GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke, visited the Navy's only boot camp, Recruit Training Command (RTC), July 5-6 to review a recruit graduation and see new hands-on training that is developing and testing recruits on their war-fighting skills before they reach the Fleet.
CNP was escorted by Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), and Capt. Michael Garrick, RTC commanding officer. The vice admiral was also the reviewing officer at the weekly Pass-in-Review recruit graduation.
The day before CNP reviewed the more than 390 graduating recruits; he toured many RTC facilities and observed the new training now being conducted at RTC. He also held an all-hands call with RTC staff members to give the Recruit Division Commanders, officers, facilitators and instructors feedback on Navy personnel matters.
"Thank you for all the hard work you put in to what I think are absolutely tremendous changes," said Burke. "I think Sailors going to the fleet from the curriculum you have put in place now have such a leg up on life in the fleet because of the changes that you have made. You should be really, really proud of what you're doing."
Burke told the RTC staff that what they are doing with the new hands-on training is now really preparing the recruits for the final test before graduating boot camp - Battle Stations.
"Now it (Battle Stations) is truly a confidence test," CNP said. "It's a validation of the team building they have been doing together. That's exactly what we need because that's how we operate at sea. You're building that from day one, the day the recruits report on board and it's getting a lot of attention from leadership. "
The hands-on training was designed by RTC's senior enlisted instructors to provide more realistic training to recruits, and contribute to fleet readiness and overall force lethality. All this culminates with a final evolution on board USS Trayer (BST 21), a 210-foot replica of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. Battle Stations is a 12-hour test of a recruit's skills in 17 shipboard evolutions, including fighting fires, stopping floods, handling mooring lines and transporting casualties.
He also told the staff that Navy leadership is behind RTC and working to improve and update training facilities.
"Things like damage control, fire-fighting and small arms trainers are now in the plan. And we are going to keep pushing to get things done," CNP said.
In the classroom, applied labs, and practical trainers, recruits conduct more than 80 hours of hands-on learning at the USS Wisconsin, USS Indianapolis, USS Marlinespike and USS Chief training facilities before reaching their final Battle Stations exam on board USS Trayer.
USS Marlinespike is RTC's dedicated practical seamanship trainer, where recruits conduct timed drills in shipboard and pier line handling, sea and anchor detail, and at-sea watch stations.
USS Chief is a controlled training environment, where recruits fight real fires in shipboard compartments. Drilling with various fire suppression agents, lifesaving equipment, and safety gear; teamwork and communications are critical elements recruits must embrace to advance in training.
Recruits are constantly drilling to prepare for their evaluations, as well as practicing for life at sea. In their barracks, or "ships," applied lab spaces have been set up for recruits to gain more hands-on practice time in seamanship, firefighting, damage control, and first aid. These practice sessions are known as "repetitions and sets".
At the USS Indianapolis combat training pool, recruits learn to safely abandon ship. The recruits step off a 10-foot-high platform into the water and swim to a raft in a controlled and safe environment. Recruits must also pass their swim qualification here as well.
During small-arms familiarization at the USS Wisconsin, recruits learn how to properly use the M9 service pistol through the standard Navy course of fire, and have the opportunity to earn their M9 Service Pistol qualification ribbon.
Today in their "ships," around-the-clock watch rotations are set up practicing various watch stations as they are manned in the fleet. Stations include roving sentry, sounding and security, quarterdeck watch, as well as bridge watch and navigation lookout during seamanship evolutions.
Burke praised the RTC staff for their work and told them he was working to get more fleet Sailors assigned back to RTC to join the current training team.
"I cannot emphasize how strongly I feel how important what you are doing here to form those civilians into Sailors. It literally is God's work. It's the most important mission that we do," Burke said.
At the weekly Pass-In-Review graduation ceremony Burke thanked the many family members for allowing their sons and daughters to join the Navy and serve their country.
"You've each played a vital role in life of the young man or women you are celebrating today. You've tirelessly supported them. You've challenged them and you've molded them into the people they are today," Burke said. "The Navy is grateful that they've answered the call to serve. I thank you for trusting your love one to the United States Navy."
He also had some words of advice for the new Sailors.
"I hope that you're excited about joining the team. It really is the perfect time to be a young Sailor starting a Navy career. The one advantage that the U. S. Navy has that can't be replicated by any one of our foes is you," CNP said. "Think about all you've accomplished here and understand that this is just the beginning. You have a license to learn and keep learning and you have a whole team in the rest of the Navy that's going to help you continue that learning. This experience is here to be whatever you decide to make of it. I encourage you to work hard, do and know your job really well and embrace the challenges that come to you. I wish you God speed, fair winds and following seas."
Recruit Training Command is approximately eight weeks, and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. Approximately 38,000 - 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.
Bernacchi and his NSTC staff, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, support 98 percent of initial officers and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes the Naval ROTC at more than 160 colleges and universities; Officers Training Command (OTC) on Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island; RTC; as well as Navy JROTC/Navy National Defense Cadet Corps at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more information about NSTC, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.