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Drill nights v training weekends

It's a debate that's been raging for years - do we carry on with drill nights with bugger training value or move to training weekends and get some useful work done?

Views? Comments?
The good thing about drill nights is that more people can come (i.e. less hassle from the missus than you get if fcuking off for a whole weekend), but training is often limited to theory due to lack of time.

You can get a lot more useful training done in a weekend, the question is how many weekends are necessary? Too many, and people stop coming due to family pressure.

Also, can enough people come for a whole weekend, so that worthwhile training can be completed?

There's nothing worse than having to cancel training due to lack of numbers.
One of the bigest retention factors of the RNR is habbit-You get into the habbit of attending drill nights, this leads to you volunteering for weekends, ORT etc which is where the real tarining takes place. Personally cannot remember any truly valuable training I have recieved on a drill night (after New Entry), but attending every week encourages team spirit etc. Once you've formed that habbit and are happy in our own little comfort zones you can basically attend when you like. But consider new entries? How many would we retain if they only had to turn up once a month?
I have been on and off message on this one for a while. So here's Monkey's random thoughts.

The arguement that we NEED drill nights to survive as an organisation seems to be blown away by not only TA specialist units but by the nice people at Ferret (gies a job).

On the other hand, there does seem to be advantage to having the boys and girls get together to build up team spirit. Besides the handicap of having to do all admin across email may be too much for come people.

As a training evolution for a branch, we can call it that again now that nasty little man that was SOT(R) is away, it is a no hoper. For NGT etc there is certainly some side benefits.

The main problem with the whole drill night system, IMHO, is that is places the emphasis in the units not on the individuals reaching trained strength and getting sent off to warmer climes. Isn't that why we're here?

Told you they were random.
Hi, I'm new on here so here's a quick brain dump of my opinions on the subject - all open to debate, I hasten to add.
I agree with most of the points above, but R-M your Ferret argument doesn't stack up - you have to be a Lt with 5 years seniority to join DIS, so they are all grown-ups anyway. They then have difficulty completing all the background NGT basics like H&S, substance abuse, equal opps etc simply because they don't have drill nights. The alternative is to waste a weekend's ORT to fit in the NGT. Furthermore, the years of experience in the Branch isn't being passed on to the juniority because they don't have a forum to meet them regularly.
As far as the units go, they provide an essential RN footprint in non-naval areas (i.e. anywhere that isn't Pompey, Guzz or Rosyth) and the weekly gatherings provide an opportunity to foster teamwork and the Naval ethos in general. I agree that there isn't much specialisation training that can be achieved on a drill night, but for basic training, NGT and developing a sense of simply being the RNR, I believe that they are essential. There's also something of a paradox in that the New Entries and Junior Officers, who do gain useful knowledge and experience from drill nights, need the experienced people around to learn from.
I wholeheartedly agree that youcan get a lot more useful training covered in one weekend than six drill nights, but that's not the only thing we need to measure here. Don't underestimate the intangibles.
To sum up, there are good arguments for both weekends & drill nights. Perhaps we should be looking to shift the emphasis, rather than choose one at the expense of the other.
I'm in 2 minds about keeping RU's, let alone having drill nights.

As previosly stated, Drill Nights contribute at best very little to specialisation training. You never know whose going to be aboard from week to week and it therefore becomes very difficult to provide structured instruction (trying saying that after a few pints). My RU will be binning specialisation training this year and concentrating on common training and NGT.

MO - you're right that non-Naval area RUs provide a valuable footprint for the RN, but I think the cost may catch up with them in the end. Would it not be better to close RU's and perform weekend specialisation training at Lead Schools? NE could go to Raleigh, and JO's to BRNC (or Shrivenham :wink: ). This would contribute to specialisation cohesian, which is after all what we're here for, and maybe get rid of some of those 'Unit Admin Wonders' who do great work for the RU's, but very little for their specialisations! After all, this is what the RAuxAF do, and from my experience with them they are a well trained and highly motivated organisation who benefit greatly from using the same training facilities as the regulars.
Miles_Offside said:
Ferret argument doesn't stack up - you have to be a Lt with 5 years seniority to join DIS, so they are all grown-ups anyway. They then have difficulty completing all the background NGT basics like H&S, substance abuse, equal opps etc simply because they don't have drill nights.

Just a couple of points from that as a first run through.

The Ferret thing with 5 years is the official theory, I have known people be accepted PRIOR to JOFB, that applies to people in the last few months too.

I haven't done many of those lectures in several years, ever in some cases and I rarely miss a drill night. We used to fit them in on whole ship's company weekends.

