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Course Changes Bring Ready, Relevant Training to ETs, FCs at CSCSU

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GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Changes to the radar portion of training for fire controlmen and electronics technicians are nearing their end almost four years after the process began. Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit (CSCSU) Great Lakes completed a pilot class for the partial task trainer (PTT) T1 Radar system, May 13.

Instructors are currently taking feedback from that first class to help shape what the new course will look when it has a full re-launch later this summer.

"It's going to be an iterative process and it should be," said Pam Jacobsen, instructor supervisor for CSCSU and retired master chief electronics technician. "This could take a good six to eight months to get a good flow. The more eyes on and the more feedback we get, the better the product will become."

This PTT is designed to replace the AN/SPS-64 radar course, which is growing outdated and costly -- in both time and money -- to repair with each passing day. CSCSU has been installing the new T1 systems into its radar lab since September and has 22 of the expected 28 systems in place.

In addition to using new equipment, instructors are changing the way they present the material to students. Instead of using computers to guide the lessons and students following along with a PowerPoint presentation, instructors are using more hands-on instruction methods that allow for immediate feedback and further explanation, as needed.

"It's nice for the instructors because we get that immediate feedback from a student," said Jacobsen. "We know if they're catching on or they're not catching on. We can kind of see that look of 'are they getting it' or 'are they not getting it.'"

Students also enjoy the hands-on approach, which allows them to fully work through a simulated radar system that mirrors those they will see in the new lab.

"I feel more prepared going into [the lab]," said Seaman Patrick MacMahon, a student in the Fire Controlman 'A' School who was working through a training simulator in the classroom. "I've been able to learn from the instructors. I think them presenting information to us is more refreshing than us looking at it on a screen."

The length of radar training -- three weeks of instruction in the old AN/SPS-64 course -- will not change for the T1 PTT, but it is the way in which the training is provided that is changing.

"The goal is that they have a basic understanding of how a radar works," Jacobsen said. "Whether we use the 64 or a partial task trainer, at the end of the day we want them to understand how the radar works."

With each step in the classroom and lab, there is an instructor only steps away if a student has a question or needs something explained in greater detail.

"I think that the fundamentals are solid and we're still learning as we go," MacMahon said. "But, I've been able to learn a lot from my instructors."

Instructors also focus on procedural compliance in every lesson and every phase of training. Ensuring students are able to follow the process by which they accomplish each task is important, not only in the classroom but also when they get to the fleet. 

Whether that task is the Combat Systems Operational Sequencing System (CSOSS) process, the six-step troubleshooting process, or is related to the Maintenance and Material Management (3M) process, Jacobsen and her fellow instructors ensure each student understands the importance of procedural compliance.

"We drive CSOSS home constantly," Jacobsen said. "It teaches them test procedures. They're using a six-step troubleshooting process constantly because logical thinkers are what we're trying to make here."

Jacobsen said she expects there to be more tweaks and adjustments to the PTT before it is fully launched, but she is happy with the process so far.

"In the end, it's going to actually serve the students better and the Sailors are going to be more prepared," she said. 

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