Your Navy

Navy eliminates online GMT — mandatory training shakeup puts commands in charge

The longstanding tradition of General Military Training isn't going away, but it's getting a complete overhaul.

The most despised of Navy training programs annually requires sailors to be subjected to hours of training on topics ranging from sexual assault and suicide prevention to managing personnel records.

But times are changing.

Officials have decided to eliminate computer-based GMT and will instead allow commands to deliver the information however they choose. 

"I want sailors to know we've heard them," said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, the chief of naval personnel, who added that he's often heard sailors complain about how computer-based GMT is "ineffective and impersonal." 

In a sense, the Navy is getting a blast from the past in how it conducts the training — face-to-face.

The commands' requirement that course completion be documented in the Fleet Management and Planning System database is also going away, though officials recommend commands continue to maintain local training records. 

Much of GMT training is mandated by fleet-wide policies requiring the Navy to conduct programs educating service members on certain topics at regular intervals, whether annually or every two to three years. None of those requirements are going away. 

In the recent past, the Navy required in-person instruction on some topics, while other subjects were provided to sailors online and at their own pace. The Navy has since developed some smart phone applications to deliver the training as well.

Now that's all being scrapped to make way for in-person instruction. 

For example, for fiscal year 2017, the Navy originally mandated that sailors complete 10 different courses through GMT. Three of these, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response; Equal Opportunity/Sexual Harassment/Grievance Procedures; and Suicide Prevention were required to be given in person by command instructors.

Top Navy officials are not mandating classrooms, but instead are asking individual commands to get creative and pick opportunistic times to have personal discussions with smaller groups of sailors about these topics.

The course material will still be available online, so discussion leaders can ensure they teach what information the Navy wants delivered.

"This is also empowering commanding officers and sailors," said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. "Our sailors are creative and know what works best for their units.  

"The training we have online is impersonal — and isn't tailored to the unit level. We believe letting COs tailor when and how they train their sailors will help improve learning, engagement and unit cohesion."

Christensen said unit leaders should look to tie in training with what's happening at the unit level and work to maximize effectiveness.

"Units should look to conduct GMT in small groups," he said. "[This] will allow leaders to engage sailors with meaningful discussion and focus on character, as part of the Navy's continuing fleet-centered leader development."

The complexity of each topic should dictate how much consideration commands put into its delivery method, Christensen said. And commands shouldn't rule out classrooms if that works best. 

"Suicide Awareness, Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training may require a more formal setting," he said, "and may benefit from supplementation by existing seminar discussion material available. 

"Other topics such as Records Management, Operations Security, and Privacy and [Personally identifiable information] can be conducted at quarters, all-hands calls and divisional training using existing learning objectives and material to elicit discussion to the point that the leader is satisfied that the learning objectives are understood."

What the Navy wants is for leaders to teach sailors topics with a more informal touch that brings a leader's personal experience into the instruction.

"This is about restoring an important leader engagement opportunity," Burke said. "An opportunity to talk about integrity, accountability and character, something today's online products are missing."

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