"With compassion for others we build--we fight for peace with freedom." -- Seabees motto
For more than 60 years the Seabees have demonstrated their skills as fighters and builders. In December 1941, with an eye on the developing storm clouds of war across both oceans, Naval Construction Battalions were established.
The earliest Seabees were recruited from the civilian construction trades and were placed under the leadership of the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps (CEC). Because of the emphasis on experience and skill rather than physical standards, the average age of Seabees during the early days of the war was 37.
From the island hopping of World War II, to Korea, to the jungles of Vietnam, to the mountains of Bosnia, the Middle East and throughout the globe, the Seabees have built entire bases, paved thousands of miles of roadway, airstrips, bridges, warehouses, and built hospitals, gasoline storage tanks and housing.
Additionally, they accomplish a myriad of construction projects in peacetime and in natural disasters. Seabees built or improved many roads, orphanages, schools and public utilities in many remote sections of the world, thus, earning the title as the Navy's "Goodwill Ambassadors."
But unlike the Seabees of the 1940s, the average age of today's Seabee is 22, with little skill or experience in the construction trades prior to entering the Navy.
To meet that challenge, the Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering was established in 2003. CSFE is the primary source for technical training for Seabees and CEC officers. Our overall goals are to create a responsive and agile training system with open lines of communication that ensure mission accomplishment, while providing Seabees with the tools and opportunities to excel both professionally and personally.
We are responsible for ensuring personnel arrive at their units with the right training, and with the capability of reaching back for technical guidance. With the constant changes in unit locations, personnel and missions, CSFE strives to incorporate the most current technology and curriculum through our courses. Our role is in direct support of the 22,000 Seabees and CEC officers who are assigned to the active duty or Reserve components.
Throughout 2007, the CSFE Knowledge Management Directorate instituted innovative programs that directly benefited all of our communities of practice (CoPs) and training programs. The following initiatives support the improvement of the basic components of the KM model: people, technology and processes.
First, CSFE's KM Directorate established a strong communication program. CSFE uses KM tools and practices to capture corporate knowledge on a recurring basis. These tools and practices include, but are not limited to, technical information exchanges via discussion forums, construction interactive advice programs, newsletters, articles and e-mails.
The tools support the CSFE command principles and are in alignment with the Chief of Naval Operations' goals to assist officers, Sailors and the civilian workforce by providing tools for continuous professional growth.
The reach-out program allows communication in the Seabee CoPs and targets certain troops. Membership is grouped by ratings and pay-grades ranging from E3 and below, E4 through E9 and O1 to O5. Groupings were created using the administrative tools on Navy Knowledge Online. Other groups include the Training Working Group, CEC Women's Professional Network, Limited Duty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer, instructors, Command Master Chiefs, and retired or separated Seabees.
NKO News Grams are sent biannually with updates about what is new in a community. For e-mails that are bounced back, we use NKO white pages to identify the person and MS Outlook to send a second e-mail that requests the member to correct his or her address. We sent e-mail notices to more than 22,000 members of the Seabee community.
The KM Directorate has also submitted articles to Seabee Magazine and the CEC Biweekly newsletter. Since launching the program in June 2007, CSFE has had a greater than 250 percent increase in the number of hits on its main NKO page.
The KM Directorate created and distributed 6,000 business cards for the four Seabee "A" School learning sites. The cards provide students with a reference tool and a point of contact for requirements pertaining to the NKO Seabee portal.
We use post deployment surveys to give the deckplate leadership of our nine active Naval Mobile Construction Battalions a means to assess the quality of training that their troops received from the CSFE Learning Sites. These surveys, hosted on NKO, are used by the KM Directorate to provide quantitative and qualitative data for CSFE's Training Directorate and our customers to improve existing training or to devise new training.
For example, CSFE is developing a Construction Management Continuum course that will allow Seabees to attend one course that encompasses blueprint reading, planning and estimating, project planning, execution and construction management.
This training is currently in five different courses. By taking the suggestions given via the surveys, CSFE will soon be able to provide Seabees with the desired knowledge in a single three-week course thus eliminating training redundancy and improving quality.
