You did it! You completed 8 weeks of Navy Boot Camp training. You survived and even excelled at working with fellow sailors aboard the USS Trayer in the final battle stations test. You are a United States Sailor. Congratulations.
All of the adrenaline that was keeping you going during the final days of boot camp has worn off. Your family and friends have seen you graduate and congratulated you on your success. You’ve packed your sea bag and are fully prepared to step outside Naval Training Center Great Lakes to join the fleet.
Now it is time for rate specific training, known as “A school.” Depending on sailors’ rates, or job titles, they will be sent to a training facility that will teach them how to be successful in their new careers.
As the door closes on boot camp, sailors head to their new A school training commands. While graduates do have the opportunity to spend the day with family and friends post-graduation, most sailors head directly to A school and do not take leave in between boot camp and their new commands.
One sailor shares his A School experience of becoming an Aviation Electronics Technician (AT):
“I enlisted in the Navy a little bit later than most, and I left boot camp excited for the opportunity to learn the skills that would make me well equipped and trained to perform my duties as a United States Sailor. I wasn’t entirely sure what the job was that I signed up for, but I knew that I needed to do something different and more productive with my life, and the Navy provided me the opportunity to do that.
After graduating, packing my bag, and spending some time with family in downtown Chicago for a day, I hopped on a plane in my service dress blues to head off to A school. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I figured if I could make it through boot camp at Great Lakes I’d be fine. I was sent to the Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola.
The value for me in A school was the opportunity to put the principles that we learned in boot camp to use in an environment where there was more freedom. Even better was the chance to watch the Blue Angels practice their show flights during the week over the base.
I found that shining my boots, keeping my uniform ship shape, and a little bit of initiative when it came to PT and school work, made it pretty easy to stick out and excel. Before long, I fell into the rhythm of the place and earned a position in the barracks as a ‘yeoman’ – not a real Navy yeoman – but one of the informal leaders of the place the hundreds of us called home. While it came with added responsibility, it also came with additional relief from some of the duty and administrative burdens that we all had while we were in A school. I definitely thought that the added responsibility was worth it.
Meanwhile, I also kept my grades up as best I could in class. I wasn’t particularly fond of all of the mathematics, electronics, and circuit learning, but it was a part of the program and my ticket to a new challenge and adventure. In my class, there was also the added incentive – like many A schools – where orders to our first “real” commands were selected based upon your class standing. For instance, when a random batch of orders for newly minted ATs came in, the top student in the class got his or her pick of the orders because of their success in the classroom.
When it was all said and done, I graduated as my class leader and the number two student in my class. Better yet, I was able to add the AT rating badge to my three green “French fries” on my left sleeve to signify that I was officially an aviation electronics technician airman (ATAN).
After graduation, I ended up flying from Pensacola to Virginia Beach for my first assignment as an intermediate avionics test set (IATS) technician at NAS Oceana. My job required repairing weapons repairable assemblies for F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. Never in my life would I have thought that I’d be entrusted to align heads-up displays in jets flown by the finest pilots in the military, yet there I was, starting yet another adventure in the Navy.”
The A school experience is one that provides both more freedom and more responsibility. The length of A school is dependent upon the rating a Sailor is designated to be. However, no matter the rate, A school is the place for each Sailor to receive the upfront technical training for his/her job. It is a Sailor’s time to learn his/her craft for the betterment of the fleet.
Currently, the A school experience is much the same as the sailor’s story above. However, over the next few years, the A school experience is changing due to the Navy’s desire to have sailors trained across different rates. This new system will be implemented so sailors are better equipped to face the challenges the of ever-changing technology.
Regardless of the style of A school training a sailor receives, the goal is to provide Sailors with the skills, both technical and organizational, they need to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.