JULY 26, 2016, GREAT LAKES (NNS) – Some of the U. S. Navy’s top senior enlisted leaders returned to Recruit Training Command (RTC) to tackle training issues, new innovations at the Navy’s only boot camp and determine how recruits can be developed into basically trained Sailors for a 21st century Navy.
The senior enlisted leadership return was part of a two-day Enlisted Board of Advisors (EBOA) Conference July 19-20.
The conference, hosted by Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) in the USS Iowa RTC headquarters complex, was an opportunity for the fleet, force and command master chiefs to return to boot camp and observe current recruit training. They also discussed policies, manning, military training, enlisted learning and development strategies for RTC.
“It’s been over seven years since we have been able to get the Enlisted Board of Advisors in one place,” said Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education Fleet Master Chief April Beldo. “This was an opportunity to reestablish it (EBOA) and give the senior enlisted leadership a chance to return to boot camp to see what is going on at RTC.”
U. S. Fleet Forces Command Fleet Master Chief Paul Kingsbury said the 2016 EBOA was being held because of NSTC’s initiative to create an online, crowd-sourcing interactive website game called “Recruit Reboot” using Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI). Recruit Reboot was open for three weeks from April to May to get input from the fleet on basic military training at RTC.
“This one (EBOA) was obviously driven by MMOWGLI,” said Kingsbury. “I see some potential for this and future EBOAs. There are a few things I would like to discuss further at these EBOAs. I do like coming up here periodically to see the training being conducted, and I like seeing how RTC is doing what they need to do in preparing the Sailors to be ready for warfighting scenarios at sea.”
The master chiefs came from numerous commands in the Navy from the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets to Naval Education and Training, Navy recruiting and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. As part of her duties as president of the board, Beldo also represented the Chief of Naval Personnel.
“It was an honor to host the EBOA fleet and force master chiefs,” said RTC Command Master Chief Shawn Isbell. “The time was extremely valuable to help with the continual process improvement that is a constant at RTC. The recommendations made at the EBOA were extremely constructive and I am confident that they will positively impact the future of our fleet.”
The group was welcomed by the commanding officer of RTC, Capt. Doug Pfeifle, who asked the board to take back to the fleet and share with fleet and force commanders ways to improve the training of RTC, and help further determine what is needed by the fleet when training and turning civilians into basically trained Sailors.
“We must always be mindful of who we are bringing here, because we are the ‘Quarterdeck of the Navy’ and we have got to get it right the first time, every time,” Pfeifle said.
The board was also welcomed by the NSTC commander, Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans, via teleconference while on travel.
“For you to take the time to do this important mission of taking a look at basic training is huge,” Evans said, who asked the board to really take a look at how RTC develops a basically trained Sailor. “Our customer is the fleet. You represent the fleet. Your feedback is truly valuable to us as far as how we are doing in finishing the product we are charged with producing.”
Before sitting down and discussing any recommendations they would take back to the fleet and force commanders, the board had a chance to tour RTC and see the training.
They first event was to witness recruits conducting the final evolution of their boot camp training — Battle Stations 21.
Battle Stations 21 incorporates lessons learned from actual events, attacks and mishaps at sea. It is conducted aboard USS Trayer (BST 21), a 210-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer simulator. Trayer was commissioned in 2007 and has been called the “E” ticket ride at boot camp. It has stood ready, embarking more than 38,000 recruits each year, as the centerpiece of Battle Stations 21. The ship has never been to sea, never been on deployment or been in combat. But on many nights during the week, Navy engineers work to sink the ship while the Navy’s newest recruits fight to save it.
Battle Stations 21 lasts 12 hours and consists of 17 different scenarios of anything that can happen aboard a ship at sea, from missile attacks that can cause fires to flooding caused by exploding undersea mines. There are also watches on the bridge and engineering scenarios, lookout scenarios, and mass casualty drills.
While Battle Stations uses Navy history as a tool, today’s newest recruits understand the importance of the training they receive throughout their eight weeks at RTC. They also understand the training is preparing them for their night aboard Trayer and for later in the fleet.
