MONTEREY, Calif. -- In the Navy, the term “white hat” can refer to either the uniform item or the person wearing it; part of a long-standing naval tradition whereby Sailors are referred to by a distinguishing uniform item, like “brown shoes” for aviators or “red shirts” for ordnance handlers.
Also known as the “Dixie cup”, the white hat is worn by enlisted Sailors from seaman recruit to petty officer first class; a vast segment of men and women in all stages of their naval careers from new boot camp graduates to Sailors preparing for retirement at 20 years of service.
White Hats, referring to the people, make up the beating heart of every command, and are typically numerous enough that groups like the First Class Petty Officer Association and Junior Sailor Association can exist separately from one another.
However, at Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Monterey, there are a total of just 16 staff members at the E-6 and below ranks, so these associations are combined into one organization; the White Hats Association (WHA).
The stated mission of IWTC Monterey’s WHA is to, “Pursue a common interest in promoting the general welfare of all members by preserving and demonstrating the core values of the United States Navy in an environment to educate and enrich the lives of our members by promoting goodwill, camaraderie, and demonstrating a sense of responsibility in support of the local community.”
In executing this mission, the WHA places emphasis on mentorship, developing leadership skills, promoting fellowship, and heading up events that bring the command together and improve morale. They plan events like the command holiday party and spring picnic, but they also do so much more.
Collectively, they represent the first line of engagement with some of the Navy’s newest recruits.
“Every part of a Sailor’s life [at IWTC Monterey] is touched by a White Hat,” said Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) 1st Class Erik Oehrtman. “White Hats have the majority of day-to-day interaction with IWTC Monterey’s more than 600 students, nearly all of whom are attending classes at the Defense Language Institute, one of the most challenging and demanding schools in all of the Department of Defense.”
The WHA meets weekly to collaborate, share ideas and discuss what issues can be resolved at their level. Their small numbers mean creativity and efficiency are a must.
“We strive to transcend the boundaries of what was thought possible for E-6 and below,” said Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) 1st Class Joel Kelly, president of the association.
As with any initial entry training school, there are always disciplinary issues for new Sailors who may be struggling to adjust to the norms of military life. This would normally mean a schedule packed full of Disciplinary Review Boards (DRB), but the WHA came up with a better way.
They instituted the White Hats Intervention Program to address these problems earlier and at a lower level. They identify students who are on track for disciplinary trouble and intervene to address deficiencies through candid discussion, mentorship, and then determine a corrective course of action. Many students have been saved from having to go before the chiefs at DRB through this program.
“The White Hats Association serves as an essential piece in developing the future of the CTI community,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Michalowicz, IWTC Monterey’s executive officer. “The day-to-day leadership I witness in the interactions between our petty officers and the CTI initial entry trainees is the cornerstone of Sailorization at IWTC Monterey. Their professionalism and dedication is the perfect example for our students to emulate as they progress through the ranks. I would say that our White Hats Association embodies what Naval Education and Training Command had in mind when developing the Navy Military Training program.”
IWTC Monterey, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training, provides a continuum of foreign language training to Navy personnel, which prepares them to conduct information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.
With four schoolhouse commands, two detachments, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT is recognized as Naval Education and Training Command’s top learning center for the past three years. Training over 21,000 students every year, CIWT delivers trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.
For more on Information Warfare Training Command Monterey, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ciwt/IWTCmonterey/ and http://www.monterey.army.mil/Service_Units/IWTC_Monterey.html , or find them on Facebook.
For news from the Center for Information Warfare Training organization, visit www.navy.mil/local/cid/, www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ciwt/, www.facebook.com/NavyCIWT, or www.twitter.com/NavyCIWT.