The US Navy said it was expanding it’s eight-week boot camp program to include two more weeks of classes focusing on suicide prevention, sexual assault, hazing and racism.
The change, the first major overhaul in nearly 20 years, comes as the Navy grapples with major shipboard issues over the years that include failures to address sexual assaults, fires and deadly collisions and the rise of extremism within the ranks.
Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, who heads the Naval Service Training Command, told the Associated Press that the two extra weeks of classes would reinforce the behavior desired in a US naval officer.
‘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,’ she said, adding that it involves treating people 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.’
The US Navy is adding two weeks of boot camp to teach recruits about suicide prevention, sexual assault, hazing and racism
It’s the first major change to the Navy curriculum in nearly 20 years. Much of the focus will be placed on mental health and sexual assault prevention
The additional two weeks will be devoted to the ‘Sailor for Life’ course phase where recruits would take in mentorship classes focused on avoiding bad behavior.
It would also train sailors on how to keep levelheaded and respond to life-threatening situations such as fires and collisions.
Couture said the changes came after Navy leaders realized they needed to reinforce training and character development skills following problems in recent years.
The changes were first proposed in 2017 after two ships collided in the Pacific, killing 17 sailors. Years prior, the Navy reported that lack of sleep and preparedness had been causing several crashes out at sea.
Then in 2020, Navy officials found that sweeping failures prevented the saving of the $1.2 billion USS Bonhomme Richard, which burned for five days off the shore of San Diego in July.
Although the fire was allegedly started by sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays, who faces charges for the crime, Navy investigators said the crew was ‘inadequately prepared’ to battle the blaze due to lapses in training.
The Navy hopes the changes could help address the problems that allowed the USS Bonhomme Richard to burn for five days in July 2020
The Navy found that the fire that claimed the $1.2 billion vessel could have been extinguished, but the crew were ill-prepared and lacked the necessary training
The Navy also wants to curb suicide among its officers as well as prevent sexual assaults and the mishandling of sexual harassments cases.
The Navy lost 66 active-duty sailors to suicide in 2020, with a suicide rate of 19.3 deaths per 100,000 service members.
The US military as a whole reported more than 20,000 instances of ‘unwanted sexual contact’ in 2018, a 38 percent increase from a the last report in 2016.
Last week, the navy relieved Cmdr. Richard Zamberlan and Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Lundberg of the Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery of duty ‘due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command.’
While the Navy declined to release any more detail, a source told the San Diego Tribune they were let go in connection with the mishandling of a sexual harassment complaint on board.
The US Navy investigated Navy contactor Timothy Hale-Cusanelli- who took a photo of himself as Adolf Hitler at a naval base
The Navy confirmed an investigation is underway into the harassment complaint.
The military has also been trying to route out extremism after a number of former and current service members were found taking part in the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
The Navy had investigated Army reservist Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, who was employed as a security contractor at the Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey when he allegedly breached the Capitol on January 6.
The Naval Criminal Investigation Service interviewed 44 of Hale-Cusanelli’s Navy base coworkers and 34 of them told investigators they believed he had ‘extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities and women’.
Cusanelli was seen taking part in the January 6 Capitol riot. Part of the Navy’s course involves tackling the extremism in the ranks
Investigators also recovered photos from Hale-Cusanelli’s cellphone of him in April 2020 after growing a Hitler mustache, prosecutors say.
The photos were allegedly taken while he was on duty at the Navy base, according to court documents.
Wes Koshoffer, Fleet Master Chief of Naval Personnel, said in a statement that eight weeks was not enough for the navy to address these problems.
‘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.’