April 6, 2005: The Chinese navy is having a hard time dealing with the task of training crews able to handle high tech equipment and ships. The Chinese admirals know that, if they are to prepare for war with the Taiwanese, American, or even Japanese, fleets, they have to close the “training gap.” The U.S. Navy, and its major Asian allies, all spend a lot of time at sea, and get lots of technical training, using computerized training aids and expert instructors. China started with a lot of disadvantages when it comes to training. Until the 1990s, China didn’t even try to train to Western standards. Most of their ships were low tech, and conscript sailors could be taught simple tasks using officer instructors and lots of classroom training and some OJT (On The Job Training.) China was poor, and could not afford the fuel to send their ships to sea a lot. They could not afford the wear and tear (and repairs and maintenance that follow that) either. Since Communist China built its navy using Russian assistance, they did not develop NCOs (Petty Officers). In particular, a navy needs lots of experienced CPOs (Chief Petty Officers, or “Chiefs.”) It’s not just a catchy saying that, “the Chiefs run the navy,” it’s true. The officers command the ships, but without the Chiefs, the effectiveness of those ships, and their crews, would quickly decline. Reforms have been underway for some time. Over the last two decades, the Chinese navy has gone from 25 percent of the sailors being petty officers, to sixty percent. Along with this has come an avalanche of training courses, including paying for about ten percent of petty officers to get some college training (two or four year.) It’s been more difficult creating a lot of those crusty old Chief Petty Officers. That takes time. A few generations of effort will do it, but the Chinese are already seeing these guys start to appear in greater numbers. But there aren’t enough of them to put the fleet on the same level as the United States and its Asian allies. Moreover, China still has problems with the naval officers, who have not gotten over the old Russian style of leadership. This involved officers doing a lot of the training and supervisory work the Chiefs and other petty officers are supposed to be doing. However, time will cure this problem. Junior naval officers are glad to have experienced Chiefs around, and in another decade or two, the Chinese navy will be run efficiently by thousands of experienced Chiefs. But there’s still the money problem. With the price of oil over $50 a barrel, the Chinese navy can’t afford a lot of sea time for its ships. It’s that abundance of sea time that gave Western navies an edge. The Japanese learned this before World War II, and their crews were formidable during World War II because they had spent lots of time at sea beforehand. Japan, in the 1930s, was willing to spend the money to keep their ships at sea. China today is more reluctant. Foreign sailors can see the results when Chinese warships are at sea. The ships are poorly maintained, and operated in a haphazard, by Western standards, manner. If China decides to spend the money on fuel, and keeps developing its petty officers, in another decade, Chinese warships will present a more formidable appearance at sea, and be more lethal as well.There you have it! For all you old goats out there, thanks for whipping us JOs into shape, and sometimes even facing off with us as we got senior and forgot from whence we came. The article is also interesting, as a few months back, I began to think the Chinese Navy was an up and coming threat. Since they have adopted a Soviet style infrastructure for the chain of command, I'll predict it will be a long time before they are ready to step up to the plate, based on the indicators in this article.... Update 4/21/2005: Over at Andi's World, she talks about how at an Army officer's promotion ceremony, the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) were an integral ingredient in the officer's success. I'm biased towards the Navy, but I know the value of these people in any service.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Chiefs Run the Navy....Real Time Proof Follows
For a fresh caught Ensign, sometimes it's hard to understand you are so far behind the power curve, you need to just chill out and observe, stepping in in those moments where you are useful. Early on in a career, this is in watchstanding (for us "shoes"). With time, you "grow up" and can then become a better leader of sailors. Until you mature, it's helpful to (fully) comprehend that the Chiefs run the Navy....'nuff said here. While chasing links this afternoon, I wandered across The Strategy Page. I then dug around through some interesting articles and found this (I extracted the text of interest to quote, as it was in a mulitple topic article):