Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
Separating Fact from Fiction in the SWO Career Pipeline

There are few things that SWOs love more than scuttlebutt and with the recent changes to the Surface Warfare Qualification instruction and SWO career path, there’s lots of it flying around. When it comes to making smart choices for your career, however, you need to be able to sort the fact from fiction. Your team of detailers over at PERS-41 are always the best source of current and accurate information to help you out. Here’s a look at some of the big rumors going around and the straight story on each one.

Fact or Fiction: Since my first tour was on an amphibious ship or LCS I’ll spend the rest of my career on one of those platforms.

Fiction! Where you end up serving later on in your career is based entirely on performance at sea, officer preferences, and needs of the Navy. Metrics used to determine “performance at sea” are member trait average in FITREPs as compared to Reporting Senior’s RSCA and advanced qualifications earned as a division officer such as EOOW.

Fact or Fiction: My 48 months of required sea time as a Division Officer begins when I report onboard my ship, not when I start BDOC.

Fact! Your sea time begins when you report aboard your command after the successful completion of BDOC. Prior to September 1st, 2018 some new Ensigns were sent to their ships prior to BDOC. The time spent onboard their ship prior to BDOC can count towards your 48 months of sea time. Contact your detailer to determine if you are eligible.

Fact or Fiction: Now that I have my EOOW I’m guaranteed to do a CHENG tour as Department Head.

Fiction! Division Officers who earn EOOW letters may become CHENGs or they may go on to fill a different Department Head billet. Again, where SWOs serve depends entirely on performance at sea, officer preference, and needs of the Navy. It should be noted that qualification as Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) is a requirement to be eligible for Command-at-Sea and attaining this qualification should be the goal of every Division Officer.


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Fact or Fiction: Now that staff billets are only offered after Division Officer and Department Head tours only bottom performers go to staff tours after their Division Officer or Department Head tour.

Fiction! The addition of DESRON and PHIBRON staffs as post-Division Officer or post-Department Head tours add opportunity for officers to continue to gain experience at sea, affords geographic stability in some cases, and bolsters the operational experience and prowess of a warfighting commander.

Officers will be detailed to staff billets in the same way other shore duty billets are – based on performance at sea, officer preference, and needs of the Navy. PERS-41 is committed to putting the right level of talent at every billet available.

Fact or Fiction: I’m assigned to an LCS and going through the training track, but that doesn’t mean that my career timing is off.

Fact! LCS training tracks are comparable to that of other 2nd tour Division officer jobs like Aegis FCO/TRAINO or ASWO. Your timing for promotion or other career milestones will not be affected.

Fact or Fiction: It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to earn my SWO Qualification.

Fiction! While the time limit to earn a SWO pin has been removed it is still a requirement to earn a SWO pin prior to transferring from your first tour. There are advantages to qualifying early such as the opportunity to pursue advanced qualifications like EOOW or tactical watches in CIC.

Not qualifying in a timely manner might have a detrimental effect on an officer’s timing and could affect options when it comes to slating. Remember, your PRD remains the same as you delay earning your SWO pin. We work with commands for officers impacted due to extenuating circumstances.

Fact or Fiction: For Year Group 15 and junior an in-residence graduate education is required in order to be eligible for Major Command.

Fact! For officers YG15 and junior to assume Major Command you will need to attend an in-residence Department of Defense education program, e.g., Naval Postgraduate School, Naval War College, Army War College, etc… at some point in your career. Year Group 15 just recently passed the mark for three years of commissioned service and officers aren’t expected to be eligible for Major Command until they’ve surpassed 23 years of commissioned service. There’s plenty of time built into the career path for in-residence graduate education.

If you’ve heard any other scuttlebutt not addressed here, contact your detailer so you can get the facts straight.Surface Warfare Magazine

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