The United States Coast Guard is known for its impeccable standards and service. To maintain these levels of performance, USCG habitually goes above and beyond the call of duty to seek out new tools and resources that support the ongoing education of its members.
Originally established in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is one of the oldest organizations in the federal government. Throughout its distinguished history, USCG has been instrumental in enforcing maritime law and protecting the nation’s coastlines and ports. During an average day, USCG saves 14 lives, assists 123 people in distress, conducts 78 search-and-rescue missions, and responds to 12 oil or hazardous chemical spills.
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Training Specialist III, L-3 Communications, Inc., in support of Training Center
This level of responsiveness and execution requires the highest caliber of skill and training. USCG is a forward-looking organization with a commitment to providing its members with the best technology-assisted, performance-based education available. USCG operates two full-time training centers in Yorktown, Virginia, and Petaluma, California, which provide training for entry-level and advanced rate-specific skills (a “rate” is defined as an enlisted pay-grade).
The Training Center (TRACEN) at Petaluma operates seven entry-level, or “A”, Schools, which focus on developing Petty Officer skills within specific ratings (general occupations within the USCG) that include Information Systems Technician (IT), Electronics Technician (ET), Operation Specialist (OS), Health Services Technician (HS), Yeoman (YN), Storekeeper (SK), and Food Services Specialist (FS). TRACEN Petaluma currently offers over 50 courses to approximately 4,000 USCG members each year.
Students are provided a variety of instructional material, including binders of documentation and handouts to supplement training. “Our current training support documents are largely paper-based,” explains Lieutenant John Bannon, TRACEN Petaluma, USCG. “Students take notes in spiral notebooks, reference their extensive student guide, and compile additional printed information for every course. We’re very interested in finding ways to save money on paper and printing costs, as well as provide enhanced learning transfer. As a federal organization, we’re certainly always thinking about being good stewards with the taxpayers’ money.”
When students leave the training centers, they take these printed resources with them into the field to use as references, but USCG members find the manuals and handbooks to be cumbersome. “It can be difficult to find a specific note or instruction in a printed resource, especially out in the field,” says Bannon. “Flipping through hundreds of pages of notes isn’t always feasible.” Currently the USCG is exploring various electronic support tools.
Instructors also spend a substantial amount of time preparing materials for classes and keeping documentation up to date. “I teach computer system administration for the Coast Guard,” says Jane Lybecker, Training Specialist III and Senior Instructor, L-3 Communications, Inc., in support of TRACEN Petaluma. “This topic requires almost weekly updates because everything changes so frequently. It’s very difficult to keep all of the documentation up to date and to know where the most current versions are located. I have to pull information from 14 different folders out on the network and 3 different Web sites. It’s a very time-consuming process.”
TRACEN officers began exploring the potential of using technology-based tools to further enhance the efficiency of the USCG training environment for its students as well as its instructors.
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