Former Submarine JO Writes Book, Makes News

I don't have as much time to write about former submarine JO and author Christopher Brownfield as I would like to right now, so I'll let you guys get the discussion started without me. I first posted about Mr. Brownfield back in June when he made news for suggesting that explosives be used to stop the oil leak in the Gulf. Now, he's got his first book out, "My Nuclear Family", which was just reviewed by the New York Times. I'll want to actually read the book before I form a final opinion, but based on this post by Brownfield at The Daily Beast, I'm pretty sure I won't like it. Excerpts from his post:
During my on-board training, while I studied more than 70 hours per week, my fellow officers regularly warned me, “Don’t let knowledge stand in the way of your qualifications.” They urged me not to, “learn too much… just check the box and get qualified.” But when my exam arrived, it seemed impossibly difficult. I failed miserably, despite having made a very serious five-month long effort to pass.
My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn’t used the “study guide.” When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called study guide, which happened to be the answer key for the nuclear qualification exam I was taking. I was furious. Defiantly, I handed back the answer key to the proctor and proceeded to take the exam on my own. I failed again. My boss, the ship’s engineer officer, started to document my failures with formal counseling so that he could fire me.
The most competent junior officer on our ship ran to my rescue, confiding that none of the other officers had passed the exam legitimately; the exam was just an administrative check-off. “Swallow your pride,” he told me, and just get it done.
The ship’s engineer and executive officer didn’t believe me when I complained of the cheating, and swept my allegations under the rug. It took me five attempts before I finally passed the "basic" qualification exam. Unbeknownst to me, senior members of my crew even went so far as to falsify my exam scores in order to avoid unwanted attention from the headquarters. But strangely, the exam was anything but basic. The expectations on paper were astronomically high compared to the banal reality of how our ship actually worked.
The post goes on to talk about his post-JO shore tour experience as a Sub School Instructor (which kind of shows where his career was heading had he not gotten out) and includes a rookie mis-spelling of "court-martialed". Interestingly to me, I easily could have been his XO for the last half of his tour on the Hartford (I had orders to be her XO starting in 2004, but got sub disqual'd for asthma), so I'm interested to think about how I would have reacted had I been on the boat. From what I've read of Brownfield so far, it's clear he's one of those over-earnest malcontents who just don't get it; they won't fit in with the group because of their "standards", and make a big deal out of stuff that's really not a big deal in the big scheme of things. Normally, I've liked guys like that; I felt they had something to offer, and there was no question that they cared, even if they did end up causing a lot of extra work and frustration for their supervisors. For this guy, I'm not so sure. I'll have to read his book (the last part of which appears to be about his staff IA tour in Iraq, which I can compare to my IA tour at CENTCOM) to make a final decision. You guys can feel free to start discussing him and his charges now. (Remember, though... NNPI shouldn't be posted.)

Update 0830 23 Sep: So as not to appear to hypocritical, here's my disclosure on my experiences with the BEQ exam (which is clearly what Brownfield is talking about in his post). Clearly, it's tacky to give the guy the answer key with the exam. On the other hand, it was roundly known that the only way to pass it was to take it "open book"; guys generally took it in the wardroom during the midwatch, with the RPMs available when needed. As Eng, I gave a proctored BEQ exam to the whole department at the time; I had that luxury because I was in new construction doing initial quals, and had trained the guys for almost 2 years, in a much more structured setting than is available to operational boats, before I had to give the exam. As far as the few guys who took it after the initial qualifications when I was still Eng -- I never really asked, but I assume they did it open book. [Parenthetically, the BEQ exam is a big deal for junior officers because they have to pass it before they can stand any watches aft; junior enlisted guys don't have that restriction.]

Update 1030 23 Sep: Vigilis posts his thoughts on the media campaign for the book.

Update 0936 24 Sep: Thoughts (and additional forums in which to spread the discussion) from nhsparky and [Bell-ringer] Tom Ricks.