Today, the nation and world fight an invisible enemy, COVID-19. As a global, training organization, it is imperative that the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) continues to provide training to fleet Sailors and waterfront training to ships while protecting the health of their workforce and families. Therefore, several CSCS learning sites, such as Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center (FLEASWTRACEN), have explored and implemented virtual training into their curriculum.
FLEASWTRACEN recently overcame this training challenge by converting the one-week Cruise Missile Command Course (CMCC) into an online course, allowing 20 officer students to receive this training much earlier than originally scheduled.
“CMCC, part of the pipeline for department heads, executive officers (XOs), and commanding officers (COs), provides officers the command-level strike warfare knowledge they need to be able to safely and successfully employ Tomahawk missiles from a cruiser or destroyer,” explained Lt. Tyler Maksymicz, the combat systems department head.
FLEASWTRACEN taught the course utilizing Defense Collaboration Services (DCS), which provides secure web conferencing and instant messaging services on the Non-classified Internet Protocol (IP) Router Network (NIPRNet) and Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) and is accessible via the internet.
“The initial challenge was finding a platform that would allow secure content,” said Maksymicz. “Web-based programs, such as Zoom or Skype, wouldn’t be secure enough, however, DCS requires users to log in via Common Access Card (CAC), and still allows us to meet our learning objectives.”
Finding a usable teaching platform was not the only challenge instructors and students faced. Some students encountered struggles with the inability to observe body language and facial expressions, lack of hands-on training, and incapability to physically interact with their shipmates.
Cmdr. Katie Jacobson, prospective XO of USS Nitze (DDG 94), points out even with the loss of certain aspects from in-person instruction; the virtual class provided her the training she needed.
“Given the current COVID-19 situation, the online class was an excellent alternative to schoolhouse training,” she explained. “Bravo Zulu to those who made it possible!”
Lt. Matthew Den Herder, also a student, stated the class provided valid training, but he missed the hands-on time in the lab.
“This course meets the needs for classroom training but is lacking the cohesiveness that the labs provide,” he said.
The virtualization of the course, however, quickly answered the growing need for an alternative solution to teach Sailors in the midst of a pandemic. Today, as every day, a significant portion of the Navy is forward deployed protecting the nation and these officer students needed the required training to know how to extract every bit of warfighting capability resident in their future ships.
“Currently, with the requirement to be in a Restriction of Movement (ROM) status for two weeks after traveling, a significant amount of training has been delayed,” Maksymicz explained. “With this course being taught online, our students were able to take it while in a ROM status in a different part of the country. Not only did we save up to four weeks of ROM time; we saved around 10,000 dollars in travel and per diem costs.”
FLEASWTRACEN is in the process of teaching other courses online. As all educators, they prefer to be inside the classroom. However, in today’s current environment, being agile, adaptive, and innovative are a must.
“I am proud of my staff for accomplishing this unique task of developing a new, innovative way of teaching CMCC during this critical time,” said Capt. Brandon Bryan, FLEASWTRACEN’s CO. “In training, protecting our people is our number one priority. We must continue to take measures to limit COVID-19’s spread, while also ensuring our Sailors are trained and ready to defend the nation.”
CSCS is a global organization of professional military and civilian educators and support personnel focused on training the Surface Navy to fight and win. CSCS trains over 36,000 U.S. and Allied Sailors a year to operate, maintain and employ weapons, sensors, communications, combat systems and deck equipment of surface warships to build Combat Ready Ships with Battle Minded Crews.
For information on the Center for Surface Combat Systems, visit: https://www.public.navy.mil/netc/centers/cscs/.
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