Washington (AFP) – The Navy is adding two weeks to boot camp this year in a sweeping overhaul aimed at improving recruits’ skills in warfighting and emergencies while also focusing on suicide prevention and personality issues such as sexual assault, bullying and radicalization in the ranks.
Navy officials said Friday that expanding the training camp to 10 weeks will provide more leadership training and ensure that sailors report back to their jobs in the fleet in better preparation for duty.
The changes come as the Navy has grappled with a series of ship crises in recent years, from fatal fires to catastrophic collisions, and the Army grapples with a surge in suicides as well as sexual assaults and other misconduct.
Admiral Jennifer Couture, who heads the Naval Service Training Command, told reporters that the first eight weeks of boot camp involve a lot of character development for recruits. She said the additional two weeks were meant to be a “reinforcement mechanism”.
“We tell our recruits…Here’s all the things we expect you to do, here’s how we expect you to act and behave,” she said, adding that this includes treating people with respect and holding their peers accountable. . “We strongly believe that these types of behaviors directly influence our combat readiness and the performance of our sailors.”
The military as a whole has seen an increase in sexual assaults and suicides, leading to criticism from Congress and prompting commanders to look for ways to address chronic problems. Recently, the services have been struggling to root out racism and extremism, after a number of former and current service members participated in the January 6, 2021 mutiny in the US Capitol.
Couture said a large portion of the additional two weeks will include “life skills” training to address issues such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, harassment and suicide. The instructions will emphasize the core naval values of honour, courage and commitment.
Meanwhile, she said, the additional weeks will also be used to reinforce training on how to respond when seafarers inevitably face life-threatening situations such as fires, collisions and other mishaps.
Based on the comments, she said, Navy leaders realized they needed to enhance basic training to ensure that when seafarers graduate and report to a ship, they are truly prepared to respond to such emergency situations.
In 2017, Navy commanders recommended sweeping changes to sailors’ training, crew requirements and safety procedures to address systemic problems across the Pacific Fleet that led to the fatal collision of two ships earlier that year, killing 17 sailors. The report made dozens of recommendations for enhancing navigation and navigation training and the use of ship equipment, as well as ways to improve sleep and manage stress.
A massive fire in July 2020 that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard revealed gaps in training and other essential skills. While the fire was deliberately set, a Navy report concluded that the ship’s loss was due to the crew’s inability to put out the fire. The report found that sailors were not adequately prepared, and noted failures in command, control, fire preparedness, maintenance and communications.
Lieutenant Commander. Katie Bock, director of military training at the Naval Enlisted Training Command of Great Lakes, Illinois, said the additional two weeks will delve sailors into a number of real-life scenarios to help them prepare.
The changes represent the first major restructuring in recruit training in nearly 20 years.