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Less marching, more training.

These and other changes to Navy recruit training at Great Lakes, Ill., have allowed officials to cut the number of days required to turn civilians into sailors from 63 to 60, says a recent Navy press release.

Recruits now arriving at Great Lakes will make up the first companies to go through the 60-day cycle.

“We are confident that we can provide [a] high-quality, basically trained, ‘sea warrior’ that the fleet requires in a 60-day curriculum cycle,” said Rear Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, head of the Naval Service Training Command.

It is also expected to save the Navy about $20 million each year.

Despite having three fewer days, Navy officials say sailors will actually receive more training.

Former recruit division commanders — the Navy’s version of drill sergeants — like the changes outlined in the press release.

“On average, we were spending, out of 18 hours in a training day … six just for transit,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa Patrocky of the Fleet Air Mediterranean’s Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Division in Sigonella, Sicily. “We did have a lot [of marching] just because of the way the base was laid out.”

Patrocky was an RDC at Great Lakes for 10 recruit companies between May 1999 and April 2002.

The increased training will come from both infrastructure and curriculum changes.

Infrastructure changes include new self-contained barracks that have their own classrooms and dining facilities.

Two barracks are already in use, two more are projected to open by spring and 11 more are in various stages of planning or construction.

The new self-contained barracks are expected to cut 45 hours of marching time in a training period.

“They’ll gain that much time or more in the training schedule,” said Patrocky, a 15-year Navy veteran.

“Transporting recruits early in boot camp takes a lot of time,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Tourville of the Sigonella AIMD. “Lessening the time to transport recruits back and forth means spending more time training.”

Tourville said he’s seen the improvements first-hand.

“I took a visit there in November,” he said. “It looks like it’s working.

“I went back and talked to the command master chief there [and] … took a walk through new receiving barracks. The improvements are fantastic. There’s a lot of money going into the housing and training portion of boot camp.”

In October 2003, Navy officials also cut out the “service week” requirement, where the recruits spent five days working in the dining facility, administrative offices or doing various grounds-keeping jobs.

The five days are instead being used for everything from weapons training and swim lessons to medical and dental screening.

Patrocky believes that “service week” was good for recruits but said that the Navy seems to be using the time wisely.

“I think it’s good to take time and apply it to small arms,” she said. “With homeland security and force protection, they need live firing weapons handling.”

Curriculum improvements include a change to the Navy’s basic teaching methodology. The technological advances allow the training to be “much more visually-impacting and interactive than the traditional lecture format in use for many years,” the release states, increasing retention of the material.

Overall, Patrocky said, the Navy is moving to smarter recruit training.

“We need to remember that we are in a ‘new Navy’ that is being driven towards … transformation — working better, smarter, faster and not wasting manpower.”

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