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Community of Practice Program Offers Sailors Training Insight

February 15, 2008
by Amber Corrin

The Department of the Navy Chief Information Office used AFCEA’s West 2008 conference in San Diego as the platform to recognize a program key to supporting the joint mission in the Global War on Terrorism. The Knowledge Management (KM) Team of the Naval Personnel Development Command (NPDC) and the Support Team from the Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training Center (NIACT) received the Department of the Navy Information Technology/Information Management Excellence Award for their combined efforts in establishing a comprehensive online community for sailors training to assist in U.S. Army missions.

The two teams collaborated in creating the Individual Augmentee Community of Practice (IA COP) on Navy Knowledge Online (NKO), designed to facilitate information sharing between troops and forces in training and deployment. “The COP was created to address the inconsistencies with the flow of information. Sailors are being asked to take on completely unfamiliar duties in dangerous places, and the last thing we want is for them to go in unprepared and uninformed,” said Tony Martin, an NPDC KM team member who contributed to the project.

The teams aimed to clarify the often confusing and complicated processes involved in joint force training through personal observation, meetings and one-on-one interviews. In addition, those who have been through the training are able to communicate with prospective soldiers and share their own insight and experience to help sailors prepare for deployments and training and to ease their anxiety. The forum is designed to include destination information, key points of contact, maps, requirements and checklists. In addition, it provides a discussion forum for deploying and deployed sailors to share unclassified information.

The forum proved to be invaluable in dispensing information to soldiers and their families, offering insight into what could be expected during training and providing information on requirements. “In the beginning … there were a lot of messdeck rumors about what the training was like,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Larkin Whetstone, USNR, a member of the NIACT team.

The community was originally conceived in response to the Chief of Naval Operations’ 2005 agreement to assist the Army in light of the shortage of troops supporting the war on terrorism. More than 9,300 soldiers have graduated from NIACT after training at McGradyTrainingCenter near FortJackson in Columbia, South Carolina. Early on, the challenge of getting information to soldiers spread across the globe was evident as the NIACT team prepared to ready, outfit, train and transfer augmentees to various locations supporting the war.

Now managed by the ExpeditionaryCombatReadinessCenter, the IA COP has hosted 1.3 million visitors and assisted in closing in on the initial goal of graduating 10,000 soldiers from the Army augmentee program.

The forum remains an important tool in completing successful IA tours and saving sailors’ lives. “We set out to answer the question of what information the sailor needs to deploy, and we have done that,” Martin said.