Friday, October 9, 2015

Qual Boards

With limited time left underway for this patrol, we are trying frantically to cram as many qualification (qual) boards in as possible. Qual boards are oral boards, where the member seeking a qualification is grilled in a round-robin style by other members who are already qualified in that watchstation to determine the unqualified member's level of knowledge and judgment. Some qual boards have four qualified members asking questions, but I've also seen up to eight members sitting on a board.

Qual boards are the culmination of a lot of hard work by the members to learn new job skills, everything from helmsman and lookout to coxswain, throttleman, Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOW) and Officer of the Deck (OOD). They've stood one-in-three watches for anywhere from a week to two months, depending on which qual it is. They've studied the manuals, asked questions, been peppered with questions, done drawings, gotten sign offs, demonstrated their practical knowledge and in many cases, been through a pre-board. We train our own workforce -- we must be thorough to make sure new people are learning the right way to do things.

For the first year Ensigns, they have all just been through their first board experiences. ENS E.L. successfully completed both her inport and underway EOW boards -- a huge accomplishment for a Student Engineer. ENS J.W., ENS L.R. and ENS E.H. all took and passed their inport OODs boards within the last two days. 

I led the boards for the three newly qualified inport OODs. We have a bank of questions and scenarios from which to draw, based on ship's particulars, general Coast Guard policy and our own experiences from things we dealt with as OODs back in the day, or phone calls we've taken since then. It is hard, sometimes, to ask a good board question, trying to get the answer you're looking for without giving away too much information. And after a couple boards, the questions have to change because our folks are good shipmates and share their board experiences with the other unqualified members. 

When I first started asking about how an OOD would deal with a report of a sexual assault, I got a not quite by-the-book answer. The very next board, the boardee gave a text book answer because the first member had given a good passdown on what questions were asked so they could be better prepared. 

A lot of questions are scenario based. What would you do if...a ship mooring alongside hit us and gashed a hole in aft steering? ...if a member didn't show up for his scheduled duty day? ...if a winter storm was coming? And the scenarios always happen at 2 am or on the weekend. I asked our last board candidate tonight why all the scenarios were at night or on the weekend. He answered correctly, that is -- when he's "alone and unafraid" and has to take the right initial and immediate action while he waits for one of the command cadre to answer their phones. 

Boards are exhausting for both the board members and the boardees. But, after having just finished three in two days, I'm really proud of how well our folks are trained. I've had the opportunity to question them in detail about how they'd handle themselves in a number of different situations, and I'm impressed at how well they've prepared themselves for their new responsibilities. Not to say they know everything they need to -- guaranteed they'll learn more in their first three days of qualified watch as they have in the last three months of breaking in -- but their hard work shows, and I think they'll be good representatives of the ship and command. 

Congrats to all our newly qualified members!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer

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