If you are a regular reader of the posts here, you know that I have not been a fan of the “Crew Rotation Concept” that is supposed to make up for the fact that we are only building eight NSC to replace twelve Hamilton Class WHECs by home-porting three ships together and providing four crews. (Previous posts on this here and here.)
One of my criticism has been that if multiple crewing is such a good idea, we should be trying it on smaller, simpler ships first. This got me thinking about how it might work for the Fast Response Cutters (FRC), and I’ve come up with a bit different concept. It may offer some advantages and there may be good reasons to try it
For background, the current concept of operations for the FRC as found in the “FRC: Frequently Asked Questions” portion of the Acquisition Directorate (CG-9) web site indicates, “The expected operational tempo for the vessel is to be underway 2,500 hours per year.” Assuming 24 hours days that translates to just over 104 days underway a year (actually it would be more). The unofficial crew was expected to be 22 total, two officers and 20 enlisted (listed below). This has been changed somewhat by the Commandant’s decision to put two newly graduated ensigns on each vessel to increase opportunities for afloat experience.
(add 2 DWO/boarding officers..O-1 noted above)
1 BMC, 2 BM1, 2 BM2, 2 BM3, 1 SN
1 FS1, 1FS3
1 MK1, 1 MK2, 1 MK3
1 EM1, 1 EM3, 1 IT2, 1 DC2, 1 FN
The revised concept would be to get as much underway time out of the boats as possible, both to replace aging 110 foot WPBs and to provide something of a substitute for missing large ship days, with the concept that a FRC and fixed wing combination approximates the capability of a WMEC/helo combination. This would be most likely to work in the Seventh District where the first boats are expected to go. I started with the idea of four crews for three boats but actually went a different way. Operationally the concept would be to have a crewing concept that would allow the option of keeping at least one boat underway at all times (Alpha status), one boat in standby (Bravo status), and one boat in maintenance (Charlie status).
Looking at the current distribution of 110ft WPBs and 179 ft WPCs, there are six locations where the Coast Guard already bases three or more of these types:
Woods Hole, MA (3)
Atlantic Beach, NC (3);
Key West, FL (5)
Miami, FL (6);
San Juan, Puerto Rico (6);
Pascagoula, MS (3)
Clearly there are several places where this concept might be considered. As I understand, it the first boats are going to Miami. There are other places we might also want to consider, but I will return to this later.
For comparison purposes, under the original concept, three boats with a total crew of 72 would be underway 7,500 hours. Under the revised concept, with at least one boat underway at all times, there would be a minimum of 8,760 hours underway and assuming the standby boat got underway for 2500 hours, the total underway time would be 11,260 hours (approx 470 unit-days underway) with about 97 crew members. Assuming the vessels always sailed with 24 on board and assuming 470 days U/W this would result in an average of only about 117 days underway per person. Clearly even more use might be made of the Bravo status boat including non-emergency operations.
Looking at the original proposed crew you will note there are only two non-rates; there are no admin types to provide personnel support (presumably this would come from the parent command). There is little depth of expertise requiring careful selection of personnel for independent duty and resulting in hardships when specific individuals are unavailable.
What I would propose is that instead of reporting to a particular boat or crew, crew members would report to a Patrol Craft Division or PCDiv, that would constitute a pool of talent that would provide logistics and maintenance support as well as rotate personnel through crew positions. Crews would be formed from among division personnel for a period of time, based on the maintenance cycle. The revised concept would allow exploitation of a greater range of experience including more senior supervision, allow more flexibility in assignment of personnel, and provide more opportunities for junior personnel, including non-rates and junior officers, to gain experience on these vessels.
Instead of simply replicating the planned crew four times over, the revised plan would
- Add talents that are not currently planned for the vessels, that would normally have to be provided by the parent command (QMs, YNs, SKs, HS, and FT if appropriate)
- Include more senior personnel to provide supervision and mentoring (Division Commander, Engineering Officer, Supply Officer, and senior ratings)
- Include more junior personnel to broaden training opportunities (O-1, SN/SA/FN/FA), and
- Broaden the billet structure of DCs, GMs, and ITs to include paygrades both senior and junior to E-5 allowing return tours that would help deepen the base of experience.
It might also provide economies in overhead functions like handling funds and classified material and all the little jobs like Combined Federal Campaign, because only one person would have to be assigned and have to learn the function and attend meetings instead of three or four. Personnel evaluations might also be expected to be more accurate because of the greater range of available experience.
A Patrol Craft Division personnel allowance might look like this:
Three Fast Response Cutters
1 O-4 Division Commander
4 O-3 Command qualified
1 O-2/3 Division EO
4 O-2 XOs
8 O-1 DWO/boarding Officers
1 CWO Supply
1 QM E-7
1 QM E-4/5
3 BM E-7/8/9
3 BM E6
12 BM E-4/5
1 FT E-6
2 GM E-4/5/6
2 MK E-7/8/9
8 MK E-4/5/6
1 EM E-7/8/9
5 EM E-4/5/6
3 IT E-4/5/6
1 DC E-7
2 DC E-4/5/6
2 YN E-4/5/6
2 SK E-4/5/6
1 FS E-7
6 FS E-4/5/6
2 HS E-4/5/6
The Division Commander would assign crews to specific cutters for a period of time based on the maintenance cycle–two full crews for the two boats that would rotate between underway (Alpha) and standby (Bravo status), a caretaker crew for the cutter undergoing maintenance (Charlie status), and the remaining personnel would be used for logistics and maintenance support or be in training. The standby cutter could also be used for training new personnel or for additional planned underway commitments. Inclusion of logistics personnel (YN, SK, HM) would allow more direct contact between those supporting and those supported, and encourage greater responsiveness.
During the build out of the class, the proposed organization has the advantage of allowing formation of pre-commissioning crews that have the opportunity to gain extensive operational experience with the type before reporting to the vessel.
If the organization worked for the 7th District and was extended to other areas, the ultimate organization might look like this:
- PCDiv 11, South Portland, ME
- PCDiv 12, Woods Hole, MA
- PCDiv 51, Highlands NJ
- PC Div 52, Atlantic Beach, NC
- PCDiv 71, Miami, FL
- PCDiv 72, Miami, FL
- PCDiv 73, Key West, FL
- PCDiv 74, Key West, FL
- PCDiv 75,San Juan, Puerto Rico
- PCDiv 76, San Juan, Puerto Rico
- PCDiv 81, Pascagoula, MS
- PCDiv 111, SOCAL, San Diego, CA
- PCdiv 112, NORCAL, (San Francisco or Eureka, CA?)
- PCDiv 131, Puget Sound (Port Angeles, WA?)
- PCDiv 141, Honolulu, HI
- PCDiv 142, Apra, Guam
- PCDiv 171, SE Alaska (Ketchikan?)
- PCDiv 172, Kodiak
- PCDiv 173, Aleutians (Dutch Harbor or Adak?)
Total, 19 Divisions, 57 boats.