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Longer Boot Camp to Address Character, Suicide Issues

Navy training will cover more areas, including extremism
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 7, 2022 5:10 PM CST
Navy Adds Character, Suicide Issues to Boot Camp
Freshman midshipmen, known as plebes, climb ropes on an obstacle course at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in 2014.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(Newser) – The Navy is adding two weeks to boot camp this year in a major overhaul aimed at improving recruits' war fighting and emergency skills while also focusing on suicide prevention and character issues such as sexual assault, hazing, and extremism in the ranks. Navy officials said Friday that expanding boot camp to 10 weeks will provide more leadership training and ensure sailors are reporting to their jobs in the fleet better prepared for duty, the AP reports. The Navy has grappled with a string of shipboard crises in recent years, including deadly fires and disastrous collisions, and the military struggles with spikes in suicides as well as sexual assaults and other bad behavior.

Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, who heads the Naval Service Training Command, said the first eight weeks of boot camp include a lot of character development for the recruits. The added two weeks, she said, are meant to reinforce that work. "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 military as a whole has been seeing increases in sexual assaults and suicides, prompting congressional criticism and spurring leaders to scramble for ways to address the perennial problems. More recently, the services have been struggling to root out racism and extremism after a number of former and current service members were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Couture said quite a bit of the added two weeks will involve "life skills" training on sexual harassment, sexual assault, hazing and suicide. The changes represent the first major restructuring in recruit training in nearly 20 years.

(Read more Navy stories.)

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