Before retiring in 2009, Rear Admiral Gary Jones directed Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), the Navy's largest shore command that affects the mission of every naval command. During Rear Adm. Jones' tenure he was responsible for every naval schoolhouse except the Naval War College, the U.S. Naval Academy, and some intelligence schools. He oversaw a military and civilian staff of more than 19,000 people that provided education and training to 30,000 students each day.
"I take great pride that every sailor in the Navy is an NETC graduate," says Rear Adm. Jones.
Each year, NETC provides learning and development opportunities to more than 40,000 men and women from all of the U.S. military services and service members from more than 150 countries allied with the United States.
According to Rear Adm. Jones, learning has high strategic value for the Navy.
"Learning and development is a strategic imperative because it affects the success of our maritime efforts as well as our military and humanitarian missions around the world."
He also explained why the Navy's education and training of its sailors has changed.
"We are a nation at war. Our training has changed to meet the demands of the fleet. Part of our mission is to ensure fleet readiness, so our training and development is constantly evolving."
To meet these demands, the Navy has stepped up technical training in weapons and platform operations, increased maintenance training, and created combat-based scenarios that help sailors prepare before they deploy. It has also increased training for enlistees and officer candidates in the Seabee and naval intelligence communities.
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have presented a new challenge in the form of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). To combat this challenge, the Center for Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Diving is teaching its students how to identify and disable the components of these deadly bombs.
The Navy is also working with coalition partners in Iraq and Afghanistan to increase language skills and knowledge of each other's cultures.
During these modern times, the Navy uses some of the world's most sophisticated technology to patrol the seas, but it also must use less sophisticated techniques while facing attacks from pirates who don't possess modern warfare skills or sophisticated equipment.
"Our service is more than 230 years old, and we have come full circle," says Rear Adm. Jones. "To support shipboard commanders engaged in combating terrorism, piracy, and narcotics smuggling, NETC offers a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure course."
To keep its training up-to-date because of changing fleet requirements, NETC holds annual curriculum reviews; analyzes metrics and student feedback; and gathers input from officers in the aviation, surface, and submarine communities. Its learning centers continually work with all the Navy's warfare communities to ensure that the training they provide concentrates on the necessary skills required to successfully complete missions.
To ensure that the enlisted advancement program is up-to-date, NETC brings subject matter experts from the fleet to the Navy Advancement Center in Pensacola, Florida, to review thousands of examination questions to ensure that they are current, accurate, and provide valid information.
From cannonballs to guided missiles
In its 234-year history, the Navy has used many kinds of technology in battle. It continues to take advantage of technology by preparing its sailors for battle using simulators such as Battle Station 21, which is a 200-foot replica of a guided-missile destroyer floating on 100,000 gallons of seawater. While aboard, the sailors experience numerous shipboard damage-control incidents, cycling through 17 different simulations that range from incidents such as flooding, fire, and a full-blown crisis that threatens the entire ship.
At shore-based training facilities, sailors prepare for duty at sea, as part of the Navy's "train-to-qualify" concept, which requires them to report aboard their newly assigned ships ready to execute their missions. The shore-based training facilities have divided their training into three sections that replicate the command and control areas of a ship.
The Component-Based Total Ship System covers the control programs for sensors and weapons systems. The Integrated Bridge System covers propulsion, docking, navigation, and refueling of a ship. The Main Propulsion Control and Management System provides training for the management of a ship's engineering system.
"In the modern Navy, when it is possible to bring down a missile with a missile, we must employ not only the latest and best technology, but also the best training to use that technology," says Rear Adm. Jones. "Technology on ships and in weapon systems is a strategic advantage in defense of our country, and our sailors need to keep pace through learning."
During Rear Adm. Jones' command, NETC was recognized by ASTD with an Excellence in Practice (EIP) award and an EIP citation in 2008 for results achieved through learning and performance practices and solutions.
NETC's Center for Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Diving, in Panama City, Florida, received an award from ASTD for improved performance with its preparatory training courses for entry-level divers. Before Jones' tenure, the Navy's training program for high-risk diving jobs had a very low graduation rate, which resulted in higher training costs and a shortage of personnel available for demanding diving jobs.
Prior evaluations of student performance revealed three common failure points: aquatic adaptability, improper medical or physical screening, and drop on request (DOR). Aquatic adaptability is a student's aptitude for operating and surviving in water. Improper medical or physical screening is a failure to identify a student's lack of the minimum physiological requirements for a diving job. DOR enables students to remove themselves from courses or training when they no longer want to pursue the training required to join a specific Navy community.
To address these failure points, preparatory courses were developed to be given prior to diver training. The purpose of these courses was to enhance mentorship, increase readiness for high-risk training, improve student performance in the water, and increase understanding of a diver's job.
After one year, these preparatory courses reduced non-graduation rates to less than 10 percent, saving NETC approximately $400,000.
The Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (Navy COOL), managed by NETC's Center for Information Dominance, was also recognized by ASTD, earning a career development award and a workforce and development citation in 2008. Navy COOL was established in 2006 as an Internet-based tool designed to assist sailors with career guidance, training paths, and funding toward professional certification and licensure examinations.
"Professional credentialing is an integral part of the Navy's learning and development strategy," says Rear Adm. Jones. "It reflects the vision of a superbly trained and led team of diverse sailors."
Sailors use Navy COOL to align their Navy training with industry-recognized credentialing. It helps build career opportunities within the Navy and eventually for a career outside of the Navy. Navy managers and mentors use COOL to provide feedback and guidance to their sailors through career development assessments, appraisals, and advancement.
Available to more than 400,000 sailors, Navy COOL has had a positive effect on personal and professional career development. Navy COOL has been credited with increasing employee retention and encouraging sailors to stay current in their career fields. The Navy also touts COOL as a benefit to help with its recruitment efforts.
Another ASTD citation went to NETC colleagues on the manpower and personnel side for managing change through its Task Force on Life and Work (TFLW). In 2007, the Navy conducted an executive education session dedicated to improving retention rates among young employees born between January 1977 and December 1997 (Millennials or the Net Generation) in critical operational sectors. During the session, it was discovered that despite financial and educational incentives, millennial employees were leaving the Navy because of a lack of work-life balance.
Based on the findings and recommendations from the session, TFLW was established to develop and implement workforce initiatives that promoted better work-life balance and provided fresh solutions for recruiting and retaining Millennial talent. The task force had three goals: find initiatives for immediate implementation, determine which initiatives required congressional approval, and gather feedback from employees through town hall meetings.
In its first year, TFLW administrators met with more than 11,000 personnel. They started a blog where employees could post comments and ask questions of senior leaders. TFLW made sweeping changes to its maternity leave policy, started a telework program, and instituted education benefit reform, paid paternity leave, and a pilot program for career sabbaticals in 2009 legislation.
As a result, national policy leaders recognized the Navy's efforts. Personnel data indicated that retention in key demographic areas increased by as much as 50 percent.
Learning and development strategy
The Navy's learning and development strategy is to ensure that its sailors and officers have available to them the learning and advancement opportunities they need throughout their careers to be effective in the Navy. A key part of that effort is to increase awareness of what is available for advancement and professional development, and to be a guide for the sailors of tomorrow.
"Ultimately this enables us to put the right sailors in the right jobs at the right time," says Rear Adm. Jones.T+D