By Randy Craig, Director of Modernization Training, SLC
In the evolution of sonar, combat, and other non-propulsion electronic systems, each upgraded system only brings new capability. The teaming arrangement of the Systems Commands (SYSCOMs), the Submarine Learning Center (SLC), the Type Commander (TYCOM), and Submarine Development Squadron 12 (DEVRON 12) develops and delivers high-quality operational and employment training to transform that capability into what the fleet commanders need: readiness.
In the typical training model of the past, the SYSCOM developed and delivered factory training for each new install in accordance with the Navy Training Systems Plan (NTSP). Since new systems didn’t come along very often, this training model worked well for an individual ship. By the time the system had proliferated into the fleet, there were enough experts returning from those ships to the schoolhouses as instructors to conduct high-quality responsive training in the local schoolhouses. The process was self-sustaining.
During the initial fielding of Acoustic Rapid Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Insertion (A-RCI) sonar systems in the late 1990s, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the Advanced Systems Technology Office (ASTO) established the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and OMI Support Group-Acoustics (COSG-A), a cadre of senior enlisted operators, to perform a critical task: provide fleet input into the system development process.
At the same time, senior sonar operators in the fleet, including members of the COSG-A, became concerned that there was no training plan of record to accompany the introduction of A-RCI into the fleet. To meet this shortfall, these senior sonarmen formed a grass-roots A-RCI operations training program, approved by NAVSEA and the TYCOMs. These training teams evolved into the Tactical Systems Development and Installation Teams (TSDITs), which provided high-quality training during the initial A-RCI installation. As the number of new systems proliferated, however, the TSDIT process alone was no longer sufficient to create a broad and sustainable base knowledge of operation and employment of these systems and allow for quality responsive training in each homeport.
The Initial Solution
The NTSP is the best guess of what training will be required for operators and maintainers for a new system. Though reviewed annually, it does not directly cover emergent training for technical insertion, training for fleet shortfalls, or officer training. To close this gap, the SLC directed the establishment of a Modernization Training Team (MTT) at each learning site, with modernized system training as its primary responsibility.
Since these teams are actually part of each local schoolhouse staff, they also conduct staff training as well as responsive training in the Submarine Multi-Mission Team Trainer (SMMTT) and pre-deployment training as directed by the local schoolhouse commanding officer. The specific composition of each MTT varies slightly from site to site depending on the configuration and type of submarines in that homeport, but the typical team consists of one lieutenant, two sonar technicians, two fire control technicians, and one or two electronics technicians for communications and electronic support (ES) training.
Regardless of location and exact makeup, the goals of the MTT are the same:
1. Establish and maintain a broad base of knowledge and experience within the shore training establishment for both enlisted and officers
2. Maintain the high quality of installation training that the TSDITs established
3. Provide timely, accurate, and responsive training on modernized tactical systems to ships during new installation or follow-on and to the schoolhouse staffs
4. Rapidly integrate into the training pipeline the new equipment, tactics, and technology learned as part of the modernization training process
The establishment of the MTTs resulted in a broader base of expertise, served the fleet well, and prompted the next logical step: ensuring that the training given to a ship being modernized in Norfolk is the same, in terms of quality of curriculum and instructors, as the training given to a ship in Bangor, Groton, Pearl Harbor, Kings Bay, San Diego, Guam, or any of the shipyards.
The crew of PCU North Dakota (SSN 784), working with Naval Submarine
School Modernization Training Team members in the Multi-Interactive
Trainer, (MIT), at Fluckey Hall.
Today and the Future
In our new Modernization Training Model, the TYCOM, SYSCOM, and the SLC have partnered with formal memoranda of agreement. In these agreements, the SYSCOMs provide civilian Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with extensive operational experience to work with the SLC’s Modernization Training Director, forming a Modernization Training Support Team (MTST). In addition, the SYSCOM provides training for the MTT members to build the initial expertise in the active duty instructor base.
The SYSCOM, MTST, and MTT are engaged early and often and jointly develop and deploy an approved curriculum residing at each learning site allowing for advanced preparation, in-time delivery, and post-event refresh as well as pipeline training update. The MTST aims to improve liaison between the program offices and the SLC to enhance development of training materials and Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals, support delivery of installation training by the local MTT, and assist in transitioning that knowledge into the training pipelines. Additionally, the MTST assists DEVRON 12 Tactical Analysis Group in development of the System Employment Manuals, mentors MTT instructors, and monitors the delivery of the training to continuously improve the process.
