From: Mordor Illlinois
Quick question. Other than actual combat, is there a way to increase the experience of ship crews?
Do patrols, in-and-of themselves increase crew skill. In other words, if I (playing as the Allies) send a Surface Combat TF to patrol a couple hexes in-between Hawaii and the West Coast, will that increase crew skills at a faster rate than my ships sitting in port?
Yes , but not much. Even the manual recommends a "shakedown cruise". Being at sea always helps, but it's a matter of degrees. Steaming and patrolling help, asw attack is better , air attack helps , bombardment helps. Combat is always among the best training you can get. Taking damage is good to a point, then it becomes a diminishing return. Minor damage is good, killing off crew is not.
This is all pretty much "real world". An example is the late "Cold War". Each side had a definition of Readiness. For the Soviets it meant a ship tied to the pier, with all systems in perfect repair. To the western nations , especially the USN and RN , it meant "ships and sailors at sea" practicing by doing in the real world.
The game mirrors this pretty well. So I recommend getting your ships out as much as possible , and performing "minor raids" and engaging in "light combat" , then getting your ships repaired. Also in the case of ships, as pilots , you need to select your personnel on skill sets and ability to lead and expire. That will tremendously help build experience. Training is teaching , and a good teacher always helps tremendously.