The Navy Food Management Team with NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego, recently completed the second, and more refined, virtual training assist visit with the USS Essex, Feb. 10-12, 2021.
Prior to last month, when the team conducted its first virtual training visit with the USNS Mercy, they were still conducting in-person visits for deploying units or for emergencies, if the ship or Type commander requested assistance. The last in-person training session was conducted in October 2020. Previous Navy Food Management policy required Navy Food Management Teams (NFMTs) to visit each Navy installation facility at least once every 24 months. However, the need to abide by COVID-19 safety protocol to reduce force-wide infections presented compliancy challenges for both NFMTs and all general messes afloat and ashore. The updated policy titled Food Flash 20-#08, was released Dec. 11, 2020, and directed all NFMTs to maximize the use of virtual tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and video/phone conferencing to conduct training assist visits.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Harrison Wright, director of San Diego’s Navy Food Management Team, says he understands the need to go virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the new training requirements has its challenges.
“The major downfall is that you do not get that face-to-face training with the Sailors. The NFMT instructors excel at ‘over the shoulder’ and hands-on training. Unfortunately, the virtual environment takes the ability away to provide that hands-on training.” He explained.
On a positive note, however, Wright says virtual training provides some advantages.
“[We now] have the ability to reach a wider audience, the training is more cost effective, and we are able to record, track, and measure success.” he added.
The NFMT plans to continue virtual training assist sessions over the next year and will conduct approximately two to four virtual visits per month between now and December 31st.
During the most recent virtual training visit with the USS Essex, the NFMT accomplished training in support of 59 culinary specialists and 86 food service attendants. The virtual training was successful due to the advanced preparation and organization of the NFMT, as well as the integration and coordination between the requesting command and NFMT.
While Harrison and his team are prepared to continue to provide virtual training assist opportunities for commands in the Navy Southwest Region of operations, the question remains, just how long will they need to go virtual?
“I think the answer to that question depends on society, and when life becomes closer to normal. Our ability to conduct normal in-person visits will all depend on things such as vaccination rates and overall coronavirus rates declining throughout the country,” he explained.
The team may be unsure when they will be able to train in person with their food service counterparts again, but in the meantime, they intend to continue wearing their masks, maintaining proper social distancing, and doing everything possible to stop the spread of the deadly virus.