAC), and supported targeting operations. In early 2008, he deployed to the Middle East for four months as a member of COMUKMARFOR.

Navy Command Headquarters (NCHQ) is also located at HMS Excellent, in Portsmouth. Lt. Cmdr. Galyon was NCHQ's fleet capabilities submarine TLAM officer, the only staff job dedicated to a single specific weapon system. As the submarine TLAM SME, he worked with various Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Department of Defense (DoD) organizations to maintain and develop RN attack submarines' TLAM capabilities. He was the focal point for TLAM capability, doctrine, policy, and training and was specifically tasked "to maintain connectivity to U.S. TLAM organizations to maintain a relevant knowledge base in order to effect informed decisions and recommendations to his U.K. chain of command." He dealt with doctrine from the tactical to the strategic level, with training, and with cooperation between the U.S. and U.K. acquisition communities.

Lt. Cmdr. Galyon was integrally involved in Britain's taking delivery of the Block IV Tomahawk, and his support of key equipment installs in RN submarines directly improved interoperability with the U.S. He was also involved in initiatives with the RN Submarine School; Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST); and the U.K. Cruise Missile Support Activity (CMSA) to improve and standardize TLAM training both ashore and at sea. In addition to TLAM, he also helped support SSN force generation, capability and readiness.

Commander, Task Force 311 (CTF-311), located in Northwood, Middlesex, is the Royal Navy's sole submarine operating authority (SUBOPAUTH), unlike the U.S. Navy, which has several SUBOPAUTHs around the world. CTF-311 maintains operational control of all of Britain's less numerous attack submarines, wherever they may be.

I served as CTF-311's deputy SSN operations officer (DSSN), overseeing the day-to-day running of a watchstanding organization made up of a duty submarine controller (a lieutenant or lieutenant commander who is the equivalent to our submarine watch officers) and his two assistants. I was delegated the authority to review and approve all training events in which RN SSNs participated. I was actively involved in the writing and review process for all memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and operations orders (OPORDERS) for which the U.K. is a signatory (including, but not limited to, those with the U.S.).

I represented the U.K. in international staff talks with France and other NATO nations. As one of only five lieutenant commanders on the CTF-311 staff, I was given the opportunity to qualify as a command duty officer (CDO). For 18 months, I stood duty as CDO in week-long increments, with full responsibility for all boats at sea and the first person notified when any issue arose. I was the CDO during covert operations, during theatre anti-submarine warfare (TASW) operations, and with U.K. boats deployed from the East Coast of the U.S. to the Far East. I also assisted with exercise planning, and I served as the lead submarine planner for PIT STOP 2010, an international TASW exercise involving U.S., U.K., and French assets.

The Value of PEP
Comments by the British commanding officers of the crop of PEP officers I served with illustrate the benefits of the program for the specific organizations they serve in as well as for the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy in general. "The PEP programme is first rate," said Cmdr. Donald Walker, RN, the Maritime Battlestaff's deputy chief of staff. "The individuals we receive are invariably high-class and exceptionally well motivated. They bring with them a fresh perspective, infectious enthusiasm and a thirst for knowledge that causes us all to dig deep into our subjects and challenge the way we do business."

"The Personnel Exchange Programme benefits all nations on a number of levels," added Cmdr. Paul Dunn, who heads MWC's Underwater Warfare Division. "From an MWC perspective, it provides valuable insight into the work of partner nations and links to information that would otherwise probably have been missed. The addition of exchange officers gives greater depth to UWW and offers a different and fresh outlook to a number of issues." Cmdr. Ian Pickles, at Navy Command, noted the benefits of an outside perspective: "Having an external view helps us to benchmark our own achievements and progress. Where our nations are working together on programmes of mutual interest, the exchange officer can often quickly identify the correct point of contact, cutting out nugatory staff work by quickly directing effort to where it is required."

Cmdr. Pickles observed that his department "would certainly not function as well without the unique knowledge, experience and skills of the PEP." Cmdr. Dunn pointed out that without the PEP, the UWW Division "would lose experience in a number of areas, most notably TG [task group] Ops, TLAM and under-ice operations, where the U.S. has a wealth of operational experience." Cmdr. Mark 'H' Honnoraty, CTF-331's submarine operations officer, emphasized the integral nature of the PEP officer's duties. "Submarine Operations requires five lieutenant commanders able to operate; they must act independently, with little supervision, and at a high level. …As the RN is currently manpower-limited at that level, the loss of the American in that billet, with his understanding and foresight of the U.S. approach to bilateral TASW operations, could prove problematic."

PEP certainly enhances maritime relations among allies. "Our submarine Fleets both deliver an outstanding product; our aims are very similar, but there is no doubt that we approach the problem from sometimes very different directions," said Cmdr. Pickles. "Having the PEP on the staff can help both nations to understand and help each other," Cmdr. Dunn agreed. "The linkages provided through the SUBDEVRON TWELVE–MWC exchange have provided feedback and exchange of information in a number of key areas." Cmdr. Honnoraty stressed "ability to liaise with the multitude of Americans with whom we interact. We've found that sometimes Americans prefer speaking to someone with a familiar accent when discussing sensitive or possibly controversial topics."

