Letters: Training today's sailors; women in combat

The chief of naval personnel writes about changes in enlisted training, while a noted author and analyst writes about the Israelis' approach to women in direct ground combat. Have thoughts you'd like to share on Navy Times stories or letters? Send them to navylet@navytimes.com. Include your name, address, phone number and rank. Submissions may be published in print and online.

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The Navy Times' editorial, "Improve Sailor Training," published in the March 7 edition, serves as a reminder to us all that if we forget the lessons of the past, we are destined to repeat them.

However, I'd like to take an opportunity to reassure your readers that as we implement a more modern approach to training our sailors, we've learned from our failed efforts to modernize a decade ago and are using those lessons as a guide going forward.

Fleet Master Chief April Beldo and I frequently visit the fleet, and we have witnessed first-hand the lack of modern training techniques and capabilities in many of our schools. But what struck me the most was the number of sailors who talked about long delays and overcrowding in some of our training pipelines. We found that in some high-tech ratings, sailors can spend more than two years in training before reporting to their first units.

So, rather than accept this as "the cost of doing business," we challenged ourselves to reduce wait times, improve student flow, and get sailors to the waterfront and flight line sooner with the knowledge they need to perform their apprentice duties. Sailors join the Navy to be part of the fleet, and when our sailors spend too much time in training at the start of their careers, they can lose knowledge and in some cases motivation. We are working to fundamentally change the Navy's passive, industrial, one-size-fits-all training approach to a more active and effective way of learning.

Today, after sailors graduate from boot camp, they typically attend school and receive most of their rate-specific training up front, designed to last a career.  As I've thought about this, I believe enlisted sailors, like officers, should receive training when their experience matches their level of responsibility and refresh their knowledge in between tours, so they arrive to their units ready to perform on day one.

The science of learning tells us that individuals comprehend the best when they are taught in context, and in smaller, more interactive sessions.  The concept we call "Ready Relevant Learning," seeks to transform our industrial, conveyor-belt-training-model into delivering the right training at the right time in way that sailors will retain.

While there will always be a fundamental need for hands-on, formalized classroom instruction, with professional instructors who reinforce our core values and procedural compliance, the terrific young men and women joining our Navy today have been raised in a new information era where they are writing the language of current gaming programs. They have been raised to operate in an electronic, mobile environment, and they learn differently than many of us.

Consequently, we are immersed in an effort to re-engineer the training pipeline for six Navy ratings beginning in 2017. This effort includes placing the training at the right point in a sailor's career, and delivering it using techniques that are mobile, modular and available at the waterfront or in the fleet. We will ensure that this training is assessed fully with fleet support.

We want our training to meet sailors where they are, and how they learn best.  We want our sailors to repeat key skills over and over to form good habits, and rapidly learn from their mistakes in a training environment. After all, our military advantage depends on our ability to learn faster, and to be inherently receptive to innovation and creativity.

Navy Times was right to remind us of our failures.  But I believe that by modernizing the Navy's training approach, our young men and women will learn better and faster, become more proficient, and develop into high-performing teams.  But it is no small task and it will take a concerted and committed effort by leaders around the fleet and in our training pipelines to make change both real and lasting.

That's change sailors will appreciate.

Vice Adm. Bill Moran

Chief of Naval Personnel

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Rarely mentioned, if at all, as some U.S. military leaders, mostly civilians, advocate putting women in front-line, ground combat units is that for the foreseeable future our ground and special forces will be fighting militant Muslims. As I learned from my work with the Israeli Navy, the Israelis are reluctant to have women engage in tactical operations because: 1) Muslim men do not surrender to women; 2) men get killed trying to save women; and 3) the "treatment" of women combatants captured by Muslims.

Unfortunately, many of our political leaders have no understanding of the "real world."

Norman Polmar

Alexandria, Va.

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