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CHIPS Articles: Sailors Helping Sailors: IWTC Monterey Student Mentors Provide Guidance to Peers

Sailors Helping Sailors: IWTC Monterey Student Mentors Provide Guidance to Peers
By Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Demian Ford, Information Warfare Training Command Monterey - September 11, 2020
MONTEREY, Calif. - Following a full day of language training at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), a group of 13 initial entry trainee Sailors, who were hand selected by their leadership from a student body of over 500 of their shipmates to be members of the Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Monterey Student Mentor Program, gathered in a classroom–albeit socially distanced¬–to listen to IWTC Monterey’s Training Director and Retired Master Chief Richard Berger discuss the program and their roles in helping their fellow shipmates.

These are no ordinary students who attend training at DLIFLC, located onboard the Presidio of Monterey, explained Berger.

“Each of our student mentors has a unique story and we try to stay out of the way of them telling it.” Berger says. “We provide them with a framework of topics that we’d like them to discuss with our new students, but how they weave their stories and experience into the discussion is as unique as each of them. That’s what makes our program work.”

Berger outlines the program to the new group of mentors. They will meet with new students three times: twice before they start their course of instruction, and a final time after the new students have been studying their respective languages for several weeks. Topics of discussion will include the classroom environment, time management, study practices, succeeding as Sailor and a student, and asking for help when it’s needed.

“One of the best changes that has been made to the program is there is now a session that takes place after class starts,” said Seaman Liam Wilhelm, a current student mentor, “Students sometimes don’t know what to ask until they have been in class and realize how tough it is.”

IWTC Monterey’s’ s Student Mentor Program was established in June 2016 as a response to Navy Education Training Command (NETC) and DLIFLC initiatives. The program itself is voluntary, and focuses on managing expectations, sharing best practices and building toughness and resiliency in new students. The screening process of becoming a student mentor takes between six and eight weeks, involving chain of command nomination, record screening and nominee interviews.

“Our program differs from most student mentor programs,” added Berger. “We don’t look for the student to whom everything comes easy. Rather, we look for students who are relatable and approachable to their peers–students who’ve encountered challenges and overcome them. Those are the Sailors who can build the toughness in our students that gets them through the 16 months of 12-hour training days that they are exposed to at the Defense Language Institute.”

The mentorship provided by this group of students, identifiable by their yellow badges, doesn’t end in the classroom.

“A good student mentor has to be able to be straight-up [with students]; they have to manage expectations of the course being difficult while still encouraging; and they have to be available to answer questions, not only about being in a language course, but about life in Monterey in general,” said Student Mentor Seaman Catherine Campbell. “Sometimes it’s easier to approach a peer mentor than to go to your chain of command. Before I was a mentor, I would text my peer mentor to ask all kinds of questions, even things like where a good yoga studio was and I get those same kinds of questions from students now.”

IWTC Monterey, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT), 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, a detachment, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains over 22,000 students every year, delivering 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 about Information Warfare Training Command Monterey, visit https://www.public.navy.mil/netc/centers/ciwt/IWTCmonterey/Default.asx 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 domain, visit www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ciwt/, www.facebook.com/NavyCIWT, or www.twitter.com/NavyCIWT.

MONTEREY, Calif. (September 10, 2020) A student mentor, attached to Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Monterey, helps a fellow shipmate with daily navigation of classes and culture at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center onboard the Presidio of Monterey. 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. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
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