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Petty Officer 1st Class Billy D. Reynolds, a Navy yeoman for 21 years, explains a computer software application to Petty Officer 3rd Class Elvince Julien, 33, at Sasebo Naval Base’s Personnel Support Division Tuesday afternoon.

Petty Officer 1st Class Billy D. Reynolds, a Navy yeoman for 21 years, explains a computer software application to Petty Officer 3rd Class Elvince Julien, 33, at Sasebo Naval Base’s Personnel Support Division Tuesday afternoon. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Just knowing how to type and file won’t cut it anymore if you’re a yeoman in the U.S. Navy. Today, you’ve got to be able to navigate computer software like an NFL running back can dance around a gridiron.

And the Navy is betting you can do a better job than a traditional classroom instructor of teaching yourself what you need to know, according to a recent Navy news report.

Computerization and other new technology means being a yeoman, or a similar administrative assistant in any military branch, requires skills unknown a few decades ago — innovations so drastic the Navy has changed not only what, but also how and where it teaches yeomen, the news report stated.

The traditional teacher/student, classroom and textbook scenario is becoming history, the report said, phased out in favor of online environments at A-schools, the special schools for training such servicemembers.

“New yeomen better go ahead and learn as much of the computer skills as they can before having to use that know-how out in the fleet,” Petty Officer 1st Class Billy Reynolds, 40, said Tuesday. “Otherwise, as far as software expertise, they’ll just be lost, just like some of the old-timers will be lost who are not making the effort to stay on top of the new computer knowledge they need to have now.”

Reynolds is among the more experienced yeomen at Sasebo Naval Base. After graduating from the A-school in Meridian, Miss., in 1982, he spent 21 years fine-tuning his skills and now works for Sasebo’s Personnel Support Detachment.

The Navy says the shift to online training is part of its broader “Revolution in Navy Training” initiative. Traditional specialized training schools face drastic overhauls, said Dean Norman of the Naval Personnel Development Command/Task Force EXCEL.

Self-paced online interactive courses eventually will extend to all the administrative A-schools, the report said. Among ratings likely in line for this type of teaching, it stated: personnelmen, religious program specialists, aviation storekeepers, storekeepers, ship’s servicemen and aviation maintenance administrationmen.

“This prototype, as well as the electricity, electronic, communications and radar prototype … will have far-reaching results,” Norman said. “These innovations are bringing knowledge to sailors, wherever they are and when they need it.”

Recently promoted Petty Officer 3rd Class Antwan Hunter completed the yeoman A-School in 2001, before any switch to completely computer-guided courses. An administrative assistant for the shore command at Sasebo Naval Base, Hunter said removing much of the human element from the training has advantages and disadvantages.

“It allows for self-paced progress through the training, especially for those who are quick learners,” the 20-year-old said Tuesday morning. “But it sounds bad for those who might not be real comfortable learning solely on computers, or working as self- starters.

“Not everyone is going to learn at the same rate,” he said, and many “usually benefit from the one-to-one or face-to-face instruction that comes from a teacher in the old-fashioned classroom setting.”

The school’s interactive online course takes place in a classroom; however, students will learn through the virtual office. Facilitators replace instructors; they’re there to help students navigate through the software.

The traditional yeoman course usually takes five weeks.

“With the new hands-on, reality-based course,” Norman said, “the time could be cut down to as little as three weeks. It’s all up to the sailor.”

He added that using the new training system as the “example for the future of learning will save the Navy a significant amount of money. … It’s thought that just the … prototype alone could save the Navy up to $900,000 the first year.”

For more information about A-School for Navy yeomen, visit http://www.nko.navy.mil.

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