From the Deckplates - Enlisted Training Should Also Be Education

By Senior Chief Jim Murphy, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The CNO also mentioned the sequencing of C-schools, sailors’ advanced training, saying, “It’s at least six years until we send [sailors] to a major upgrade in their education.” That is true for some technical ratings, especially those with long sea-duty tours, and it is worth examining. One possible solution is segmented courses, in which sailors complete portions when their schedules allow, instead of longer classes all at once. This has the added benefit of exposing personnel to new technology more often—one of the CNO’s concerns—while making maximum use of that operational experience vital to sailors’ professional development.

Sailors deserve state-of-the-art training and education. But little has changed in several decades, and previous attempts to revolutionize training resulted in few improvements. For the most part, passive, lecture-based delivery and multiple-choice exams are the enduring pedagogy. We can do better.

Nearly all Navy schools result in some number of American Council on Education–recommended college credits being awarded. The number of credits and the quality of training continue to constitute an argument for building college degrees into our schools.

The Defense Language Institute, which awards associate of arts degrees in languages, continues to lead the way for sailors and their counterparts in other services. It’s beyond time that the Navy created something akin to the Community College of the Air Force. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear there has been any discussion on such a strategy since the publication of my April 2009 Proceedings piece “Let’s Create a Navy and Marine Corps College.” Sailors would benefit from advanced training designed like college courses, where a large portion of the learning occurs outside the classroom through reading, projects, and peer interaction. Such an innovative approach to the advanced training that Admiral Greenert mentions would truly represent an upgrade in sailors’ education.

It’s time we educated them, not just continue to train them. And their instructors must become educators, not only trainers. This strategy would accomplish two goals: It would provide advanced training at key times in sailors’ careers, and it would allow them an experience similar to the one officers have in full-time, funded education.

Sponsored by an accredited college, such hybrid programs—in which training and education coexist—would benefit the Navy beyond the skills that sailors develop. Class projects might uncover innovative ways of doing old tasks or discover solutions to new problems. Additionally, these programs would be fantastic recruiting and retention incentives.

It’s time for a radical transformation in our approach to enlisted training. Providing a college-like education and awarding appropriate degrees are fitting changes that would lead to numerous benefits for our sailors individually, as well as for our Navy as a whole.

Senior Chief Murphy retired from the Navy after 21 years of service. He is a contributing author to Everyday Leader Heroes (Caboodle Books).


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