The U.S. Navy is adding two weeks to its formerly eight-week boot camp program this year to focus on improving recruits’ emergency skills and war readiness, as well as equipping them to handle issues related to suicide prevention, sexual assault, hazing, and racism.
The news comes as the Navy deals with a series of shipboard crises in recent years, including fatal fires and collisions. Suicides, sexual assaults, and other objectionable behavior have also risen, according to The Associated Press.
“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,” said Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, according to the AP. She added that the training 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.”
In 2017, Navy commanders suggested changes regarding how sailors are trained following two fatal collisions that year, which killed 17 sailors. Dozens of recommendations were laid out in a report regarding how to improve seamanship training, navigation, and use of ship equipment. Sleep and stress management were also included.
The military has also reportedly been trying to root out racism and “extremism” after some former and current service members were present at the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The Biden administration ordered the Navy to undergo an operational “stand down” on “extremism,” during which some sailors tell Fox the service engaged in politically-charged training in which it allowed sailors to advocate for Black Lives Matter while on duty, but were prohibited from taking other “political” stances. Under Biden, the Pentagon has also publicly criticized pundits who question the administration’s stances. Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has publicly defended his decision to study critical race theory and place books about it on military reading lists.
Last week, the Navy removed the first group of sailors from the service for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
The group, which included 20 sailors who had just entered active service, were removed via entry-level separations, causing them to be separated during their first 180 days.
On Dec. 15, Navy commanders were ordered to begin the separation process for sailors who declined to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.