So today, in practice, the modernization training process spans the entire Advanced Processor Build (APB) cycle from development through step testing, integration, and at-sea testing to installation on each submarine. The MTT instruction serves both enlisted Sailors and officers for system operation and employment and results in local military SMEs who are both a school and waterfront resource and eventually return to sea aboard a modernized submarine. Because the active duty MTT instructors follow the normal sea/shore rotation, the civilian MTST provides the long-term stability critical for continued success of the process.
The MTST is made up of SMEs from NAVSEA PMS 401 (Sonar), PMS 425 (Combat Systems), PMS 435 (Imaging and ES), and PEO C4I PMW 770 (Common Submarine Radio Room) with over 150 years of active duty submarine experience. These dedicated and highly motivated professionals are the absolute key to the long-term success of modern systems employment training. They are able to adeptly translate between scientist, system engineer, and employment guidance developer to operationalize new design concepts using a variety of knowledge transfer methods including printed material, video, and hands-on demonstration tailored to individual Submariners and watch teams.
Over the past two years, the MTTs have trained boats in every homeport and on every submarine type and class. In addition to training boats being modernized, MTT has taken on operations training for new-construction Virginia-class boats, starting with the future USS North Dakota (SSN 784).
Current Process Example
The rate and pace of the deployment and employment of the MTTs is derived from the fleet modernization schedule. This schedule is developed and updated at the quarterly Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Collaboration, and Intelligence (C5I) conferences by TYCOM, SYSCOMs, resource sponsors, and training representatives. The output of that conference is the modernization schedule for each boat and makes our training process and scheduling predictable.
With instructors at each site, the MTT network can deliver modernization training to more than one ship in more than one homeport simultaneously. This includes the ability to have a team made up of instructors from different sites conduct a training event in port or at sea.
As a team, we develop and execute training for the boats as systems are installed and as directed by the TYCOM. A typical A-RCI/BYG-1/BLQ-10/CSRR install training is conducted in three phases. During the availability, before the system is installed and tested, the local MTT conducts classroom and individual skills training in the Multi-purpose Interactive Trainer, Submarine Electronic Warfare Suite, and the CSRR Mission Reconfigurable Training System.
Each training event is tailored to the ship, but the average schedule for the current Advanced Processor Build (APB-11) calls for a week for officers, two weeks for STs, two weeks for FTs, and two weeks for ETs to cover the new system operation and some hands-on individual skill development. After the system installation and testing, the MTT goes to the submarine and conducts about five days of team training on the ship using the system onboard training tools and covering multiple mission areas. This also serves to continue the over-the-shoulder training for individual skills that can’t be trained as efficiently in the trainer.
Sometime after sea trials, the MTT returns for an additional three to seven days of at-sea, over-the-shoulder training to reinforce the basic skills and further enhance some of the advanced team skills. The local squadron is invited to participate in all of the training so that, as each of the submarines in the squadron are modernized, the staff can stay current and reinforce the training during subsequent events as the ship works up for deployment.
What Hasn’t Changed
The end result still has to be a trained Sailor who can get the most out of the capability of the system. For that to happen, first and foremost, the Sailor must come to the training engaged and ready to learn. Second, the instructor must be prepared and have a high-quality curriculum as well as the experience to make the topic interesting. Third, Sailors need to know that their feedback matters.
We have shown since APB-07 that the teaming arrangement with the SYSCOM, SLC, TYCOM, and DEVRON 12 has resulted in engaged Sailors, high-quality approved curriculum with well trained instructors, and a feedback loop from the ships and instructors to DEVRON 12 that produces well thought-out changes to the employment manuals as the systems are developed and operated.
To remain successful, modernization training requires a commitment by the Submarine Force to provide billets to the schoolhouses—for the schoolhouses to continue to provide high-quality instructors as members of the MTTs—for the SYSCOMs to continue to provide SME and instructor training support for the MTST and MTT and for the SLC to remain committed to its long-term success. It must be a team effort.
The CO of a recently modernized submarine summed it up by saying “I think we have finally cracked the nut with regard to modernization training. The Naval Submarine School MTT was excellent; the instructors knew the system inside and out, tailored the training to the strengths and weaknesses of my crew, and were flexible in supporting our schedule perturbations. The three-phased approach to training provides the necessary revisit rate to ensure that the training is absorbed and that the watch teams understand how to employ the system.”
Technical innovation demands continual learning of new sets of skills to successfully convert system capability to mission readiness. Our training must continue to support rapid technical insertion so that our 21st Century undersea warriors remain the world’s finest Submarine Force.
Cmdr. Randy Craig USN, (Ret.), served 25 years as a Submariner to include sea assignments on USS Von Steuben, USS Sand Lance, USS Seawolf, and USS Miami. Shore assignments included NROTC Penn State University, OPNAV N77 staff, and Deputy, Naval Submarine School.