The veracity of the idiom “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” can be argued, but it is generally untrue in the military. Moreover, we should seek policies that ensure those who can, do teach and we should recognize excellence in this area.
The mark of true experts is the ability to teach their craft, in a formal setting or informally through mentoring. Not everyone has the non-technical skills needed to teach in a classroom environment. Effective teaching requires communication skills, understanding of the learning process, comfort in public speaking, and many other attributes. Military professionals who display the necessary technical and teaching skills should be encouraged to pursue training and education opportunities that are (unfortunately) less common today than before the Revolution in Training (RiT) began in 2001.
One of the results of the RiT was a misguided cost-saving initiative—savings produced at the cost of knowledge—of replacing uniformed instructors with civilians and contractors. This is not to say that many civilians and contractors don’t have the requisite skills, but in most cases, their training and experience are not as current as a Sailor’s. There is no arguing that explaining information to trainees in a contemporary context can best be accomplished by active-duty technical experts fresh off operational tours.
Regardless of the aforementioned issues, a good number of Sailors serve as instructors, and most achieve the highest level of certification, Master Training Specialist (MTS). The MTS certification process is extensive and requires more time to complete than some warfare qualifications and many designations. Yet recognition of this achievement is lacking.
MTS qualification procedures are outlined in the Core Competency Qualification Requirements (CCQR) Handbook, a publication prepared for the Naval Education and Training Command. The CCQR requires mastery of an exhaustive list of core competencies as well as demonstrated knowledge and performance in Instructional Foundations, Content Implementation and Maintenance, and Learning Management. All of these factors are tested through an oral interview and a written test if individual commands choose to develop and administer one.
The process can take up to a year to complete when executed correctly. In lieu of any significant official recognition, many training commands issue a special name tag, sometimes blue with “Master Training Specialist” engraved below the Sailor’s name. Although that’s a visible symbol of training expertise, that name tag is only worn during the Sailor’s tour of instructor duty.
Considering the complexity of the program, many people feel the qualification should be an official designator. Some feel so strongly on this matter that the unauthorized use of MTS as designator, such as BM2 (SW/MTS), is not unheard of. While this level of recognition may be appropriate, designators, which are junior to warfare qualifications, are generally related to some aspect of a warfare discipline and include a metal insignia. The Basic Parachute Insignia and the PJ designation are examples.
The only suitable option remaining is a ribbon. The Navy is arguably over-decorated already, but considering the ease with which some currently authorized ribbons are earned, MTS qualification is important and difficult enough to warrant this level of recognition.
Requirements for earning any new ribbon are often hotly debated before final guidance is issued. In this case, multiple options and the intricacies of MTS qualification add to the potential confusion. The debate can begin with two options for a ribbon.
The first is a ribbon awarded only for completion of all CCQR requirements. This option provides specific recognition of training excellence and is a lasting symbol of that achievement. The alternative is a ribbon awarded for successful completion of an instructor tour, with or without MTS certification, and would recognize all post-tour instructors while allowing the addition of an attachment to signify MTS qualification. This sounds more practical but it is limiting. Sailors can, in some cases, earn certification as a master trainer without serving on instructor duty; the CCQR allows for completion of the requirements by Sailors in training-support billets at training commands.
Regardless of how it’s designed, our most qualified instructors deserve a visible means of displaying the expertise they have acquired. A ribbon is an appropriate way to recognize training excellence.