NEWPORT, R.I. -- All senior chiefs hoping to become master chiefs are now required to complete the Senior Enlisted Academy (SEA) course at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, as announced by the Navy in November.
For E-8s, that means approximately twice the number of students will be going through the program; for the SEA, that means nearly two years of preparation is finally paying off.
"In February 2013, when the MCPON [Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy] told us we needed to double the capacity of the SEA in order to afford every E-8 who wants to become an E-9 the opportunity to come here, we started to work on the logistics," said Command Master Chief Jason Wallis, director of SEA.
"We were trying to double the amount of students we could get in here," he said.
Increasing the number of enrolled students from 544 to approximately 1,100 was not as easy as having twice the number of classes. Instructors, SEA budget, and the host command, Naval Station Newport, would not be able to handle the increased load.
So Wallis and his staff found a way to accomplish the increase through problem solving and using an existing class as a model.
SEA currently offers a course to Reserve personnel that combines both distance learning and in-house education. Using that model as a basis, the SEA leadership team modified and developed the new course with that in mind.
"We've been doing a blended, distance-learning course for the Reservists for about five years, said Wallis.
"We looked at that and we said 'OK, if we can do six weeks of distance learning and two weeks in-house for Reservists, we can cover the same material and also handle the increased students.'"
Although he worked on the project from its inception, Wallis won't be around to see it through to completion. Early this month, he transferred to San Diego.
"It's very disappointing that I'm not going to be able to see it," he said. "But on the other hand, I'm not retiring and I'm still going be able to promote the SEA from my new job as force master chief for Navy Surface Force, Pacific Fleet in San Diego."
Performing in his absence is Command Master Chief Sidney Dawson, deputy director of SEA, who will serve as acting director until a new director arrives.
"The students we have here leave better than they came," said Dawson. "The expansion of knowledge they get is tremendous. They're definitely going to learn something while they're here and expand their mindset."
SEA has limited spaces reserved for students in other branches of service, as well as some Reservists. Navy senior chiefs can also attend other senior enlisted academies instead of the Navy SEA.
The inaugural course is scheduled to begin in March.