Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
SWO Division Officer Training Restored, Training Continuum Established
Advanced Training


NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) – On October 6th a group of Surface Warfare junior Officers will assemble in Newport for the inaugural convening of the Advanced Division Officer Course (ADOC), marking the final element of a formal “continuum of training” spanning the career, Ensign to Captain, of a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO). This heavy investment in training marks a definitive paradigm shift from the efforts a decade ago to shift accession officer education to the fleet using on-the-job and computer-based training. With ADOC in place, SWOs now receive formal/schoolhouse training from SWOS prior to every at-sea milestone tour, including the first Division Officer tour, the second Division Officer tour, Department Head tours, Executive and Commanding Officer tours, and prior to Major Command at the O-6 level.

The Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC), taught in the Navy’s largest fleet concentration areas in Norfolk and San Diego, targets accession-level officers promptly after commissioning and prior to reporting aboard their first ship. The two-month curriculum seeks to provide foundational knowledge in shiphandling, Divo administration, maritime warfare fundamentals and basic engineering concepts. Introduced in 2012, BDOC replaced the legacy “SWO Intro” course presented by the Afloat Training Groups, and capitalizes on waterfront access to enhance classroom learning with “laboratory” experience aboard fleet ships.

SWOS’s BDOC Curriculum Lead, LT Matt Faulkenberry, noted the difference between BDOC and its 3-week predecessor.

“BDOC is challenging,” he admitted. “There is a lot of material in this course. Three weeks was just not sufficient to capture a good introduction for what a prospective division officer needs to know – much less a prospective SWO. BDOC provides increased COVE simulator time; something SWO Intro was really lacking.”


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LCDR Kevin Louis, Officer-in-Charge at BDOC San Diego, believes the course is designed to set Officers up for success.

“BDOC provides prospective division officers with the baseline fundamentals they need to provide an immediate, positive contribution to their ship,” Louis shared. “Our feedback continues to show that BDOC is an overall motivating experience for officers embarking on their first tour in the Navy.

Both location and format are vital to the success of the course. LCDR Les Sobol, BDOC Norfolk OIC, explained why.

“This is a dynamic learning environment,” said Sobol. “BDOC is right on the waterfront and is actually co-located with SURFLANT, which provides a high degree of interaction between our students and the flag-level Surface Navy leadership. Students receive ship tours and have frequent guest speakers from around the waterfront. At the conclusion of each convening we hold a shiphandling competition assessed by a panel of guest judges. The winner gets his or her name engraved on the Vice Admiral Holloway Cup. We have received a lot of positive and constructive feedback since the program began.”

The initial training received at BDOC is expanded and reinforced through experience during each officer’s first Divo tour. Upon receiving orders to their second tour, every conventional SWO will attend ADOC at SWOS in Newport, Rhode Island. ADOC is designed to expand upon the fundamentals taught in BDOC and acts as a catalyst for the development of higher order technical and tactical skills.

Delivered in Newport to capitalize on SWOS’s existing trainers and instructors in advanced engineering, maritime warfare and shiphandling, ADOC builds upon the concepts introduced at BDOC and seeks to prepare seasoned division officers for requalification as Officers of the Deck on a new platform, advanced tactical training to facilitate qualification as a Warfare Coordinator, and a Junior Officer Material Readiness Course to develop those skills and ease qualification as Engineering Officer of the Watch. Seeking to deliver “Fleet Lieutenants” upon arrival aboard the second tour, ADOC also lays the foundation for success during the Department Head (DH) course for those Officers who elect to serve at that level later in their careers.

CDR Justin Kubu, SWOS Director of Fleet Training and responsible for both BDOC and ADOC, explained the importance of the curricula:

“The Surface Warfare Officer Training continuum is the framework for professional development across our community,” he said. “Both BDOC and ADOC form the foundation of this framework by developing the essential skills and competencies an Officer will need throughout their career as a leader, warfighter and professional mariner. The addition of both courses to the training continuum highlights the Surface Community’s commitment to ensure Junior Officers are capable and confident as they proceed to challenging jobs at sea.”

There is a misconception in some corners of the SWO community that ADOC is simply a re-naming of the Advanced Shiphandling and Tactics (ASAT) course. LT Pat Foster, SWOS’s ADOC lead, set the record straight on the newly introduced course.

“ASAT was a stand-alone course,” he explained. “It was not sequenced with the SWO Intro course. ADOC blends BDOC and the Department Head course and acts as the center waypoint in the SWO curriculum. ADOC builds on BDOC and leverages against fleet experience in a conversational learning environment. Ultimately, the product of ADOC is a student who knows his or her next homeport from a shiphandling perspective. They can drive the ship, are more adept at pier work, and are prepared for their next tactical and engineering qualifications.”

Change, however, does not come free of complications.

“One of the biggest challenges,” admits Foster, “is managing expectations. If you read through the comments from the pilot classes, the biggest critique is the difficulty level. Students need to understand before they arrive that we are expecting them to retain the information we taught them in BDOC. We actually give them a pre-test on just that. While the grade doesn’t count against them, what we’re finding out is that they are retaining the information, but they are surprised by the rigors of this course.”

CAPT Dave Welch, SWOS Commanding Officer, believes the new training model is a perfect complement to the enduring SWOS mission: to train and prepare Officers for success in the Fleet. While SWOS responsibilities have grown in recent years to include enlisted engineering and navigation training, the command remains focused on a core competency to train commissioned Officers.

“Many of our successes in the restoration of enlisted engineering training have served to shed light upon our approach to Officer training, and vice versa. The notion of a training continuum, spanning an enlisted Sailor or Officer’s career, comprised of building blocks of complementary training, governs our curriculum development and course sequencing. With SWOS now straddling enlisted and officer training, we can ensure that those courses are complementary. Top Snipes attending the Senior Enlisted Propulsion Engineering Course (SEPEC) should be learning from the same references, with the same key learning objectives, as Prospective Chief Engineers and Commanding Officers. Chief Quartermasters attending the Assistant Navigator Course should learn from the same references from which we teach our prospective Navigators. With community and flag-level guidance through our annual Board of Visitors, we continue to make great strides to deliver training, at the right time and with the right content, to make a significant positive impact in the Fleet.”

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