The Navy has announced that it is lengthening its basic training from eight to 10 weeks in an effort to provide sailors with more practical training as well as life skills and professional development.
Navy leaders said the change is the first major shake-up of the sea service's boot camp in 20 years.
"We are trying to give sailors some preventative maintenance ... giving them some tools that they can use to prepare themselves as individuals to be part of a warfighting team," Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, commander of Naval Station Great Lakes, the Navy's sole basic training facility, told the press during a roundtable Friday.
Recruits will still spend eight weeks going through the typical phases of instruction that culminate with the "battle stations" capstone event. At the end of the 12-hour scenario, set on a 210-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class destroyer simulator, recruits are given a Navy ball cap that symbolizes their transition to full-fledged sailors.
With the latest change, however, sailors would not move on to graduation after the crucible event but rather stay with their training cohort for an extra two weeks and receive additional instruction -- albeit under less intense conditions.
"We're going to change the nature of the relationship between the instructors ... and these sailors, to more of a coaching and mentoring relationship where we can have in-depth conversations about what life is really like," Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer said.
Koshoffer noted that "identity transformation in eight weeks is a lot to ask" and that the additional training time "shows our commitment to deliberately developing our sailors for success in the Navy."
Some of the additional training is also aimed at addressing problems with the culture of not just the Navy but the military overall.
Perennial issues such as sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention and healthy lifestyle topics will make up a "a big portion" of the new "Life Skills" curriculum, Couture explained.
She also noted that, while "the additional two-week timeline was not designed specifically with" extremism prevention in mind, the training will "model the behaviors that we want to contribute to the culture" of the Navy.
"What we're really focusing on here is taking recruits from many walks of life ... and introducing them to the concept of what it means to be a sailor and what is our level of expectation for how you act and how you treat each other," Couture said.
The extra training will also focus on topics like personal finance and "things that we need to teach them about some basic living on their own that they may not have gotten before they arrived here," Couture explained.
Navy leaders emphasized that the longer training time at Great Lakes will not impact the fleet or lead to a short-term shortage of new sailors.
"Some of this type of training we were doing at various locations all over the fleet. ... We've pulled that out of those training continuums, and we've pulled it back and connected it to boot camp," Koshoffer explained.
According to Couture and Koshoffer, the change was driven largely by feedback they received from commanders and leaders in the Navy.
"Our ships, submarines, aircraft and other fleet units have got a lot on their plate, and they do not have the time to do basic training," Couture explained.
The new program began for all recruits arriving on Jan. 3, 2022.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.