Battalion Commander Assessment Program: Documentary

lert

LE
Command selection is a three part process: two sets of exams, each culminating in a practical, then a board level sift. All of them need to be complete before being looked at for SO2 Command, which includes being a 2 i/c of an SO1 Commanded unit.

The first set is a fairly big cull, and it's not uncommon for people to fail two or three times before moving onto the next; the later practical has a more successful pass rate, but people still take two attempts to get through it. What is more interesting is the number of people who self-select out by not taking the dozen or so written exams required to get to the practicals.

We have a "dry roster" at SO2 Command level, so if you pass the exams etc, you will be looked at by the board. There is a high selection rate there, but there is a much lower selection rate for SO1 Command.
Interesting, but seems slightly illogical to my simple mind.

If people are capable of passing an exam, but often only after multiple attempts then that seems to suggest that either they've under prepared or that the expectations aren't promulgated prior to sitting it. The former would seem to be indicative of a lack of suitability, at least at that time, and the latter seems startlingly inefficient.

Out of interest, what are the qualities the RN looks for in it's boat drivers? I'm assuming a working knowledge of COLREGs is a given but what else?

Actually there's a second question if I may. To what extent does a ship driving background influence one's career trajectory from say 3 ringer onwards? Is there an advantage in being SO1 Plans and other things at Whale Island that is derived from having been a T23 skipper? Can someone who hasn't been a T23 skipper expect to be competitive for SO1 Plans and other things?
 
Some interesting and fundamental questions...

The exams are hard - in some cases harder than they actually need to be*, and you need to put effort in. I'd say for most it's a 3-4 year endeavour to pass them.

The two practicals are also hard, for different reasons. The first is hard because it's a test of being a CO in a series of complex shipping situations. Those taking it are often relatively junior, and unless they been appropriately coached, prepared and they mentally rehearse, it's very easy to slip into the roles you have done previously instead standing back and Commanding the team. Equally, the shipping situations all have a solution, but they require real and instinctive application of COLREGs. The way we test COLREGs (written verbatim exams) doesn't mean you can actually practically apply them, so again there is something about knowing your stuff. Finally, you need to put all that together under pressure in repeated scenarios: we're not about to let you have responsibility for 100s of lives if you can't cope with unknown radar contacts driving towards you in fog.

The second practical is much more ethereal - there are only a small group of post-OF5 Command Officers who run it, and each has their own foibles. For candidates coming from sea (or immediately after sea) it's much easier to prep for as each are "known", and their preferences are well understood. For candidates who have left it all a bit late then it can become a bit more hit and miss. But again, it's a test of decision making under stress and pressure - the wrong decision can quickly snowball until you end up in a bad place.

As for career paths... Well, it always used to be that SO1 Sea Command = route to greatness for Warfare Officers. Apart from the fact we've realised that with so few ships, that really narrows the talent pool, but at the same time, Engineers and Logisticians don't artificially constrain their potential Senior Officers through such a process. We have now opened up the aperture a little to SO1 (and beyond) to high quality staff officers who haven't had Sea Command. There are some interesting existential questions about what that means for the Warfare branch, which have about 15 different answers depending on who you are talking to.

More broadly, I'd point out that there is such a massive shortage of mid-seniority Warfare Officers because life at sea is hard, and not particularly compatible with having much of a life. If we offer a route to OF5 and above by missing out all the exams and 1000s of days at sea, then we need to work out how we keep people interested in going to sea. There's a fair amount of work going on into that - quite a lot of it based on personal prejudices. There is also a certain amount of cynicism from us at sea (heightened by covid etc) that the RN would be a fantastic place to work if it wasn't for those pesky ships and submarines....


*mainly because they're written by shoreside SMEs who really insist you know the 13 responsibilities of "X" or whatever.
 
The second practical is much more ethereal - there are only a small group of post-OF5 Command Officers who run it, and each has their own foibles. For candidates coming from sea (or immediately after sea) it's much easier to prep for as each are "known", and their preferences are well understood. For candidates who have left it all a bit late then it can become a bit more hit and miss. But again, it's a test of decision making under stress and pressure - the wrong decision can quickly snowball until you end up in a bad place.
So, no change in two hundred years, then? (seven minutes in for the "second practical"...)

 
So, no change in two hundred years, then? (seven minutes in for the "second practical"...)

No change for over 400 years - this is just the latest iteration.
 
Indeed. Next step is introducing it for VSOs. Watching General Wall or General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and part-time beachball impersonator, running round a PFA circuit could be entertaining.
By that token Erich Von Manstein or Albert Kesselring wouldn't have ended up as two of the best strategic commanders of WW2. Never mind the 70 Year old FM Gerd Von Rundstedt. Old Georgy Zhukov looked like he was fond of the vodka and pies as well.
 
When mush_lass was studying at University of (red) Essex just outside Colly, I warned her about the dangers of dating squaddies, but added that officers were probably OK providing that they were well bred if a little chinless. She asked how she could identify such well bred officers. I said just ask how many polo ponies they've got at the family manor, if they reply less than four then they're walting
If this was pre 16AA, then maybe there was one or two well heeled jocks.

Now? If you ask about Polo, you'll probably be told that the shirts or TNF tops are the new jeans & dessies.

The closest Essex gets to polo is ingredients passing through Tilbury
 
Last edited:

Latest Threads

Top