Navy extending basic training so sailors can work with mentors

Recruits transit between training locations at Recruit Training Command. More than 40,000 recruits train annually at the Navy's only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Camilo Fernan)

Dave Ress, Daily Press

The Navy is adding two weeks to boot camp, extending basic military training to 10 weeks.

The change gives new sailors time to work with mentors to talk about situations they and their families will face once they are with the fleet and to walk through various scenarios applying lessons from the Navy’s “warrior toughness,” life skills and professional development curriculum from the previous eight weeks.

“When I ask, ‘I know it’s hard but what did you like about boot camp?’ what I hear is ‘the applications, to practice what we’ve learned,’” Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, commander, Naval Service Training Command said.

Warrior toughness, for instance, focuses on preparing sailors for the stresses they’ll face with the fleet — whether that’s combat, a fire or simply a high stakes drill.

One of the first lessons comes early in boot camp with the swimming test, including the jump off a high tower that prepares sailors in case they get an abandon ship order. Part of what they’re taught and a key part of what’s reinforced in the final two week extension are the mental techniques of focusing that can help a frightened recruit make the plunge.

The intricacies of moving to new postings, the career paths open to sailors and the ways to pursue them and even thinking about what happens after life in the service are some of what mentors in the final two weeks of the extended training will work on.

“We actually picked up mentorship from the Marine Corps,” Couture said.

The final two weeks also include a focus on small unit leadership.

Life skills, meanwhile, is a new emphasis through the entire course of boot camp.

This training covers everything from learning how to live on your own for the first time, to coping with life in a berthing space with 100 others to setting goals. It includes lessons and practice on making decisions as a member of a team and on the Navy’s rules against sexual harassment.

Extending the basic training timeline marks the first major change in Navy basic training in 18 years, but it won’t slow the pace of bringing recruits to the fleet, she said.

In 2004, the Navy’s “smart ship” training program allowed a shortening of the boot camp timeline when it eliminated time spend marching to and from centralized classrooms and galley by focusing training at “ships” — housing units — where smaller groups of sailors go through boot camp together.

Much of what new sailors will do in those final two weeks at Naval Station Great Lakes outside Waukegan, Ill., involves training that had been done a bit later and elsewhere, at other Navy schools.

“We want them to be fleet-ready,” Couture said. “They’re coming from all walks of life, from all over, not just all over the United States but all over the world and we want to introduce them to what it means to be a sailor; how you behave, how you treat others.”

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