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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 17, 2023

Training Center Yorktown modernizes learning through new Coxswain Core Course

By Lieutenant Commander Kurt Mees and Lieutenant Brian Waters, Training Center Yorktown, Boat Forces & Cutter Operations Branch

Training Center Yorktown’s Boat Forces & Cutter Operations (BFCO) Branch, in concert with the Performance Systems Branch (PSB), Office of Boat Forces (CG-731) and Force Readiness Command’s Training Division (FC-T), has recently unveiled the new Coxswain Core Course, which will be ready for implementation in January FY24.  

This new course will replace the legacy Response Boat-Medium (RB-M) Operator and Response Boat-Small (RB-S) Coxswain Introduction courses. The Coxswain Core Course will be a three week long, non-platform specific course. The course will be open to boatswain’s mate (BM) “A” school Rating Apprenticeship Program (RAP) graduates and any boatswain’s mate third class in the fleet, including members from cutters who hold a Boat Crew Member certification.

Helping students achieve success more quickly 

To allow BM RAP students who hold a Boat Crew Member certification the opportunity to jump-start the coxswain qualification process, courses will be scheduled to begin immediately after students graduate from the BM RAP course. 

The new course will equip students with the skills necessary to operate and lead a team effectively and efficiently. The course is designed to: 

  • Train students on boat handling principles and crew resource management. 
  • Satisfy the “Boat Crew Qualification Handbook, