L&D: Learning in the Workflow?

Not Always the Best Approach

I Mean to Be Dramatic with This Post.

In the early-to-mid 1970s I served as a Journalist on the USS Okinawa LPH-3. I owned the CCTV System – Closed Circuit TV.

Well … the XO (Executive Officer) in charge of Ship’s Morale owned it – but he empowered me – and let me do my thing.

I did a 5 minute newscast and then showed entertainment every night from 1800 until 0200 (6 pm until 2 am for you landlubbers and other non-military types).

My captive audience included 600 sailors and 2400 Marines. We were a helicopter carrier. We sat off the coast of Cambodia and Vietnam in the South China Seas waiting for the evacuation of Phnom Penh and Saigon for 18 months before we actually did it, after rotating back to the US, and then back again to the South China Seas. To wait.

On Tuesdays we did School of The Ship for two hours before lunch. One day a chief asked me to turn on the system and show this particular film for him as his effort at School of the Ship. I agreed to do so.

Just wow. If you do watch this you’ll know what I mean. 

My ship’s electric switchboard had this nasty habit of catching on fire every once in a while, and we all went to General Quarters (Battle Stations) while the Damage Control Parties put out the fire. During the day, in the middle of the night, in the afternoon. This happened quite a few times and it was unnerving to sit at my station, handling communications for the work party that would repair the flight deck as needed.

So – because of the switchboard’s propensity to catch on fire, this film resonated with me, the very first time I saw it.

So I showed the following film, about the 1967 fire on the USS Forrestal (of John McCain fame BTW), every week and sometimes 3-4 times a week – when we were out at sea. I caught hell for doing so from my fellow travelers everywhere I went on the ship when I wasn’t working.

I won’t type out my salty response to them here. 

From Wikipedia:

 “On the one hand, there were damage-control teams spraying firefighting foam on the deck to contain the flames, which was the correct procedure, while on the other hand, crewmen on the other side of the deck sprayed seawater, washing away the foam and worsening the situation by washing burning fuel through the hole in the flight deck into the decks below.”

18 minute Film:

Narrator at the end of the film:

  • “We’ll never learn how many men were lost because some things were done the wrong way.”
  • “134 men were killed by this fire.”
  • “Learn or Burn Baby. Learn or Burn.”

Watching this now – for the first time in over 40 years – I know where I got one of my favorite catch phrases:

“I’ve been burned, and so I’ve learned.”

May you learn to think about “what can go wrong and how bad it might be” – as you decide what should be learned in the workflow – or not. And what should be learned in advance, with a lot of practice.

It’s not always the best approach, learning in the workflow.

The US Navy showed this film, for Learning purposes in boot camp, to all sailors – according to Wikipedia. But my job in my boot camp company (Master at Arms) had me hanging out in the barracks for its daily inspection, to crawl under the 75 racks (beds) to demonstrate whether the deck (floor) was clean, or not, so that the inspectors could determine how many demerits we would receive that day, and therefore how many laps we’d then run with our rifles in the air on the grinder (parade ground) that evening.

Fun times.

It’s also where I met Bill Brandon. At boot camp at the NTC in San Diego in early 1973. On Worm Island. But that’s another story for another time.


Me in 1974 on the hanger deck of the USS Okinawa.

For more about this fire – from Wikipedia – please go – here.

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4 comments on “L&D: Learning in the Workflow?

  1. Pingback: What Does the Performance Context Demand or Allow Redux | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  2. Pingback: Learning in the Workflow? – HPT Treasures – for Evidence Based Performance Improvement

  3. Pingback: T&D: Learning Via the Continuum of Formal Training to Un-Structured OJT | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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