SAN DIEGO — This spring, 200 recruits at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, will get have more than new uniforms and a buzz cuts — they'll receive have tablet computers loaded with documents intended to help them during their time in uniform.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens said these recruits will be part of a pilot study into the eSailor initiative, a project that arms sailors with tablet computers to help them with their jobs and lives. helps sailors manage their careers and train with a tablet computer. The mobile device will be loaded with personnel-related documents, regulations, manuals, non-classified training materials, mobile applications and eBooks, including a digital version of the Bluejacket's Manual.
The Navy has not yet selected a specific tablet for eSailor, but Stevens indicated that it will be approximately the size of an iPad Mini.
"We'll download all their training curricula. Everything that they currently get that's in paper will be loaded electronically," Stevens said at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Conference and Exposition. "This is really the tip of the iceberg with regards to training," he said. "We visualize that one day — and it's not a matter of if this will happen, it's a matter of when it will happen, because it will happen — one day a sailor will sign up in the Delayed Entry Program and we will issue them mobile technology, and it will become their career companion, and [part of] everything they do with regards to personnel and personnel training."
The device could also be used in conjunction with weapons systems and maintenance, he said.
"We realize this is something we must do," he said.
Stevens wants all sailors to have tablets in order to better manage their careers and the administrative demands of their jobs. He said that he would like to see ships outfitted with Wi-Fi Internet access so that sailors can be better connected, a step that Stevens has called essential to making sailors' jobs easier.
Stevens didn't say if sailors would have the same level of access to the Internet when they're underway that they do ashore, but he said he would like them to have access to data through a wireless network. Downloads might not occur in real time, as happens when browsing the Web, but rather in bursts with several files coming in every few minutes.
Sailors' demands for personal computers and Internet access is constant while underway. Ships have limited broadband, and mission-related needs are given the most unfettered access, while personal Internet use for keeping in touch with family, paying bills or browsing social media, is limited or restricted entirely.
In an attempt to improve a sailor's personal time online, sailors in the carrier fleet are divided into "Web user groups" and given timeframes for when they can and cannot use the Internet. The WUG scheduling system limits how many sailors are online at once. This has led to faster Internet speeds and better user experiences, but WUG schedules can sometimes clash with a sailor's watch bill.
Dependence on the Internet, both for fun and for personal business, can lead to stress while underway when it's suddenly tough to get online. In 2012 the chaplain on the now-retired carrier Enterprise said young sailors who were accustomed to unlimited Internet access sometimes became frustrated when they were at sea and their access was greatly diminished.