Quarterdeck Training Extraordinaire – Hawaiian Edition

Having just returned from our inaugural Petty Officer Academy, I’m a little tired…but very satisfied with the experience. Our ship had fun, learned a lot, and is now better prepared for leadership in Sea Scouting and leadership in life. Great Success!

The need arose…

Previously, we would hold our Petty Officer elections and train the quarterdeck that same night. Whenever there was an opening, it would be offered to new people. The familiar, “you’ve got a pulse…here’s a patch…congratulations! You’re part of the quarterdeck” routine!

The result of this practice was that we had most of our positions filled and a lot of people wearing cool patches…but our leadership was often not what it should be. Something was lacking.

So when I stumbled across the new “Introduction to Leadership Skills for Ships” course (ILSS) on the new national website I began making preparations to implement this course into a weekend workshop.

Using the ILSS course as our core curriculum, and adding our own quarterdeck training and other team building exercises, “Petty Officer Academy” was born.

The plan takes shape

The first step was to make it exclusive. We held petty officer elections. Only those elected could attend Petty Officer Academy and only those graduating could serve on the quarterdeck. We also decided there would be no more “walk-on” petty officers to fill vacancies. New people could fill in when needed, but would not be considered a petty officer.

From now on, our petty officers would be formally elected and trained before taking office. Being a petty officer is an honor and responsibility that is earned.

So with ILSS course, supplies, and a manual, we loaded our camping gear into the truck, swung by COSTCO on the way out of town, and headed up to the mountains of Koke’e.

Destination: Boy Scout Camp Alan Faye (Location for Seabadge Hawaii in March, 2013)
We arrived at Camp Alan Faye early Friday evening and got settled in to the very nice cabin and bunk-house. I tried to get the crew interested in a snipe hunt (It seems like yesterday that Skipper Russell had Glen Price and I traipsing through the forest with a paper bag and a flashlight in search of the elusive bird…but that’s a different story!) Our crew wasn’t having it! Something about the movie, “Up”!

The ILSS modules

We got up early on Saturday morning, had breakfast and got busy with leadership training. The ILSS course is well engineered: Instruction, Activity, Reflection and Discussion, repeat.

Yurt Circle, Helium stick, Willow in the wind. Module 1 flew by and it was time for a break…then back at it.  Module 2 was much the same: fun, fast-paced, relevant and informative. Before we knew it, Module 2 was completed and it was time for lunch!

After lunch we got back to business with module 3 and finished it up in the early afternoon. That was the end of the ILSS course, but Petty Officer Academy was just getting started.

Give me Shelter!

Guided by our resident Boy Scouts, we took a pretty challenging nature hike and ended up in a clearing where we were posed with the ultimate team building challenge: using only a knife, fashion a shelter and spend the night in it. No sleeping bag. No pillow. No tent. Just your knife and whatever shelter you can build with the materials at hand. Wilderness Survival.

Good luck kids! At middle age, when a hard roof, warm bed and soft pillow is available…you take it.      I’ll be back at the cabin!

The remainder of the day was spent with the crew making their shelters, and then we headed back to the cabin for dinner.

After dinner, me and our boatswain met with each individual Petty Officer. They were given position specific training and were briefed on the duties and expectations of their respective position.
Finally, armed with a crew of well qualified and trained petty officers, we concluded the evening with our best quarterdeck meeting ever!

After the quarterdeck meeting, the crew headed off to their makeshift shelters and I headed off to my rack. My peaceful slumber only to be interrupted by the sound of the crew returning to the cabin in the middle of the night…I guess wilderness survival wasn’t as fun as previously thought!

Sunday began with a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast, then we all put on our uniforms for graduation. The crew fell in at attention and I made a quick speech, and then presented each person with a certificate and their patch of office.
Congratulations graduates!


The following Wednesday we met at Coast Guard Station Kauai for some piloting and navigation training. I couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone had already sewn on their new patch of office.   I also noted how much pride each person had as they showed BM1 Palmer their new patch and explained its significance when he asked them.

No longer just a decorative cloth given to any warm body, these patches are: coveted, earned, exclusive, of great value and distinguish the wearer as a true leader.

Petty Officer Academy
We had fun. We learned. We’re better prepared.
Mission accomplished!

You can find the ILSS course here:

Written by:
Larry Richardson
Skipper, SSS Decisive, Kauai
Aloha Council Commodore, Hawaii


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