Knowledge is POWER!- The Evolution of Navy Accession School

by Madison Basso, National Museum of the American Sailor Contract Curator

It is that time of year again! As August wraps up, a new school year is quickly approaching for students across the United States. Just as schools prepare children for adulthood by teaching them crucial life skills, new Sailors fresh out of Recruit Training Command (RTC) rely on their schooling to teach them the skills necessary to fulfill their occupations (or ratings) in the United States Navy. 

Crash Landing Practice.jpg

Caption: Naval aviators train for an emergency water crash landing, during pre-flight school, ca. 1942-ca.1945. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Kit Hess Collection.

After successfully completing eight weeks of boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes’ RTC located in Great Lakes, Illinois, newly minted sailors embark on the next step in their naval careers: “Accession School” or A-School. A progression from the highly structured boot camp, “A School” is structured to closely resemble the typical life of a sailor in the fleet. After boot camp graduation, the Navy assigns sailors assigned to A-schools based on their rate. Currently there are twenty-one A Schools located across the country at the following installations: 

  • Naval Station Great Lakes (IL) 
  • Keesler Air Force Base (MS) 
  • Navy Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center (VA)
  • Fort George (MD)
  • Fort Jackson (SC) 
  • Fort Lee (VA) 
  • Fort Leonard Wood (MO) 
  • Naval Weapons Station Charleston (SC) 
  • New London Naval Submarine Base (CT) 
  • Naval Construction Battalion Center (MS) 
  • Naval Amphibious Base (VA) 
  • Naval Air Station Meridian (MS) 
  • Defense Language Institute (VA) 
  • Naval Justice School (RI) 
  • Center for Information Dominance (FL) 
  • Naval Air Station Pensacola (FL) 
  • Naval Construction Training Center (CA) 
  • Fort Sam Houston (TX) 
  • Lackland Air Force Base (TX) 
  • Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare TC (CA)
  • Shepard Air Force Base (TX). 

At the Naval Training School in Norman, Oklahoma, WAVES lower an airplane engine onto a block, July 1943. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The amount of time sailors spend in A School varies based on their rating and the amount of specialized training required. A School can last anywhere from five weeks to over two years! The longest of the Navy A schools, Nuclear A School, requires a four-year commitment with an additional two-year extension to allow for the extensive amount of education needed for the rating. 

Sub School

Three Chief Petty Officers instructing enlisted students in a sub school classroom, ca. 1943. Note the diagram of “fleet”-type submarine tanks and arrangement on the blackboard and the “Be Reliable” sign at the top of the classroom. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

In 2017, to meet fleet demands the Navy shortened the length of select ratings’ A School programs by almost 30% in an effort to get sailors out to the fleet faster. Prior to 2017, A Schools taught all the necessary material to sailors at the beginning of their career. This upfront schooling constituted the majority of job-related training sailors received during their time in the Navy. Today, the Navy is shifting to ‘Ready Relevant Learning’ in which sailors learn and practice the necessary skills to prepare them for their first position in the fleet. Once a sailor successfully completes their first deployment, they then receive further job training when back ashore. This training continues throughout their naval service. While this new Ready Relevant Learning  A School structure may results in less time spent in A School at the beginning of their naval careers, during the course of their service sailors receive more training and education than their previous generations of shipmates.

Service School San Diego-1

Service School Command, San Diego, California – Radioman Second Class Raymond Favors (right) gives assistance to Navy Radioman Seaman Darrell E. Brown, as Brown learns to operate a teletype message machine. December 1977. Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

For more information on the United States Navy’s specific ratings and A Schools, visit Navy COOL (Credentialing Opportunities Online) which includes PDFs with detailed information:

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