By lex, on August 16th, 2011

Behind the cheating scandal that cost the CO of the USS Memphis his career, and put 10% of his sailors ashore: *

When the Navy discovered an exam-cheating ring aboard one of its submarines, it swiftly fired the commanding officer and kicked off 10 percent of the crew.

Navy officials describe the case aboard the Memphis as a rare lapse in integrity, but some former officers say the shortcuts exposed by the scandal are hardly unique to a single vessel.

The former submariners say it is not uncommon for sailors to receive answer keys or other hints before training exams. They say sailors know how to handle the nuclear technology, but commanders competing with one another to show proficiency have made tests so difficult – and so detached from the skills sailors actually need – that crew members sometimes bend the rules.

An investigation report obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request describes an atmosphere aboard the Memphis that tolerated and even encouraged cheating: Sailors were emailed the answers before qualification exams, took tests outside the presence of proctors and openly asked officers for answer keys. One sailor told investigators that test-takers were encouraged to “use their time wisely” during breaks, insinuating that they should look up answers to exam questions.

SUBFOR says the cheating – we might have called it “gouge” in the aviation community – is not widespread across the force, but officers and crews from other boats beg to differ:

(Three) former officers said the episode aboard the Groton, Conn.-based Memphis was an extreme example of shortcuts that occur aboard many of the roughly 70 American submarines in service.

One former officer, Christopher Brownfield, wrote in a book published last year that his superiors aboard the Hartford urged him to accept an answer key to pass a nuclear qualification exam. He said other crew members received answers by email, and the sub’s leadership ignored him when he complained about cheating.

“It was almost universal,” Brownfield said in an interview. “I don’t know anybody on the ship who could have passed that exam without cheating on the first try.”

If the standard for the test is so high, the outcome must be critical, yes?


Maybe not so much:

(Naval Reactors spokesman Thomas) Dougan said written exams are one of several measures used to assess the effectiveness of a continuing training program, and the kind of cheating that occurred on the Memphis would not put the ship or reactor plant at risk.

He said commanders use other measures, including supervisors’ observations, drills and oral exams, to assess how well-trained crews are.

This is not to defend cheating on examinations, but people get pretty busy doing the real work of the fleet. If the tests are so rigorous that nuclear trained and qualified sailors cannot pass, and the tests themselves are not important to the safeguarding of the plant, it’s not hard to see how a culture of gouge-getting and gouge-passing proliferates.

This is stuff we know how to do: Define the requirements of the job, train to those requirements, assess the effectiveness of that training, remediate, repeat.

** Link had to be changed – Ed 

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Navy

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