“I’m always fascinated when I come to Great Lakes,” said Naval Education and Training Force Master Chief Mamudu Cole. “This is the Quarterdeck of the Navy and we’re doing great stuff here. The instructors are all motivated and they are doing what is necessary to send a basically qualified Sailor out to the fleet.”
The group also toured the USS Missouri Small Arms Marksmanship Trainer, the USS Wisconsin Live-Fire indoor range and the USS Indianapolis Combat Training Pool to see how the Third Class Swim Qualifications are conducted. They received an overview of recruit in-processing and toured uniform issue. They also toured many of the recruit barracks, set up like a ship with berthing compartments, classrooms, offices and galleys.
“I love seeing and visiting with the recruits,” said Beldo. “I like to share with them the decision they made to join the Navy was definitely the right decision. The things that they will experience after they leave boot camp — I tell them to take advantage of those experiences and the opportunities the Navy will have for them.”
One of the newer training devices the board got to observe was a division of recruits working with e-tablets as part of their daily training curriculum. The e-tablets are part of an NSTC and Master Chief Petty Offer of the Navy initiative called eSailor. Currently the initiative is in an ongoing beta test that introduces e-tablets to a recruit division and allows the recruits to use the devices to supplement their classroom training at RTC. The e-tablets contain RTC curriculum, training videos, Navy customs and traditions, Navy history, military ranks, Navy rates and access to professional development websites.
“I was very impressed with the e-tablets,” said Navy Recruiting Command Force Master Chief Eddie Knight. “We are definitely going in the right direction. I’m a big proponent of the e-tablets. I would like to see some of the programs on the e-tablets as an app that Navy recruiting can provide to the young men and women joining the Navy to get them ready for boot camp.”
Many of the board members were very excited to talk with the recruits, answer their questions and hear their opinions.
“We have a lot of hospital corpsman recruits going through here,” said Bureau of Navy Medicine Force Master Chief Terry Prince. “It’s fun to just talk to them. We’re the biggest rate (hospital corpsman) in the Navy and the chance to meet them here at boot camp is pretty exciting.”
The board also got to see RTC’s largest structure, the 173,000 square foot three-story Freedom Hall physical fitness facility. Freedom Hall is where recruits train and take their three Physical Fitness Assessments (PFAs) during boot camp. The group also observed where the recruits learn to fight fires, stop flooding and properly wear a gas mask in the appropriately named USS Chief Firefighter Trainer.
“It’s really important to have the EBOA here periodically,” said Prince. “It gets the fleet in here and gets them to understand what RTC is doing, and then we can take it back to our superiors and tell them what is going on; and also we get a chance to make inputs in the training.”
The inputs and discussions came in afternoon sessions on both days. The group agreed to take many things back to their parent commands to discuss with their superiors and with their senior enlisted.
One of the items agreed upon was to have NSTC begin work on a Basic Military Training Core Competencies Manual (BMTCCM) for boot camp, similar to the Professional Core Competencies Manual (PCCM) for officers that NSTC’s N7 Training Directorate just recently revised. The PCCM sets the professional development curriculum at every officer accessions command.
Other items discussed that were tabled so the board could take back to their commands to discuss further were removing the range firing of the M500 12-guage Mossberg shotgun, revising the prone float test for the Third Class Swim Qualification, looking at the fleet’s help in providing funds for the maintenance of Trayer and keeping Battle Stations-21 a funded requirement for recruits to graduate boot camp.
“I think the EBOA went very well,” said NSTC Command Master Chief Matt Laing. “They made some great recommendations to the Executive Steering Committee based on fleet feedback from the MMOWGLI. I’m also very pleased that the members expressed an interest in continuing the EBOA in the future.”
Laing also said he hopes the recommendations the EBOA takes back to senior officer leadership will help provide NSTC and accessions training with the resources needed to “implement changes in basic military training that the fleet is asking for. They can also help us educate service members in the fleet that haven’t been back to boot camp for many years about the current training recruits are receiving, and changes we are considering to the curriculum.”
Evans and his NSTC staff oversee 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy’s Citizenship Development program. NSTC includes Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes, Naval ROTC units at more than 160 colleges and universities, OTC at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, and Navy Junior ROTC and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.