Sailors attached to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT) in Norfolk, Va., are taking advantage of an opportunity to train with operational fleet communicators.
It is all part of an extensive training program at NCTAMS LANT designed by Lt. Chad Rogers and Chief Information System Technician (ITC) Derrick Owens.
NCTAMS LANT sometimes receives Sailors directly from "A" School who have not had the opportunity to experience life underway on a Navy ship. The Sailor Exchange Program, which is part of the NCTAMS LANT Team Oscar outreach program, provides significant training and situational awareness opportunities for these Sailors to interact with their counterparts at sea.
"It directly provides the junior Sailor who has never been to sea [with a] unique experience of shipboard life in an operational environment as the customer," Rogers said.
Since its inception, the training program has provided 12 NCTAMS LANT Sailors with the opportunity to train with afloat Sailors on ships and with special operations units like a Navy Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG, also known as a DEVGRU). The training provides junior ITs with a good understanding of fleet communications from a shipboard perspective.
"Allowing Sailors the experience of underway conditions helps them to understand the importance of transport paths and services to ship’s crews while on the open ocean," said ITCM Jeffrey Price, NCTAMS LANT's operations department leading chief petty officer.
In November 2011, NCTAMS LANT ITs Kaila Fernandes, Mario Gutierrez, Amanda Warfield and Erik Tellin got underway for two days aboard the destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109). It was the first time the Sailors had been to sea. They took full advantage of this opportunity to work on shipboard equipment, giving them a perspective about how the troubleshooting procedures at NCTAMS LANT affect deployed Sailors.
"It is very difficult to troubleshoot when you do not know what the person on the ship is seeing. This training allows us to see the other side," Fernandes said.
Feedback about the training program has been very positive. The experience of being at sea allowed young NCTAMS LANT Sailors to better understand the limitations and pressure that their shipboard counterparts face when they have communications issues.
"Actually seeing how the ship conducts troubleshooting before they call us at NCTAMS LANT was very valuable," Tellin said.
Three NCTAMS LANT Sailors trained with communicators assigned to DEVGRU, formerly known as Seal Team Six, in December 2011. ITs Amanda Warfield, Lewelyn Delacruz and Quanale Broomfield received training on the mobile communications used by SEALs (U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land Teams) to execute missions such as collecting intelligence and conducting counterintelligence and national security work. The training reinforced the Sailors' knowledge of radio frequency (RF) communication and allowed them to practice practical application.
"It is one thing reading about information on something you are interested in, but actually being there and being able to ask questions is much more helpful," Warfield said.
NCTAMS LANT is looking to expand this program based on its early success. "The knowledge, skills and abilities each Sailor brings back to their command provide a long-term return on investment. It builds a strong network and knowledge base to improve the rapport between the customer and the service provider," Owens said.
In February, NCTAMS LANT had four Sailors aboard USS New York (LPD 21), the fifth San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, built with steel salvaged from the World Trade Center. They were assigned to assist with a composite training unit exercise. NCTAMS LANT is also coordinating efforts to get Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1).
In return, NCTAMS LANT hosts fleet Sailors at its headquarters so they can see how their shipboard communications services are provided.
"We take volunteers from the afloat command's radio shack and provide them a look behind closed doors at NCTAMS LANT. We show them how [the] Joint Fleet Telecommunications Operations Center coordinates with our outlying sites while troubleshooting, managing and maintaining thousands of radio frequency and information professional connections around the world," Owens said.
"It gives the fleet Sailors [a] perspective of what happens at NCTAMS LANT when they call to troubleshoot a problem on board. The experience gives them a better understanding of the intricate details of managing several communications links for multiple ship and shore commands."
Lt. Cmdr. Michael R. Widmann is the NCTAMS LANT messaging division officer.