New Foundational Training Courses Will Grow Better Enlisted Leaders

By Fleet Master Chief (SW/IW/AW) Russell Smith
Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education Fleet Master Chief

We invest a lot of time and energy in the Navy in teaching, training, and maintaining technical competency, but our delivery of leader development training is not nearly as robust. We have room to improve our standardized leader development training delivery for our enlisted Sailors.

We train our Sailors when they are selected for promotion. There is a standardized syllabus, but it’s not delivered the same way everywhere because we have not maintained quality control over who gives it and we haven’t professionalized the trainers that deliver this training.

When you look at the officer community, you will see it has a very specific set of time gates – officers either make rank at a certain time or they don’t stay – in the enlisted force, we have some challenges because you can become a chief as young as six and a half years or at nineteen-point-nine years. Despite these differences, every Sailor should receive some formal Leader Development Training at regular intervals in their career.

The Foundational Training courses outlined in “Laying the Keel – Developing the Backbone of Our Navy” is our solution. We developed it to ensure that we’re investing in Sailor Development at multiple levels and that and we are reinforcing the importance of character and competence early in a Sailors’ career – when the training will stick. When you teach and train to character at an early age the poor choices and destructive behaviors that are effects of under-developed character can be addressed.  Character and competence must be developed in equal measures. We also believe that investing in Leader Development earlier can accelerate a Sailor’s growth throughout their career – a small rudder shift early results in a big course change over time.

The first step is the easy step – taking the courses we have, the Petty Officer Selectee Leadership Courses (POSLC), and modifying them to be more relevant, highly interactive and delivered with the highest quality we can generate. The existing courses will be replaced with: the Foundational Leader Development Course (FLDC), the Intermediate Leader Development Course (ILDC) and the Advanced Leader Development Course (ALDC). The fourth and final piece is the Chief Petty Officer Leader Development course, after which most Sailors will progress to attending the Senior Enlisted Academy which is the next piece of training and development.

In addition to revising and updating our existing courses, there will be a certification process for the facilitators. Much like our current model, the Chief’s Mess will lead this training effort, but we will be augmenting the process with additional facilitator billets over the next few years.  Understanding the challenges for some of our commands in the current process, we will use a coalition approach to delivering these new courses.  Commands with the most resources and the most ability will “host” the training events. The idea is to conduct these courses as close to the waterfront and the flight line as we can without over burdening those commands with a high op-tempo and a small number of Chief’s to facilitate the courses.

Once we have gotten the professional, high-impact set pieces revamped a bit to better give the Fleet what they need in the structured curriculum, we will have the ability to enhance the conversations and the day to day mentoring and coaching that should happen daily in our work centers on the deck plates.

Ultimately, the desired end state of this aspect of Laying the Keel is to start the substantive discussion of and process of leader and character development at the beginning of a Sailor’s career.

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