By Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad
Commander, Naval Education and Training Command
Ready, Relevant Learning (RRL) is one of the Navy’s Sailor 2025 key initiatives with a focus on providing Sailors the right training at the right time throughout their career. It isn’t just an opportunity for us to overhaul the very industrial training model we’ve employed for several decades, but a chance to look at the totality of our current training model in how we optimize Sailor training throughout the continuum of his or her career.
Since fleet readiness starts at Naval Education and Training Command, we are obligated to provide the fleet the very best in training and education delivery. We must be “better, faster and more effective” to win in today’s competitive environment and to keep moving forward implementing new initiatives.
We are looking at different ways of how we train, and RRL seeks to achieve more performance-based training – where Sailors actually get “hands on” training as opposed to the more traditional knowledge-based training that relies on textbooks and PowerPoint instruction we stress today.
So when I talk about RRL, I’ll invite you to think about the “when,” the “how,” and the “where” we are teaching our Sailors.
Sailors perform better when they have the necessary skills to do the job that’s needed of them right now. Traditionally, we have we frontloaded Sailors with much of their required training for their entire career at accession-level “A” and “C” schools. By the time they reach their second or third follow-on assignment, Sailors often found their knowledge and skills may have atrophied and the training they had received outdated. For some, the foundational training they receive during their accession pipeline is not retained, given the vast amount of training they’ve received en route to their first command – much of which, is focused beyond the scope of what we expect our new Sailors to perform during their first few years.
We want to invest in our Sailors to make them successful when they go to the fleet. What does a Sailor need to know in their first 18 to 24 months? We asked subject matter experts on each of the type commander staffs to identify the precise time a Sailor needs a particular training to develop a continuum.
Of the Navy’s 87 ratings, we are analyzing 54 of them to determine which portions of their training can transition from the traditional delivery of upfront training before arriving at the first command. Of those 54 ratings, 22 have been approved by U.S. Fleet Forces Command as the executive agent for RRL and are in what we call “block learning.” Individual “blocks” of training will deliver only the technical knowledge and skills required by the rating at specific points in a Sailor’s career.
After the first “block” of training that will occur after boot camp, Sailors report to their first ship, squadron, submarine or battalion and complete their first and possibly second tour in the fleet. At designated points in that particular Sailor’s career – based on rate, deployment schedule and training cycle – a Sailor will return to the next tailored “blocks” of training to continue to develop professionally. Those subsequent “blocks” will ensure that as Sailors becomes more senior (and more fleet experienced), they receive additional training appropriate to the skill levels we expect at that point in their career.
First and foremost – RRL is NOT more computer-based training. RRL will leverage training technology that ranges from simple visual demonstration tools such as YouTube-like videos to more complex, immersive simulators and virtual trainers. Many examples of these technologies are already being piloted at our learning centers around the country that will supplement traditional classroom instruction – with demonstrated and measurable improvements to a Sailor’s ability to learn and to retain the knowledge and skills required to be successful at a given point in his or her career.
SMART. The Scalable Mobile Applications and Ready Training (SMART) eTablets used at Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal provide students a self-paced study and academic remediation tool. The tablets include quizzes, references and how-to videos. The students are able to take them home, study unclassified information, and retain the material. Sailors are learning better, and we are seeing a decrease in attrition rates.
MRTS 3D®. Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System 3D® (MRTS 3D®) is affordable, versatile and flexible, flat panel touch-screen gaming technology. The system gives students multiple opportunities to virtually perform specific tasks such as turning valves and selecting tools for the job before them. We are using MRTS 3D® to train on submarine radio rooms, Virginia-class attack submarine torpedo rooms, emergency diesel generators, and aircraft Mobile Electric Power Plants.
VISIT 3D. Virtual Interactive Shipboard Instructional Tour 3D (VISIT 3D) provides a photo-realistic interactive experience of a real-world environment. For example, on the Virginia-class submarine, VISIT 3D offers platform familiarization and equipment location training for the forward compartment lower level through timed, scored and tailored scavenger hunts. Sailors can practice critical ship operating procedures that could previously only be performed on the actual equipment.
IVSE. Littoral Combat Ship Immersive Virtual Shipboard Environment (IVSE) uses an avatar to virtually access shipboard facilities and locations, simulating real-life scenarios. A student can look in any direction and complete watch station requirements before even stepping aboard a ship.
I have seen firsthand the benefits of how this type of training impacts our Sailors. These tools increase the number of training “reps and sets” a Sailor can perform and build upon muscle memory before actually interacting with physical equipment or systems.
Closely tied to modernizing our training methods is an ability to deliver our content and make it accessible at the waterfront or flight line. While we still need the traditional brick-and-mortar schoolhouse, we also need to leverage the types of technology and learning experiences that many of our Sailors today have grown up with.
Our goal is for Sailors to be able to walk across the street, receive a few hours of training and return to their command. Better yet – to give the Sailor the ability to receive that same level of sophisticated training aboard their ship or submarine, at their squadron, or in their work center – delivery at the point of need.
The key as we move forward is to think outside of the box and continue to challenge the status quo. We must be flexible and adaptive during every phase of transition and not look in the rear view mirror at how we have always done things – challenge each other with a mindset of “what if?”
Our competitive advantage as a Navy lies in our “people.” Just as we’ll never completely walk away from traditional brick-and-mortar schools, the need for fleet subject matter experts – our instructors – will never be replaced by future training technology. The power of RRL lies in the ability to supplement the hands-on, face-to-face everyday interaction with students while integrating more mobile and virtual components that bring training directly to our Sailors when and where it makes sense.
Going forward we will remain agile and keep pursuing new technology and concepts to develop our nation’s best and brightest into Sailors prepared for success in their roles in maintaining maritime superiority.