Book Review: Operations Officer’s Guide by John Callaway

Topic & Content

A guidebook for naval officers who are new to the operations department of a warship. One of the busiest people aboard a warship, the operations officer leads and manages the operations department which oversees the coordination and execution of a warship’s tasking.

Each chapter very briefly discusses important concepts and ideas that the operations officer needs to be aware of when running the department and ends with a list of important bullet points that summarize the chapter. The book is broken down as follows:

  1. Professional Networks
  2. Planning and Scheduling
  3. Training: Leadership and Management
  4. Management Part I: Running the Operations Department
  5. Routine Operations
  6. Management Part II: Messages and Briefs
  7. Deployment and Warfighting
  8. Management Part III: Collateral Duties and Awards
  9. Leadership and the Big Picture

Thesis

There isn’t really a thesis to this guidebook. It’s more of an organized list of topics with professional tips for naval officers.

Author’s Background

According to the biographical information, John Callaway served aboard six ships with two tours as operations officer and two in command. It’s probably safe to say that he’s qualified to write about the subject.

Critical Observations

I don’t have too many critiques of this book, but I will say what this book isn’t. This isn’t a manual for how to fight a warship in a naval battle, but rather a guide for newly minted operations officers in how to run the ops department and tips for how to juggle the many balls that the ops officer holds. In other words, it’s not a book on naval weapons, tactics, and strategy. There is some discussion on the basic structure of the Navy’s fleets, commands, and how ships move through their employment cycle from maintenance, to training, to deployment, and back into maintenance. All things that would require the attention of the ops officer.

On the plus side, this book is a good quick reference for new operations officers. The advice Callaway gives is straightforward, concise, and unpretentious. He easily sums it up as, “it takes twenty years to gain twenty years of experience.” Talk with people, lead people, and work together as a team. Callaway further advises readers to reference a variety of official Navy manuals for understanding important procedures to follow. The writing is passable, but not heavily detailed. A lot of it boils down to, “keep these things in mind, reference manual XYZ, and seek the advice of persons ABC.” Nothing fancy, but good for people who are interested in the workings of an operations department of a warship. If anything, this guide emphasizes that there’s a lot happening aboard a ship and it takes a well-trained and well-led crew to make it all come together.

I actually thought this book would be more detailed, but each chapter comes in at around 10 pages, and the physical dimensions of the book are not large. Subsequently, the content it presents feels fairly cursory and the book is a very quick read. However, it’s meant to be short and sweet. In some respects, reading it feels like attending a professional development conference or training. It’s not very ground-breaking, but it may remind you to keep some things in mind.

Evaluation (Does the content support the thesis?)

Overall, this book serves the reader well as an easy reference and a quick read. While not terribly in-depth and basically a refresher for experienced operations officers, it works well as an introductory text for those who are interested in what operations officers in the U.S. Navy do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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