One Navy Team
The Navy takes every available opportunity to maintain forward progress, staying on the front lines in how we fight and how we train. In his initial guidance to the Fleet, the Secretary of the Navy emphasizes that we “must improve our processes in order for our people to meet future challenges.”
Sailors at the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) have embodied this goal by coordinating with Surface Warfare Officers School to introduce the plan, brief, execute and debrief (PBED) process into the Basic Division Officers Course (BDOC), the intensive 9-week course of instruction designed to provide foundational classroom training to prospective surface warfare officers.
“I was incredibly enthusiastic when SMWDC shared the PBED model with us,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Cushanick, a BDOC instructor. “It was an awesome opportunity to bring in some outside eyes and minds to get new ideas on our program. I already wanted to, in some way, implement a more deliberate process in the conning officer virtual environment (COVE), and this opportunity provided that deliberate plan, brief, execute and debrief model which is happening in the fleet.”
The COVE is one of the technologies used to accelerate the application of concepts in navigation, seamanship, and ship handling for the junior officers. It allows virtual conning of different classes of Navy ships through various global shipping lanes, homeports, and routine ports-of-call. During the simulations, students learn techniques to adapt and overcome challenges which may arise during at sea evolutions.
“Before the implementation of the PBED model, the COVE program was a little more one-on-one coaching,” said Lt. Erik Farney, a BDOC instructor. “A lot of times, ensigns would go to do their first ship handling evolution in the COVE simulator and there would be an instructor sitting behind them providing that coaching and helping them navigate. Now that we have implemented the PBED process, the students have more attentive eyes to what they are doing. The students who are not actively driving the ship during a scenario can sit analyze their classmates and then provide some really valuable peer-to-peer feedback after the evolution.”
The PBED model did not originate within SMWDC, rather is was a best practices model shared by another community. Last year, Sailors from SMWDC had the opportunity to meet with the U.S. Navy’s premiere flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, during the team's pre-show practice. There, the Sailors witnessed how the PBED process, a model which supports development of rapidly learning teams, was used to better prepare the Blue Angels for their actual show. They SMWDC Sailors gained an appreciation for how the Blue Angles briefed, debriefed and shared constructive criticism. In turn, they were eager to share what they learned with surface warfare leadership.
“We already work with BDOC on their COVE simulations, and it was easy for us to reach out to them,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Powell, the warfare tactics program manager at SMWDC. “We told them about what we saw — here is how they briefed, here is how they went through the execution, here is the level of debrief they went into. Does this seem like something you would be interested in? Not surprisingly they were. We started to talk back and forth on how many COVEs they do, what was the focus of each one, what would the brief sheet look like, what would the debrief sheet look like, and how would they use that as an instructor. We worked back and forth on the initial sheets and the initial process, and they took over after that. They have used it on an entire course already. They just started their second course, and they are modifying as they go to make improvements.”
Since adopting PBED, BDOC instructors have noticed increased peer-to-peer feedback, which has resulted in greater self-awareness by students of mistakes made.
“Implementing PBED into their training regimen has had a huge impact,” said Farney. “A lot of times in the past, it would be incumbent upon the instructors to provide all the feedback, and sometimes that can get a little narrow-sighted. Now that we have implemented the PBED sheets, students have been really willing to provide feedback to one another. With that, I think the most valuable thing which comes out is self-assessment. Instead of sitting back and waiting for an instructor to give them feedback, a lot of times the students will catch what they did wrong or even correct on their own.”
One of the advantages of a process such as PBED is that it encourages constant development. Students can take what they learned utilizing the process and improve upon it with the help from their upper chain of command once they are stationed on a ship.
“I personally believe that commanding officers would love to see a brand new ensign come up with a plan that they thought about, that they researched. Even if the plan isn't great, they have a starting point,” said Cushanick. “They see deliberate planning that's gone into the process and the commanding officers can just work with them that much better and be able to show them where their plan was good, where their plan could be improved.”
So far, the PBED model has been implemented in one course iteration, and according to Cushanick, the feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. However, this is just the start. According to “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority” Version 2.0, the Navy plans on upgrading the PBED model with a Plan, Practice, Perform, Progress and Promulgate (P5) model. SMWDC’s staff admit that will require work across all training domains.
“The part I think we will need to implement right away is the promulgate piece,” said Powell. “It is easy to debrief and talk about it but not necessarily do anything with that information. With the P5 process, you will have to figure out some way to take those lessons learned and turn it into action for the next time.”
SMWDC Headquarters is located at Naval Base San Diego with four divisions in Virginia and California. The command's mission is to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains. Its four lines of operation are advanced tactical training, doctrine and tactical guidance development, operational support to combatant commanders, numbered fleet commanders, and task force commanders, and capabilities assessments, experimentation and future requirements.
For more news from Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/SMWDC/.
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