Magazine article National Defense

'Hybrids Sailor': Recruits Virtually Experience the High-Tech Navy

Magazine article National Defense

'Hybrids Sailor': Recruits Virtually Experience the High-Tech Navy

Article excerpt

Five years into an ambitious program to overhaul an outdated training regimen rooted in the Cold War, the Navy appears to be making progress.

With sophisticated warships poised to enter Its fleet during the next several years, the Navy is relying more and more on technology to train sailors. Ships also will have smaller crews so every sailor will be trained for multiple jobs, said Vice Adm. Kevin Moran, commander of Navy Education and Training Command, at a training and simulation conference. "We are building hybrid sailors," he said.

That thinking is shaping the way recruits and sailors prepare for service.

At the recruit level, the Navy Service Training Command has focused on team-building and small arms weapons training, said Rear Adm. Arnold Lotring, commanding officer.

One of its newest training technologies is Battle Stations 21, an $82 million facility that will test recruits' capabilities and sailor-worthiness with an immersive 12-hour simulation beginning next month (see related story).

"It puts these young people into a ream environment, so they understand how important it is in the Navy to work together and work across the group that they've been assigned." said Lotring.

Previously, the Navy tested its recruits in a rudimentary fashion, running teams from drill to drill across the campus. Now with realistic simulations and special effects, it can appeal to a generation of tech-savvy recruits.

Battle Stations 21 more accurately reflects the environment recruits will see once they get into the fleet, retired Vice Adm. Alfred G. Harms, former commanding officer of the Navy Education and Training Command, said at the conference. With technologically advanced ships, such as the littoral combat ship, the next generation CVN-21 aircraft carrier and the DDG-1000 destroyer coming into the future Navy, knowing how to work together in smaller crews will be critical, he said.

"I think we're going to see more tools such as this for other pieces of Navy training," he added.

The Navy will continue to invest in firefighting and damage control trainers. But Battle Stations 21 would integrate the trainers into more of a coordinated event, Lotring said.

The operational factors of fighting in Iraq have also fed back into unit-level training.

For the Navy's riverine force, that meant bringing in Iraqi American actors and a Hollywood production company for a pre-deployment exercise.

Many times sailors go to the Navy's schoolhouses and the experience is rather benign, said Lt. Chris Cowart, training officer for the Navy's Riverine Squadron One, which deployed to Iraq in March.

"It's one thing to train folks in a Powerpoint presentation. But we actually get to see that live, writhing patient who's had catastrophic wounds and injuries, yelling and screaming for his life. It's amazing what that stress does, and gets that person to focus on what they're doing," he told reporters during a visit to Fort Pickett, Va., where the riverine squadron participated in a week-long exercise accentuated by Hollywood-grade explosions, rocket propelled grenades and combat trauma.

"It's nice to put in that level of combat stress we don't normally get with standard training. It's advantageous," said Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Christopher Immoos, who is now serving in Al-Anbar province with the 2nd detachment of Riverine Squadron One.

Sailors rarely have a chance to train as a unit from start to finish, but the 224 officers and enlisted sailors who were called to fill the ranks of the Navy's riverine force did exactly that, said Lt. …

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