These surveys also capture returning battalions' lessons learned which are passed on to the next battalion that deploys to the same site. For example, a returning battalion that had a detachment in the Horn of Africa indicated that further training in block, stucco concrete mix design and 220-volt/50 hertz electrical power are needed. A battalion scheduled to deploy to the same location can use this knowledge to build a training plan.
The "Tricks of the Trade" program captures tacit knowledge and makes it available as explicit knowledge. Troops are able to leave a post in the feedback channel in their CoP portal page on NKO. NKO administrators validate the comment with subject matter experts (SMEs) and display it for everyone to see in a bullet format with a link gear.
The KM Directorate also uses different discussion forums, chat sessions and "Ask-the-Chief" channels to capture potential explicit knowledge for Tricks of the Trade posts. This is very useful because there is a continuous influx of new technologies and methods in the construction fields. By using this program, troops will keep updated on new trends, methods, technologies and troubleshooting techniques.
The "Test Your Rating Knowledge" initiative helps junior troops (E1–E6) in evaluating their rating knowledge. All seven Seabee rates at each rank level have a quiz and game in their CoP. Troops can take the quizzes, which are set up much like the interactive games that young adults play, as many times as they like.
Questions are taken from training manuals and each quiz is different. After taking a quiz, troops are given instant feedback regarding which questions they got right or wrong, and the reference to find the correct response. Since its inception in August 2007, more than 7,000 troops have used the quizzes and games.
Live advancement bibliographies assigned for each Seabee rate and rank are now available. Troops can open their advancement page to see their bibliography, which is hyperlinked to the source documents. Troops click on the reference and the document pops up for them to download or study. This is a superb advantage for troops, since they can use their time to study instead of spending countless hours trying to find references.
Chat and instant messaging sessions were developed to communicate via NKO Instant Messenger. With assistance from CSFE's Training Directorate, we establish the topics, set the convening date and session duration, and act as the facilitator.
The Training Directorate provides SMEs for a specific rating to address the technical aspects of the chat session. After each chat session, the KM Directorate posts the transcript so that knowledge is available to everyone.
CSFE's Career Management Directorate's DVD, titled "Seabee Electronic Toolbox," is an alternative resource when NKO and the Internet are not available. The DVD is designed as a "point and click" ready reference that is easy to navigate.
The DVD contains more than 900 diverse references such as videos, images and text with career enhancing and job-related professional tools. The DVDs will be updated annually with a target audience of all Seabee rates, E6 and below.
The KM Directorate mapped processes which reduced time and effort spent on data calls in support of: manpower, curriculum reviews, validating courses, creating new course identification numbers and course data processing codes, student enrollment and associated requests.
Process mapping was also used for determining data flows between the Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS) and Corporate enterprise Training Activity Resource System (CeTARS). The KM Directorate developed a standard operating procedure for student registrars and coordinated needed training on Navy Integrated Training Resources Administration System (NITRAS) and CeTARS.
The KM Directorate is CSFE's data repository. Drumbeat metrics, center production metrics and weekly accessions reporting are created by pulling information from different sources and "contextualizing" the information to provide CSFE's command element with knowledge at each layer.
The KM team extract certain portions of data from Kirkpatrick Level 1 and 3 surveys to assist the Training Directorate in understanding the needs of the troops and their comprehension of the material delivered in the classroom. We also ask former students for feedback six to nine months after training was received to see if training was beneficial.
These initiatives ensure we achieve a positive return on investment for each training dollar while providing up-to-date information on construction industry standards and professional credentials.
Emphasis on continuous professional development makes certain that constructionmen are vital players in the global war on terrorism. The CSFE KM Directorate proudly contributes to their success.
Dr. Ramon Flores is the CSFE director of knowledge management.
Mr. Chris Bissonnette is a retired master chief constructionman and is a knowledge management analyst at CSFE.
Ms. Mattie Jones is an operations research analyst at CSFE.
Mr. Mark Wagner is a retired chief construction mechanic and the NKO administrator at CSFE.