Navy expands training camp to focus more on character issues


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WASHINGTON – The Navy is adding two weeks to training camp this year as part of a major overhaul aimed at improving the combat and emergency skills of recruits while also focusing on suicide prevention and character issues such as sexual assault, hazing and extremism in the ranks.

Navy officials said on Friday that extending the training camp to 10 weeks would provide more leadership training and ensure Sailors report to work in the fleet better prepared for service.

The changes come as the Navy grapples with a series of shipboard crises in recent years, from fatal fires to catastrophic collisions, and the military grapples with spikes in suicides as well as sexual assault and violence. other bad behavior.

Rear Admiral Jennifer Couture, who heads Naval Service Training Command, told reporters the first eight weeks of training camp included a lot of character development for the recruits. The extra two weeks, she said, are meant to be a “strengthening mechanism”.

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“We say to our recruits (…) here are all the things we expect from you, and this is how we expect you to behave and act,” she said, adding that this involved dealing with people with respect and hold their peers to account. . “We strongly believe that these types of behaviors have a direct impact on our combat readiness and the performance of our sailors.”

The military as a whole has seen an increase in sexual assaults and suicides, which has drawn criticism from Congress and prompted leaders to seek ways to solve eternal problems. More recently, the services have struggled to eradicate racism and extremism, after a number of former and current military personnel were implicated in the January 6, 2021 insurgency on the United States Capitol.

Couture said a good chunk of the extra two weeks will involve training in “life skills” for dealing with issues such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, hazing and suicide. And training will emphasize the core values ​​of the Navy of honor, courage and commitment.

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At the same time, she said the extra weeks would also be used to reinforce training on how to respond when sailors inevitably face life-threatening situations such as fires, collisions and other incidents.

She said based on the comments, Navy leaders have realized they need to step up basic training to ensure that when Sailors graduate and report to a ship, they are already ready to respond. to such emergency situations.

In 2017, Navy leaders recommended sweeping changes in sailor training, crew requirements, and safety procedures to address systemic issues in the Pacific Fleet that led to two fatal ship collisions earlier this that year, killing 17 sailors. One report presented dozens of recommendations to strengthen training in seamanship, navigation and the use of ship’s equipment, as well as ways to improve sleep and stress management.

A massive arson attack in July 2020 that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard also revealed gaps in training and other key skills. While the fire was deliberately ignited, a Navy report concluded that the loss of the vessel was due to the crew’s inability to extinguish the fire. The report found that the sailors were ill-prepared and highlighted deficiencies in command and control, fire preparedness, maintenance and communication.

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Lt. Cmdr. Katy Bock, director of military training at Navy Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill., Said the additional two weeks will allow Sailors to go through a number of real-life scenarios for help them prepare.

These changes represent the first major restructuring of recruit training in almost 20 years.

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