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Advancements and Promotions

Forging the Exam

An inside look at NETPDTC

Imagine this. You're standing at morning quarters and your chief tells you he'll be out of the office for about two weeks because he'll be at a rating exam conference in Pensacola, Florida.

Pensacola, the lively seaside town on the Emerald Coast known for rich history, great fishing and plenty of time to soak up some sun. But don't jump the gun and get jealous. Your chief isn't going on vacation; he's going for your benefit.

Far from the lapping waves, on the outskirts of an old airfield, stands a relic of a barracks facility on Naval Air Station Pensacola's Saufley Field. But these barracks no longer house Sailors. They now contain the brightest minds in the mess. Converted from dormitories into office space, chiefs, senior chiefs, and master chiefs from every rate in the Navy convene here to meticulously read over and revise each of their individual rates' advancement exams.

"We put this test together," said Chief Hospital Corpsman James Hill, one of the exam leaders stationed full-time at Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center, or NETPDTC aboard Saufley Field. "If you honestly see what's put together here, we're technically giving (Sailors) the exact same pages the questions come from."

When the chiefs mess convenes at NETPDTC they first compare the information in the test to the information stored at NETPDTC's reference library, where each rating's reference materials are kept.

"If we don't have it on the shelf, then we have the electronic version," explained Hill. "If the Sailors cannot get their hands on this in the fleet, we can't test you on it."

That means the exams are written only from reference material that's available to fleet Sailors, making studying easy and material readily available.
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Once tests are distributed and taken, they are boxed up and shipped to NETPDTC for grading.

"So, we'll get all the exams from the fleet," said Hill. "Once those are ready they're going to run them through a scantron machine. That's one machine that grades all the exams for the Navy."

The scantron room is loud with machine activity and sure enough there's only one machine that grades exams. There's also one machine operator, loading the lone scantron with exams and retrieving them once they have been graded. Luckily, there is a secondary machine available in case the main scantron has any issues.

The information gathered from the exams is then analyzed and used in creating future exams. Chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs from each rate who make the trek down to Pensacola meet in conference rooms and discuss the test, throwing out old and obsolete questions and adding relevant more rate-applicable questions. This ensures that the advancement exams reflect the current rate knowledge and ensures that Sailors aren't studying material they don't use in their rates.

"Each subject matter expert will come in, they'll grab a seat; they have two monitors, looking at all the questions that are in their rate," said Hill. "They're going to take a look to see, are all of the references current. They may only be here for a week, they may be here for two weeks. It just depends on what that rate needs to accomplish during that timeframe."

For chiefs and above, attending an advancement conference can be eye opening, and ultimately will help shape each rate's future. Although each conference is demanding and can last for many long hours each day, the rewards outweigh the effort spent. Besides, no matter what the advancement obstacle is, it's just another day in paradise.
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Navy Photo