The United States Navy is extending its boot camp by two weeks to include classes on sexual assault, hazing, suicide prevention and racism, the service announced last week. The changes are the first major restructuring to Navy boot camp in almost two decades.
Navy officials told The Associated Press that expanding boot camp from 8 to 10 weeks will allow the fleet to be better prepared. Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, who leads the Naval Service Training Command, said the additional two weeks will act as a “reinforcing mechanism” for recruit character development.
“We’re telling our recruits … here are all of the things that we expect you to do, and here’s how we expect you to behave and act,” Couture said, noting that the training includes treating others with respect and holding peers accountable. “We believe very strongly that those types of behaviors are directly impacting our fighting readiness and the performance of our sailors.”
Couture said “life skills” training on sexual harassment, sexual assault, hazing and suicide — as well as the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment — will make up much of the added two weeks.
Some of the additional time will be spent reinforcing training on how to handle fires, collisions and other life-threatening situations. The decision was made based on feedback from Navy leaders, who recognized that sailors who graduate and report to a ship must already be prepared to take on emergency scenarios.
Lt. Cmdr. Katy Bock, the military training director at the Navy’s Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois, added that the recruits will encounter several real-life situations in the additional weeks of training.
Fleet Master Chief of Naval Personnel, Wes Koshoffer, said in a statement reported by the Daily Mail that eight weeks for “identity transformation” wasn’t enough.
“Identity transformation in eight weeks is a lot to ask for,” Koshoffer said. “Developing toughness, resilience, forging character are processes that take time. And so, adding this time, it doesn’t sounds like a lot, but that two weeks really makes a difference.”
The Navy has taken other steps to counter racism, though it hasn’t said how prevalent an issue it is in the ranks.
Earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, the top officer in the U.S. Navy, defended his decision before Congress to include the racially charged book “How To Be An Antiracist” on the Navy’s official reading list. That list, Gilday said, came under fire as “woke.”
At the time, Gilday told the House Armed Services Committee that “there is racism in the Navy just like there’s racism in our country” and the only way to address it “is to be honest about it, not to sweep it under the rug, and talk about it.”