American submariners familiar with the U.K. PEP also regard it as a 'win-win' for both countries. Capt. Jeffrey Trussler, who, as CTF-69, probably had more frequent opportunities to observe the U.K. PEP officers in action than any other senior U.S. submariner, commented: "I am not sure if the U.K. PEP officer on my staff and Commander Kristof's PEP billet are counterparts in the administration of the program. In daily business, they most certainly are. The U.K. PEP officer on my staff is a post-XO lieutenant commander. Neither of these two positions is window dressing; they both have significant roles on each other's staffs, and both represent their staffs to our own chains of command and to other countries. I thoroughly enjoyed meetings where Commander Codd was representing CTF-69 and Commander Kristof was representing CTF-311. The confusion of most others in the room was always amusing!"

"I have a feeling in the U.S. that we don't use the U.K. and other PEP officers to their full potential," he added. "In the U.K., our officers have to immediately ruck up and produce. I have dealt with several other of our PEP officers; they have real responsibility and great reputations in the U.K. As a previous detailer, I wasn't much of a fan of the program and clearly didn't understand it. As an end user now, I have a completely different perspective."

Of course, American naval officers are not in every way a perfect match for the RN. Speaking of my own limitations, Cmdr. Honnoraty comments that I have "none worth commenting on, aside from his inability to spell properly in accordance with the English language. He tends to write in 'American' and that can occasionally be a stumbling block." Cmdr. Walker lists as some of Lt. Cmdr. Preston's shortfalls, "A failure to understand the intricacies and niceties of cricket, and a tendency to fall over quickly when not drinking weak American beers." Setting aside the British sense of humor, there is a period of adjustment when transitioning from the U.S. Navy to the Royal Navy, but the adjustments are minor and easily made by any submariner, as we are all required to 'find our footing' and immediately contribute upon arriving at a new command.

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Lt. Cmdr. Don Galyon enjoying some of the UK's scenic wonders on a trip with the Brits that he worked with. Photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Nick Kristof.

Our PEP Experiences
Each of us considered PEP our best tour yet. Lt. Cmdr. Galyon summed up our feelings: "Being in the Navy since 1985, I had never had the opportunity to 'see the world' as the recruiting slogan promised. When given this opportunity, I jumped at the chance. Serving with one of the oldest and most respected navies in the world, and working at Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy, were added benefits. Although the RN Submarine Force is smaller than ours, the jobs and missions they conduct are no different than those that we conduct. And, in many cases, the workload is shared or conducted together."

The range of professional experiences can be astounding. "In three years I conducted military operations and training in Pakistan, Turkey, Norway, Germany, Italy, Iraq, France, and the United States. One day, I found myself departing a Dutch ship, traveling on a British landing craft, in Greek territorial waters, on a Turkish Exercise, with Scottish Marines, headed to an American ship. It doesn't get any more interesting than that," said Lt. Cmdr. Preston. "Within six months on the staff, I was conducting a highly challenging job of consequence-management on the Iraqi oil terminals in the northern Arabian Gulf as the expert on oil spill management. Six months later, I was the U.K.'s lead planner for a large multinational joint exercise in a highly disputed region of the Aegean Sea. Subsequently, I became the lead targeteer for the Royal Navy and returned to my warfare roots as their undersea warfare and submarine planning expert. The friends I made and the experiences I gathered are phenomenal."

For me, personally, the tour was professionally outstanding. My CO, Capt. Paul Abraham, told me at my check-in interview: "I don't care about your accent or the color of your uniform; for the next three years you are a member of the RN, and you will be treated as such." He was talking not just about privileges and access, but, more importantly, about my responsibilities and the demands the Royal Navy placed upon me. It was humbling and a bit scary when I was later given the chance to qualify as a U.K. SUBOPAUTH CDO, an opportunity not offered to previous exchange officers in CTF-311, despite my technically not meeting the prerequisites. (Unlike all other CDOs, I was neither a "served executive officer" nor a graduate of the Submarine Command Course.) I will always be proud of the trust the RN submarine community, including its two-star admiral, placed in me and proud that my RN superiors were pleased with my performance.

A Great Opportunity
PEP is important to our maritime strategy, enhancing cooperation with our allies and giving us deeper insight into their capabilities and operations. It is also an amazing opportunity for anyone interested in the challenge of total immersion in the culture of another Navy. All four of us benefitted both professionally and personally from becoming members of the Royal Navy, and it gave us unique perspectives on the challenges our own Submarine Force will face in coming years. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in PEP, and we wholeheartedly recommend it to others.

Lt. Cmdr. Kristof completed his PEP tour in the Royal Navy in July 2010.