DETERMINANTS OF SHIP-HANDLING PROFICIENCY—EVIDENCE FROM FIRST-TOUR OFFICERS OF THE DECK (OODS)
Dearth, Robert W., Jr.
Good, Charles P.
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This paper examines the determinants of a mariner’s ship-handling proficiency. The understanding of this theoretical relationship affects the approach that Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) utilizes in preparing officers of the deck (OODs) for assignment on surface combatants. At the ship level, budget reductions may further complicate the process of developing and maintaining proficient mariners by removing opportunities available to develop experience and currency-related skills. There are no data-focused studies available to explain the mechanisms through which mariners’ skills are developed or maintained in the Navy. We examined the optimal metrics for measuring OOD performance through a proficiency-prediction model, using cross-sectional data from 164 first-tour OODs who were tested across 61 ships. We find that mariners’ skills, knowledge, and experience on the bridge are correlates of proficiency. This finding suggests that policies designed to encourage additional opportunities for deliberate practice mitigates skill degradation in the short term and leads to mastery of maritime skills in the long term. Policymakers should leverage simulator training to increase the proficiency of OODs through experience and currency-building evolutions. Simulators provide a substantial return on investment and offer unlimited combinations of experience-building scenarios that are difficult to duplicate in real-world practice with limited resources.
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