The Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC) onboard Naval Station Newport uses an on-line collaboration tool and other technologies to achieve mission success during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All courses at the NCSC have an in-resident portion of training. Prior to the pandemic, the advanced leadership course (ALC), the intermediate leadership course (ILC), and the religious program specialist managers course (RPMC) conducted six weeks of distance learning and two weeks of in-resident training at the schoolhouse.
Due to COVID-19, the senior leadership course (SLC), ALC, ILC and RPMC successfully migrated the resident training portions to a virtual training platform. The center’s BLC remains face-to-face, as it is their accessions-level course for new chaplains. Religious Program Specialist (RP) “A” School at NCSC Learning Site Meridian, Mississippi, also remains face-to-face.
The greatest challenge, however, was transitioning the annual Professional Development Training Course (PDTC), which sees upwards of 900 chaplains and RPs attend, to a virtual event. Scheduled 14 times in the coming year, the FY21 virtual PDTC leverages a communication application to teach religious ministry teams how best to advise their commanders in peace and war.
“The use of the virtual platform allowed training to continue and encouraged us to flex new virtual muscle by learning new technologies for delivery and engagement methods,” said Capt. Carey Cash, NCSC’s commanding officer.
According to Cash, the virtual platform “created a few bumps in the road,” but all students appreciate the opportunity to continue to grow and learn from senior leaders of the Chaplain Corps.
“While some of the elements of face-to-face interaction, which fosters collegiality, camaraderie, and opportunities for mentorship cannot be replicated virtually, investing in and building capability in our leaders for their next mantle of leadership continues in our new virtual spaces,” said Cash.
In addition to an on-line collaboration tool, the NCSC invested in commercial laptops, cameras and microphones so that their instructors could teach when rotating between home and work. The Chaplain Corps also created an operations center to manage fleet concentration conferences for chaplains and RPs.
Although the pandemic created some hardships for NCSC, Cash offered a few lessons learned for other Navy schools:
“Our overall throughput has not been impacted and we are still able to meet the demand signal to prepare our corps for the new responsibilities they will undertake,” said Cash. “The new mission of the schoolhouse reinforces NCSC’s focus – to train, develop, and inspire chaplains and RPs to pursue excellence as they strengthen the soul of the warfighter, the family, and the fleet.”
Chaplains and RPs play a critical role in helping the Department of the Navy achieve and maintain a ready force. Religious ministry and compassionate pastoral care are characterized by cooperation, tolerance, mutual respect, and respect for diversity, as well as an emphasis on understanding the pluralistic military environment. Chaplains and RPs are embedded within commands operating at sea and ashore to ensure 24/7 availability for service members and their families.
For additional information on the NCSC, visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/Commands/Naval-Chaplaincy-School-Center/.
Cmdr. James Stockman
Public Affairs Officer
Naval Education and Training Command