Restore Admiral Bulkeley’s Test:

by admin on September 30, 2016

The Navy needs to regularly test the ability of ship crews to function at half-strength. It’s been done before: After World War II, Medal of Honor winner and PT Boat hero Rear Admiral John Bulkeley (He’s the tough guy on the right) ran Naval Training Command, where he developed some interesting “real world” manning tests, forcing new ships to get underway with minimal crews. Nobody was exempt.

As Admiral James Holloway relates in Aircraft Carriers At War, Bulkeley’s shakedown curriculum demanded the newly-delivered USS Enterprise:

…conduct an exercise that required the Enterprise to get underway with only two sections of the crew on board. This was to simulate a situation in which there was either a disaster at the naval base or a nuclear accident on the carrier during normal liberty hours that would require the carrier be moved for the safety of either the base or the ship itself. The hard part was to have enough qualified reactor operators and engineers to run the propulsion plant safely while getting underway. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous drill and questioned whether we should actually try to get the carrier underway with only two duty sections. But it was a drill that we had to perform in order to complete our shakedown training…

As a more fractious era looms, every Navy ship–including our crucial MSC platforms–need to regularly assess their ability to get underway and function without a full compliment. If battle readiness is an emerging priority, the findings will be pretty darn interesting–and may inform just which forward-deployed crew members, for example, actually get to go “on leave” and when.

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