I would agree the NEs and the JOs do gain something from mixing with others but is this the only way we can do this?

The big arguement against drills nights/ RUs is do we get good value for money to create a footprint and a sense of team bonding. Probably, but only just.
PartTimer said:
I'm in 2 minds about keeping RU's, let alone having drill nights....

This would contribute to specialisation cohesian, which is after all what we're here for, and maybe get rid of some of those 'Unit Admin Wonders' who do great work for the RU's, but very little for their specialisations!

Not the first time I have heard this said PT. I am sure we all know these people who think the RNR and even the RN start and stop in the same postcode. They also tend to be the same people who baulk at the 'M' word.
Fair point about the RAuxF, however those units are attached to Actual RAF Stations, thus still atracting local recruits. To follow the same example with the RNR would result in units at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Faslane.

Could not agree more with your assessment of 'Unit Admin Wonders'. There are members of my branch I have never met, despite a very full weekend training programme and who have not undertaken branch related ORT for years. I often wonder how they manage to qualify for bounty or what role thay could play if mobilised. With the current Buzzword being "Operational Capability" I wonder if anything will change.
I think that it’s probably more a case of “what†rather than “when†and that a back to basics approach is required.

There are a whole range of RNR activities, and some lend themselves better to evenings and some to weekends– but before you can start considering “when†there needs to be a very clear idea from the top on “what†the command want the people in the RNR to be able to do, and have a structured approach towards achieving that.

Much of the thinking from the top still appears to be muddied, and there is probably an even bigger issue hear about the role of the RNR and can that really be defined when the RN itself seems to be having an identity crisis.

Nevertheless, regardless of what happens at the top, if you can provide good quality, interesting, relevant, training people will turn up for it whenever it is held.

However, if, as happened in a unit not that many years ago, you get the command saying “Tuesdays are just for admin – all the real training takes place at weekends†and the CPOWTR saying “The UPO will be shut from 19.15 – 21.00 on Tuesdays you should be in classes†you get a lack of clarity which leads to poor motivation, low morale and disappointed people.
I have to agree that there is a disjointed feel about drill nights. With topics covered probably once a term if you're lucky there isn't any continuity. I get asked how to do something that I haven't looked at in months and I will struggle.

I have floated the idea of having training scripts that we can prepare ourselves for use when we are not able to attend drill and to ensure that there is continuity in skills developement but the argument that is used against this idea is that it is no part if the official spec.
Perhaps one of the fundamental problems with the RNR training is that it is led by the RN model, assuming for instance that all ABs are under 20 and of varying (often low) IQ. As much as it is important for the lead schools to determine what we need to know, there needs to be more input from experienced training professionals into packaging that for the 43 year old AB who also happens to have a Phd. The training needs to have strong complimentary activity of putting it into practice, soon after the learning otherwise it will be forgotten as mentioned above. The taskbook system (see NVQs in the outside world) relies heavily on practical application for which there is not enough opportunity - or worse still not enough travelling expenses. Bearing this in mind, the argument over drill nights v weekends is still going to be academic until the teaching and learning is made relevant. After that we can see the merits of both, I suspect Drill nights for NGT/Admin and team building and weekends for core skills and hands on experience.
Ok all there seems to be a split in thought here between NGT, branch/specialisation training and general unit cohesion.

So here's the rub;
* NGT can be done on either on a drill night (short burst training activity with little skills fade),
* Professional training usually requires weekend training where skills fade slips in v quickly (all you JO's who try to remember the lights and shapes for a vessel constrained by its draught AND all the rest)
* Then there's general unit cohesion - the socials like the runs ashore, the formal like ceremonial divisions and the informal like getting to know the people round the unit and who to relate to different rates and ranks.

maybe we do NGT and unit cohesion twice a month and one weekend a month - why one or the t'other?

As always, answers on a postcard and if you need me, I'll be in the Wardroom shipwreck
Just to add my bit, we tried Weekend Only training at my unit in the West Country for about 6 months. It didn't work and we were all very relieved to go back to drill night training. The single biggest problem was continuity. If you didn't see some one at a weekend then it was a month before you saw them again. Trying to run training and Divisional systems with those sort of time lags was impossible.

While this was done well over a decade ago I'm surprised that the corporate memory of this seems to have gone, given that the answer was so unequivocal.
I like drill nights, but sometimes feel that they are too short. It would be good if we did more practical stuff on a drill night instead of lectures. In GSSR they are pushing for SA80 training every fortnight on a drill night which is a good thing as we in GSSR need to be completely au fait with it.

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