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Interview: Rear Adm. Stephen Evans

Commander, Navy Services Training Command

 

 

Edward H. Lundquist: Everyone in the Navy is an end user of what you’re producing. Could you talk a little bit about that and how you’re approaching that important responsibility?

Rear Adm. Stephen Evans: The Naval Service Training Command is headquartered here, but our domain spans the entire country. Our mission is very simple – to take civilian volunteers who have a desire to serve our nation [in the] United States Navy, and help them make that transformation from civilian to naval professional; to imbue them with all those qualities of our core values; and give them the basic skills that they need to go into follow-on training and to be successful in the fleet. Our end user is the fleet, so we have a no-fail mission. We have to get it right. The foundation has to be firm if our enlisted Sailors or officers are going to be successful.

 

We used to have RTCs at Orlando and San Diego. Why did we close them and keep Great Lakes?

That was decided as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process. But when you look at the naval history and heritage going back to 1904 – and the legacy of the Sailors who were trained here starting in 1911, and have served our country through every major war and conflict that we’ve had since then – you realize that our Navy is steeped in tradition here. Historically, this is the birthplace of naval training. But the facilities we have here for recruit training and the service schools are unrivaled anywhere else, and they continue to get better.

 

How do you teach core values here?

They live it from the moment they arrive, when they get off the bus and start their in-processing. It would be hard for you to find a Sailor here in Great Lakes who can’t articulate the Navy’s core values, or how it applies to them and how they have internalized our core values. You’ll see it on the bulkheads. The RDCs start talking to them in those terms as they’re issuing gear. They learn and live core values and Navy heritage in their everyday life. They live in barracks that are called “ships.” They start leaning the history inside of those ships from the artifacts, historical events and memorabilia that are all around them. And the words “Honor and Courage and Commitment” are everywhere, and they come to understand the historical context of what that namesake ship accomplished, and the qualities that crew displayed. But boot camp is only one aspect of what we do here. We oversee 98 percent of all initial assessment training for our United States Navy – that’s officer and enlisted. The 2 percent we don’t do is the Naval Academy.

Evans greets recruits

Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), greets recruits at the American Legion Post 208 on Thanksgiving Day. The Legion hosted Evans and 84 recruits as part of an annual Adopt-A-Sailor program. The program allows local organizations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, like Arlington’s American Legion, to adopt eligible recruits from the Navy’s only boot camp, Recruit Training Command (RTC) in Great Lakes, Illinois, to spend the day off base. U.S. Navy photo by Mike Miller

 

So you can align the output so that the OCS and NROTC is going to be on par with the Naval Academy in terms of what the fleet is getting when they go to their initial training.

We have a Professional Core Competency (PCC) Manual that describes all the characteristics, attributes, background and experiences that we want. It applies to everyone who is commissioned into the United States Navy, no matter the commissioning source – whether it be ROTC, whether it be the Naval Academy, whether it be OCS.

We are re-emphasizing the fact that this is a profession of arms. We’re aligning with the Naval War College and the leadership continuum in building that naval professionalism from the very start.

We recently conducted a Professional Core Competencies Manual Human Performance Requirements Review (PCC HPRR) – using the Massive Multi-player Online War Game Leveraging the Internet (MOWGLI) technology that has been developed at the Naval Postgraduate School. Think of it as a game, with players from around the fleet and all over the world to look at what we want junior officers to be able to do, and what qualities we want them to have when they enter the fleet. It’s a four-phase process, starting with the MOWGLI, which was the first phase. The second phase involved subject matter experts from the Naval Academy, from ROTC, from the fleet, getting together to coalesce the input; followed by an officer board of advisors to distill all that, and provide a draft of the PCC to an executive steering committee in the fourth phase, which was chaired by Vice Adm. Carter at the Naval Academy. The result is the new PCC manual, … co-signed by myself and Vice Admiral Carter in August of this year.

 

Were there any surprises that came out of this process?

I would say that we didn’t find anything that was surprising. But we did find some areas where weren’t consistent. For instance, we want “marinership” to be a core competency for every officer who enters our Navy. That means that every officer, regardless of career field, has a basic understanding of naval operations and seamanship. Even if they never go to sea, they need to know what it means to be an officer in a seagoing service.

Evans and Lundquist

Rear Adm. Evans and Capt. Lundquist standing before the portrait of Vice Adm. Samuel Gravely.

We are re-emphasizing the fact that this is a profession of arms. We’re aligning with the Naval War College and the leadership continuum in building that naval professionalism from the very start.

 

Are you using technology to help instill that professionalism?

We have COVE (Conning Officer Virtual Environment) trainers in five of our ROTC host units right now. We’re going to put another five out this year. COVE is a ship-handling simulator in which the ROTC midshipmen can practice their ship-handling skills, and understanding the forces that the water, wind, and the screws and rudder can have on a ship. They learn standard commands, and become familiar with evolutions like entering or leaving port. In my previous job, I was the Director of Professional Development at the Naval Academy. Knowing how we develop a midshipman has helped me evaluate what we’re doing with our ROTC and OCS. The Naval Academy has a full mission bridge, and while we know we can’t expect to have that at all of our ROTC units, COVE allows us to do the very same things. I have a midshipman practice getting underway from the pier, going alongside, doing man-overboard drills, entering and exiting a port so that when they get to their ship, whether it be for summer training or, or after commissioning, they have those basic foundations down. And this applies to all midshipmen, not just the ones who are going surface warfare.

Our goal is to instill basic marinership, but for those interested in surface warfare, this is one of the tools to help them hone those skills to help them be on par with their peers when they get to their first ship. This spring we’re going to have a competition between those units that have COVE, and we’re going to have a competition to select the ROTC ship handler of the year. We’ll have ten units with COVE trainers by then.

We’re going to do that at SWOS at Newport. It will be fun, but also build professionalism in our future surface warriors, and probably encourage some people to go SWO.

 

I would imagine with the internet and connectivity, you could network trainers together.

Eventually, we want to be able to link the COVE trainers so that we can have multiple ship formations, with the students participating virtually from the different units.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...