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Military Sealift Command Training Centers; Your Future in the Fleet Begins Here

18 March 2022

From Bill Mesta, USN Military Sealift Command

FORT EUSTIS, Va. - All newly hired CIVMARs, both licensed and unlicensed, must successfully complete MSC three-week Basic Training curriculum prior to sailing aboard MSC ships.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Military Sealift Command Training Center Hampton Roads, located on Joint Base Langley-Fort Eustis. MSC’s Training Centers are responsible for providing both required Basic Training for MSC’s newly hired Civil Service Mariners (CIVMAR) as well as advanced and requalification training for CIVMARs, contracted mariners and Navy Reservists already serving in MSC’s fleet.

This article is the first, in a series, focused on the training opportunities offered at the MSC’s Training Centers.

All newly hired CIVMARs, both licensed and unlicensed, must successfully complete MSC’s three-week Basic Training curriculum prior to sailing aboard MSC ships.

“MSC has always been in the business of training its own mariners,” said Bob Farmer, Director, MSC Training Center Hampton Roads. “A lot has changed over the years as MSC’s and the U.S. Coast Guard’s requirements have evolved. Originally there were two to three classes offered at the training centers and now we offer over 20 classes here. So MSC’s training opportunities have grown as our fleet’s needs have grown.”

MSC Training Center West is currently offering its students 10 classes.

“Right now, MSC Training Center Hampton Roads’ primary focus is training the newly hired CIVMARs,” Farmer added. “Every two weeks we bring in a new group of newly hired CIVMARs.”

MSC Training Center West, in San Diego, focuses primarily on advanced training and re-qualification requirements for CIVMARs already serving in MSC’s fleet, but does support new CIVMAR basic training as needed.
“MSC Training Center West mission is to provide necessary, timely and effective training for the CIVMARs engaged in MSC direct support missions as required by the U.S. Navy,” according to Barry Mortensen, Director, MSC Training Center Hampton Roads. “We strive to meet the training needs of the command by providing readily available, high quality training and employing knowledgeable, talented and experienced instructors.”

Students at MSC Training Center Hampton Roads and MSC Training Center West receive both in-seat classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory training.

MSC Training Center West also provides training for U.S. Navy Reserve Strategic Sealift Officers, who are required to keep their Merchant Mariner credentials current. Additionally, this training center provides training opportunities for newly hired CIVMARs as required, Sailors transitioning into the Merchant Mariner community, MSC contracted mariners and independent students.

“The newly hired CIVMARs spend one week going through the new hire process where they learn about some of MSC’s administrative topics such as employee benefits, the payment compensation process and additional topics which a new employee would expect to learn about when being hired by any organization,” Farmer said. “On week two, the newly hired CIVMARs begin their in-seat and practical training process at the school house.”

“Newly hired non-Deck Department CIVMARs are at the training center for three weeks of Basic Training. While Deck Department CIVMARs receive additional training which takes up to eight weeks,” he added.
At the time of my visit, there were over 100 students, consisting of both newly hired and fleet return CIVMARs in attendance at the East Coast facility.

“This training center currently has approximately 40 teammates on staff who provide instruction and support for MSC’s various training efforts,” said Farmer. “All of the instructors on staff who provide instruction for MSC East Coast training efforts are credentialed mariners.”

MSC Training Center West currently has 10 CIVMARs and one civilian Federal employee on staff.

“The vast majority of our instructors are veteran CIVMARs who sailed aboard MSC’s fleet with a few instructors who are experienced mariners from the commercial Merchant Mariner fleet,” Farmer said.

The newly hired licensed CIVMARs complete curriculum of varied lengths at the training center based on need.

“The Engineers tend to spend a short time at the school while Deck Department officers spend a longer time at the training center because of additional training requirements such as Visual Information and Drone Restricted Access Using Known Electromagnetic Warfare (DRAKE) systems,” according to Farmer.

The Visual Information curriculum teaches the newly hired Mates how to capture critical still photographs and video and transmit the imagery of foreign vessel interactions and unprofessional or unsafe seamanship practices to the appropriate parties. The DRAKE system is used aboard MSC ships to counter the potential incursion of drones.

“A recently added portion of the curriculum our third mate and second mate CIVMARs receive is focused on basic U.S. Navy operations,” Farmer said. “MSC believes it is important for the crews of our ships to have a working knowledge as to the mission of our Navy’s combatant fleet and how we support their efforts.”

The Basic Training received by all newly hired CIVMARs is broken down into multiple phases.
“We offer three blocks of training for our students,” Farmer stated. “The first block includes damage control, firefighting and helicopter firefighting. The CIVMARs who crew our ships are the fire department at-sea; making damage control one of the most critical duties for our mariners.”

