CAPT Hinkley and LTJG Hipple’s recent posts have served as something as a kick in the pants for me… It’s been a really long time since I wrote anything.

But, yeah, I’ve been busy…

I’m not in Belgium any more. I left at the end of February, at the last date that Millington said was possible without losing my billet and thus being removed from the Navy: 28FEB13.

In the present, I am at Corry Station, in Pensacola. Learning about the stuff that the aforementioned gentlemen wrote about. The thing about it though, I can’t write about what I’ve learned and am learning–its a different world I’ve walked into. From the completely open source world of social media into the Crypto-Tech world. I am at A-school. I am surrounded by boots. Every 45 seconds I am greeted in the P-ways with “good evening Petty Officer.” I am a class leader, I have a number of boots I am charged with keeping on task… And it is fascinating.

It’s like seeing myself seven years ago when I was new to the Navy. The questions they have differ little from my own back when…. They’re so young though, my god. When you’re a boot, you don’t think you stand out that much. But, you do. The mistakes you’re going to make are predictable and understandable. My experience over the last two weeks of school reminds of a quote from Hobbes,

Prudence is but experience, which equal time, equally bestows on all men, in those things they equally apply themselves unto.

Experience, and in turn prudence, starts with bootcamp. It builds to some expertise in A-school, you reach the Fleet and it is there that you learn to be a Sailor. This fact seems to have been abused back when I came into the Navy. A-schools back then were afflicted with the vogue notion of CBT, or Computer Based Training. Where the Navy assumed boots to be cleaver enough to essentially teach themselves. I’ve been told that even some of the more technical rates were afflicted by this methodology as well. Even more so, instructors favored the term ‘you’ll learn it in the Fleet’ when a somewhat vexing question would be asked of them. Again, all this to me, strikes me as a perversion of how a senior Sailor understands how they became who they are.

A more accurate portrayal of the development of a Sailor (‘Sailor-ization’ is a term that should not be used. One does not simply make a person into a Sailor, a person must grow into being a Sailor–the onus is on the one growing.) is that no amount of schooling nor any quantity of sea stories can completely ready a Sailor for life at sea or in the Fleet. But, that does not mean there is not great efficacy for either. Rather, the senior Sailor needs to fully appreciate what they are able to impart to their junior classmate. Everything they have lived can impart a small measure of prudence into that junior Sailor. Indeed, I consider this a sacred duty for the senior Sailor.

Having that first or second class in the classroom is invaluable. Having a 2nd or 1st that can truly spin a yarn is worth every cent of their pay. A 1st or 2nd that boots are in awe of is your surest bet to creating a Sailor worthy of the Fleet. I sincerely doubt that becoming a Master Training Specialist ensures any of this. In fact, I am nearly certain it doesn’t. But, I am open to being corrected regarding this perception.

A-school is the last great chance for the military to hold onto their boots, and impart in them the words that need to resonate in their heads for the next 20+ years. Once they leave here, for many of them, they start their adult lives and it will be too late. The core of their professional-selves are set.

For the senior Sailor, what is important is that they learn about who they have grown to become in each conversation they have with their juniors. As you explain to them what you experienced in the Fleet you discover aspects of your experience that you possibly had not considered before. From their reactions you are allowed to, in some small part, relive that experience and see from a 3rd person perspective how that experience affected you. In spinning that yarn, you learn just as much as they are. There seems to be much emphasis on the underscoring of technical prowess in being an instructor at A-school, I hope the Navy appreciates this more ephemeral aspect of instruction as well.

You’d probably be floored to know that about 10% of my class has a 4 year degree. There are more than five others in school with me that have their masters. What’s amazing is that it’s fairly evenly split between guys as such either not knowing they could be an officer, and others who do not want to be officers. The lines between what an officer is and an enlisted guy is blurring. In many respects what it is coming down to is how a person was trained and treated. If I were given the power, I’d like to do an experiment and see if someone from high school, and only high school, could become as good of an officer as someone from college.

There are still some months I have left here at Corry Station. I am very eager to get to know more people well established in the community I am entering. But, even more so, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to lead in some small way the boots (to be sure, I use that term in an endearing way) in class with me. They are teaching me more than they realize.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Army, Cyber, Marine Corps, Navy, Training & Education

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  • Are blog posts eligible for Naval Institute Prizes? This one certainly is. BZ Lucien!

  • OldAF Sarge

    You’ve nailed it Lucien!

    I was career Air Force and the impact of my instructors at my first tech school cannot be overstated. They had “been there, done that” and really wanted to impart the “book knowledge” AND the practical skills they had acquired in the field to we lowly airmen.

    They had a huge influence on my making the Air Force a career. E-5s and E-6s who actually care really determine how an airman will turn out down the road. From the sounds of it, the Navy is similar.

    I’m not really surprised at that percentage of sailors with 4-year degrees. That trend started back when I was active duty. At least in the Air Force. It was not unusual to have senior NCOs with graduate degrees working “for” JOs with “only” a 4-year degree. I too would be interested in seeing if someone with just a high school diploma could be a good officer.

    Excellent insight, as always, Lucien!

  • I agree. My A school ages ago included 47 weeks at DLI in Monterey. I don’t remember everything but I sure do remember (and looked up to) CTI1 Porter. He was almost god-like to many of us fresh out of boot.

  • TheMightyQ

    Any argument supporting in-person schoolhouse training given by actual people is a sound one, in my opinion. However, yours here is exceptionally eloquent, and really hits home some of the secondary benefits that accrue from such training (e.g. teachers learning from and being reinvigorated by students).

  • grandpabluewater

    The experiment has been performed. Commissioned officers served in the USN without college degrees throughout the twentieth century. Warrant Officers, Limited Duty Officers, former Naval Aviation Cadets and some other commissioning programs. Most were fine officers, many were absolutely superb (and Aces, too.) Some were not.

    The man (or woman) is what matters. Education is helpful, formal education easy to validate.

    So the answer is Yes.

  • ISC

    I am a retired ISC. I changed rates from AMH to IS as a First Class and went though A School as an AMH/IS 1. A humbling experience. Not long after A School I was promoted to ISC. Then it really got tough; here I was a Chief Intelligence Specialist with no practical experience as an IS, but I was “the” Chief and as the old saying goes….”go ask the Chief”. There was a lot of…..”that’s interesting, or yes that is a problem, let me get back to you shortly.

    What made the difference for me was that when I entered the Navy in 1967, the emphasis at the time was to produce leaders, rather than reliance on management and technology. I was taught that my primary responsibility was the well being and performance of those I led and to train them all to replace me.

    There are officers, there are enlisted, and there are leaders; the Navy needs more emphasis on producing the later. Just look at the number of COs being relieved of command. The Navy produced and screened these people. What happened?