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IWTC Monterey Chiefs Share Sea Stories to Help Build Resiliency, Toughness

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By Seaman Nicholas Perry, Information Warfare Training Command Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Monterey Sailors participated in the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center's (DLIFLC) quarterly resiliency day, Aug. 2.

IWTC students were released from their normal foreign language studies for the day, and were divided into small groups. Each group gathered around one of their chiefs to receive training on various topics ranging from goal setting and problem solving to positive thinking and putting things in perspective. The chiefs included sea stories relevant to the topic to connect the concepts to the real world and connect the chiefs with their Sailors.

"Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from adversity, hardships, and trauma," said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) David Jennings in his opening address. "Resilience is a key part of one of our core attributes of toughness. This opportunity to hear sea stories from your chiefs is to show the importance of resilience and foster connectedness by giving you the opportunity to hear real stories of overcoming adversity."

As students of the DLIFLC, IWTC Monterey Sailors are enrolled in some of the most intensive foreign language education in the world. They are in the classroom with their professors for 6-7 hours per day with up to three additional hours of homework and self-study after class. The stress of the program can be overwhelming for some.

"Resilience to me is all about bouncing back," said Seaman Katie Rash, a language student at the DLIFLC, "It is encouraging to hear that our chiefs struggled too and found ways to be resilient throughout their career. I also learned a lot about how important these skills will continue to be in our future jobs."

The stories told by the chiefs touched on a wide range of experiences such as: enduring long working hours; suffering setbacks in career advancement; learning from mistakessometimes embarrassing ones; and testing their physical and mental limits.

"I couldn't even do the first task that they made me do; fireman carry this six-foot-two, 230 pound guy," said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Virginia Soto, during a very animated retelling of her experience at Naval aircrew training. "I was so demoralized and had all of these negative thoughts. I remember thinking I am not going to make it through this. I had to put a stop to all the counter-productive thinking so I could focus on the task at hand. I knew another female petty officer who had just completed the training so I just kept telling myself If she could do it, I could do it. I did it."

In his talk on identifying character strengths, Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Demian Ford shared a cautionary tale of one of his previous supervisors copying a style of leadership or success to the detriment of his team.

"It wasn't him, it wasn't his style, and it just wasn't working," Ford said. "He only started seeing success when he started being his own leader instead of mimicking someone else. You can learn from you leaders, but don't try to be us. You will be most successful when you know yourself and your strengths. Your job is to improve the Sailor that you are, not become someone else."

The push to incorporate sea stories into the program came directly from the Navy's top leadership. Early in 2019, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russel Smith emphasized the importance of telling sea stories to pass on heritage and to give Sailors a realistic picture of Navy life. Smith believes that a key teaching tool is sharing "stories that some of us older folks have with our experiences and really painting it in a realistic fashion."

The event was aimed at IWTC Monterey's students and junior Sailors, but the chiefs giving the training were impacted as well.

"It's really enjoyable to interact with our shipmates on a personal level and share our knowledge and experiences with them," said Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Anthony Walter. "It helps our Sailors see us as humans instead of just division chiefs. We are building toughness in them in an engaging way".

IWTC Monterey is invested in the development of its Sailors, and small-group training discussions like this are one way the command is instilling the skills needed for Sailors to succeed in the classroom and in the fleet.

"I think today's events really enlightened many of our young Sailors about the adversity, stress, and even failure that existed in the lives of many of our chief petty officers throughout their careers," said Cmdr. Michael Salehi, commanding officer of IWTC Monterey. "How these chiefs dealt with these issues defined their character and molded them into the resilient and tough' leaders standing in front of these young Sailors today. Hopefully, many of our Sailors walked away knowing that as long as you keep demonstrating the right positive attitude, work ethic, and never give up mentality, your capacity to endure and grow can be infinite."

IWTC Monterey, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training, provides a continuum of foreign language training to Navy personnel, which prepares them to conduct information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.

For more on Information Warfare Training Command Monterey, visit and, or find them on Facebook.

With four schoolhouse commands, two detachments, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT is recognized as Naval Education and Training Command's top learning center for the past three years. Training over 21,000 students every year, CIWT delivers trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.

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