“As we support the U.S. Navy’s combatant fleet, our crews face the challenge of sailing in a contested environment and face the risk of dealing with fires or battle damage to the ship at-sea; making this block a critical portion of their training,” he added.

“The second block includes a focus on survival at-sea which teaches new CIVMARs how to properly abandon ship,” said Farmer. “They learn how to wear a survival suit, how to properly wear a life jacket, first aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), life raft deployment and operation and emergency signals.” The students also learn about the different types of emergencies they could encounter while underway.

The second block of basic instruction includes training on personal safety and social responsibility.
“This is where the newly hired CIVMARs are introduced to the various MSC safety programs designed to keep our crews free from harm, injury or death,” according to Farmer. “The social responsibility portion of this training teaches the students ‘how to be a good shipmate’ and introduces them to some of the nuances around a successful life at-sea.”

The final block of training the new CIVMARs receive is called the MSC Readiness Courses and the curriculum is based on U.S. Navy requirements.

“The first class we teach in this block is Fall Protection,” Farmer said. “The MSC community has suffered both injury and death as a result of falling at height aboard our ships. So we teach the students how to properly wear and use Fall Protection equipment to keep them safe while working aloft.”

“The final block of training also offers basic instruction about Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) threats and equipment used to counter these potential threats,” he added.

The third block of training includes the Marine Environmental Programs, which address topics such as proper garbage disposal at-sea, hazardous material and waste (HAZMAT) handling procedures and ordinance and ammunition handling and safety.”

Students also receive training in this block on protecting personal identifiable information, trafficking in persons, the U.S. Coast Guard Security Awareness Course and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training and the Level I Anti-terrorism brief.

Newly hired CIVMARs who require advanced training, based on their shipboard specialty, receive additional instruction from the training centers.

“MSC Training Facility West currently offers Basic Training, to include Basic Firefighting, Personal Survival, CPR and First Aid and Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities,” Mortensen said. “We also offer the Basic Training Refresher, Advanced Firefighting, Advanced Firefighting Refresher and MSC re-qualification training for Helicopter Firefighting, Damage Control, Environmental Programs, CBR Fall Protection, Radar, Small Arms, Advanced Security Watchstander and Ship’s Reaction Force.”

“MSC has operated its own training centers since the 1960s,” according to Farmer. “Our first training center was located in Bayonne, New Jersey and moved to Navy Weapons Station Earle, New Jersey in the mid-1970s. Then in 2019 we opened MSC Training Center East here on Fort Eustis.”

“Our staff has put in a tremendous amount of effort into developing a high quality training center here on Fort Eustis,” he stated. “Being able to provide a professional environment is very important as our facility will be the first serious exposure to MSC for our new CIVMARs.”

“Part of the environment we have built at the training center is focused on the history of the Merchant Mariner,” said Farmer. “It is important that our students understand the important role Merchant Mariners have played in the security of our country; in particular their efforts during World War II.”

Merchant Mariners serving during World War II transported equipment, supplies, fuel, ammunition and food overseas in support of war efforts against Germany, Japan and Italy.
“Our goal is to not only train our newly hired CIVMARs to be able to operate our ships at-sea safely but to make sure they understand the importance of their new role and some of the history of their new community,” Farmer said. “The training center’s goal is to provide all the basic knowledge our CIVMARs need to be able walk aboard our ships for the first time a full-up mariner who is ready to function safely and successfully in our fleet.”

Farmer and Mortensen concluded with some advice for those who are considering joining MSC’s fleet.

“The MSC Team is part of one of the few professional communities in the world where you can start in an entry-level position and work your way all the way to the top,” Farmer concluded. “It is entirely possible to begin your career as a Supply Utilityman and work your way up to Ship’s Master. You can come in as a Wiper and work your way up to Chief Engineer. The only thing standing in your way of your career goals is your own ambition and drive; and all of this starts here at MSC’s training centers.”

“Come to training with a great attitude, Mortensen concluded. “Training isn’t always easy or fun, but with the right attitude it is very effective. If you are ready and willing to learn, you will; and every instructor at our training centers is here to ensure you will succeed.”

Current MSC CIVMARs interested in training and requalification opportunities should consult with their ship’s Chief Engineer and access the following sites for more information:
-CIVMAR - Training ( (CIVMAR.SealiftCommand Training Website)
- Training and Readiness.htm (Full T&R Manual on the Portal)

For those interested in becoming a CIVMAR and joining MSC’s fleet, please check out our current opportunities at Or you can call 1-877-JOBS-MSC (562-7672), 1-757-341-4611 or e-mail


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