Winners and Losers from the 2019 USNA Ship Selection

by Craig Hooper on February 24, 2019

The U.S. Naval Academy’s annual Ship Selection “rite-of-passage” is enormous fun. Of course, it happened more than a month ago, so I’m a little late to the party. But, that aside, two things really struck me: the participation of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and the non-participation of the Avenger Class MCM and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Classes.

The high point of the night were the two times a high-powered delegation from the JMSDF stormed the stage. As you can see from the photo above, the first Mid who selected either Sasebo or Yokosuka for their first SWO tour got a Samurai sword and an impromptu “on stage” celebration. It was a great addition to the show (although probably a little bewildering for the somewhat-surprised midshipmen). But, after the 2017-18 rough patch for Japan-based SWOs, it was quite touching to see the JMSDF do what they could to make fledgling forward-deployed SWOs feel like they made a good choice (I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of Sasebo spots were left on the board, unfilled, at the end of the night).

The JMSDF’s enthusiasm for their U.S. Naval partners was fabulously refreshing. Such pro-U.S. enthusiasm is in short supply these days; put another way, I sure haven’t seen the Spanish naval attache mustering a similar amount of enthusiasm to celebrate those lucky/high-performing Mids who selected a ship out of Rota.

That said, I hope that the enthusiasm showered upon the first two Japanese pathfinders is followed up with a reception for ALL Japan-bound Mids and coupled with some familiarization info, policy briefs and culture discussions.

While Japan won the night, the Navy’s small ships, on the other hand, lost. No Mids were able to select MCMs or LCSs (apparently as of last Fall). I know that the Navy is putting an increased focus on how their youngsters are trained, but….are you telling me that there are no opportunities for learning the craft aboard an LCS? That’s….crazy.

I can somewhat understand not sending Mids to the old Avenger Class Mine Countermeasures ships. They’re old, the fleet has already dwindled to 11 and, well they’re on the way out; three more are planned to decommission in 2022.

But the LCS?

No Mids? Not even NROTC? Surely we have the space–According to the Naval Vessel Register, seventeen are commissioned into the fleet. With a blue/gold crew apiece, that’s about 3400 sailors–and many more are coming. At the current rule of thumb 10:1 crew/officer ratio, I find it realy difficult to believe that there’s no space in the LCS for some first tour SWOs.

I get the fact that the SWO community is reconstituting their training program. And I also understand that the two LCS seaframes have challenges and are tough on officers, but….regardless of problems, these new “small” ships are, I would think, places where the Navy might want youngsters to obtain some of their first sea-time. And if I were an Admiral, I’d sure want to have a set of youngsters out there trying the new platform–getting exposed to a new hullform before they are firmly trapped in the intellectual tar pit that is the mainstream SWO status-quo mindset. Sure, the LCS is a tough place, and yes, any youngster sent to an LCS would certainly need to step-up and lead, but they’d also–I’d hope–be set for some great leadership opportunities as well.

This is treatment I’d expect from a ship “Class” that is about to be permanently retired. I know there’s a school of thought out there in Big Navy that’d just like to see one or both of the LCS platforms just…go away. But….the Navy should cherish their big fleet of unpopular odd-balls. Otherwise “useless” ships make great testbeds and they are leadership-generators. I understand that terrible, aged and unpopular platforms may kill careers, yes….but “bad” platforms also have a habit of setting quite a few otherwise luckless youngsters on the path to ascend to the pinnacle of naval leadership.

Follow NextNavy on Twitter
View Craig Hooper's profile on LinkedIn

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig Hooper March 1, 2019 at 6:21 am

No way to tell; I wasn’t there and not privy to the scuttlebutt regarding individual ships. I’m sure there’s a combination of things going on. The ugly results of FDNF implementation probably reduced interest, the predominant ship type isn’t super-popular (nor are they EVER the first to be supported) in the best of times, and the increased tension re China and North Korea probably are all combining to reduce demand.

I share your tart appreciation of a foreign opportunities, but if my choice was an LSD and a new DDG based in, oh, a Kansas cornfield, it’d be a difficult choice.


J'myle Koretz February 28, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Having spent my entire enlistment, other than boot camp and A-school, on one of those “on the way out” Avenger class minesweepers, I’ll try not to take the Academy shunning them personally. But I am disappointed to read that Sasebo wasn’t a popular first choice. Did you get the sense it was because the ships there are mostly amphibs or is there a stigma about FDNF in general?

I have always wondered why anyone would join the Navy and then try and get stationed in the United States. That’s like getting a sent to the Enterprise and asking to work in the transporter room so you never have to see any alien planets.


Craig Hooper March 1, 2019 at 6:21 am

Ooops, sorry. See my reply above–


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: