Coast Guard launches new recruit training program

Story and Photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lindberg

Cape May, NJ – Fast paced steps echo down the halls. The noise of recruits sounding off as they file through the doors to Munro Hall is drowned out by company commanders barking orders at them. The nervous recruits march in step up to the second deck and swiftly make their way to the squad bay.

clipboard012The sights, sounds and experiences of boot camp at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., are something nearly everyone in the Coast Guard can relate to. Whether you are active duty or reserve nearly everyone’s story starts here. For some reservists a new story is being started by the start of a new program.

The Direct Enlisted Petty Officer Training program is a 20-day accelerated recruit training program designed to replace the 12-day Reserve Enlisted Basic Indoctrination, which trained civilians and prior service members for reserve duty, and the Prior Service Training Program, which trained prior service members for active duty. This decision came after review and feedback regarding the preparedness of graduates from the two programs.

“We found through evaluations, interviews, talking to senior staff members and to recent graduates of the REBI program that it wasn’t quite meeting the needs of the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Sinclair, instruction design chief of the DEPOT program at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May.

To meet the needs a new curriculum had to be constructed that would contain the necessary Enlisted Professional Military Education qualifications that could fit in the 20-day training schedule.

“Essentially we have trimmed all the fat off the schedule,” said Sinclair. “If it is not required for EPME or by Commandant Instruction it is not in the curriculum.”

DEPOT recruits are still required to attend seamanship classes, pass the physical fitness assessment and the swim assessment. They work from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day with the exception of divine hours on Sunday to get all the needed requirements completed. On top of the training the recruits must also complete the Apprentice Leadership Program, which is an entry level leadership program that is going to be taught at all the schools Coast Guard members attend for initial career training.

“This was an additional 24 hours of instruction that we had to add into the already jam packed schedule.” said Sinclair.

The combining of two training programs into one will benefit the Coast Guard not just by creating more effective training but also by cutting back on resources.

This program will allow the Coast Guard to save money on resources such as company commanders, drill halls and classrooms. Recruits are going to be exposed to more military discipline and instruction than they have in the past programs, said Steve Whitehead, a retired Coast Guard master chief and former company commander now a member of the instructional design staff at Training Center Cape May.

clipboard02The first DEPOT Company graduated on Oct. 23, 2009, and like each program in its early stages it is going to see some changes along the way.

“There is going to be some vast differences in what this class saw and what the next class is going to see,” said Chief Petty Officer Judd Reno, lead company commander of the first DEPOT Company and the next one scheduled for Jan. 2010. “For all the company commanders and the staff here, we are going to have to stay flexible and see how this program develops.”

The seven members of the first DEPOT Company may be one of the smallest companies ever to graduate at Cape May, but they are proof how the Coast Guard’s adapting and evolving its training.

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