Navy wants to change training to make maintainers more self sufficient

The Navy doesn’t want to be like E.T. anymore.

Due to some risks the Navy has taken over the years in maintenance training, sailors have the option to “phone home” when they can’t fix something on a ship.

The Navy wants to change that in the coming years.

“For many, many years we have taken margins on planned maintenance systems, on tech manuals, on having available piece parts onboard, on training, to where we got satisfied that if something broke and you get to step 15 in the repair process it says call Navy 311. There’s a phone home capability built into the system and that’s not going to work when you’re working in a contested environment and you cannot call home,” Rear Adm. Mark Whitney, director of fleet maintenance said at a Jan. 11 speech during the Surface Navy Association’s Annual Symposium in Arlington, Va.

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Whitney said the Navy will move toward a self-sufficient sailor concept, where sailors will have a tech manual, they will have the ability to practice through a couple of training programs.

Whitney called the training a way for maintainers to get some “reps and sets” in before they get underway with the fleet. He said the Navy’s ability to train its sailors is improving but still needs a lot of work.

They Navy also created a Ships Organic Ability Assessment Team to inspect ships to make sure they have the consumables they need, to make sure the tools are in working order and to make sure the correct tech manuals are up to date.

“It’s all intended so we can measure something, we can do evaluation, we can improve our disciple to some fundamental processes to make sure we can get back to self-sufficient sailors at sea,” Whitney said.

Ready Relevant Learning, the Navy’s push to make fundamental changes into the training approach for sailors of 2025 and beyond, is another key factor.

The program is a career-long learning continuum for every sailor. Whitney said training will follow a sailor throughout his or her career to allow for the proper amount of practice.

The Navy also plans to perform more preventative maintenance so parts on ships will not break as much in the first place.

Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, chief of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) said last spring that he wants to hire 2,000 more civilian employees to handle maintenance issues on ships, especially for preventative measures.

“The number one mission priority right now for NAVSEA is the on-time delivery of ships and submarines,” Moore said. “Today, we only deliver about 40 percent of our ships and submarines out of maintenance availabilities on time and that’s causing great stress for the fleet.”

That maintenance issue is with the Navy’s current fleet of 285 ships. Moore said the extra 2,000 workers would get rid of the maintenance backlog plaguing the shipyards. That would bring NAVSEA’s workforce to just over 36,000.

The Navy hired 16,500 workers over the past five years, but it is still getting its ships out of maintenance late. Part of the reason is because it takes time to train the new hires.

“As you hire all these people, young workforce, you’ve got to get them trained. And in the past, it would typically take four to five years to take a new shipyard worker and get them to the kind of a journeymen level where you could trust them to go work on a nuclear submarine or carrier, “Moore told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Today, we’ve invested a lot of money in our training systems, so that a young worker can come in today and takes some about one to two years to the point that they can actually provide real wrench turning on the ship.”

Read more from the DoD Personnel Notebook.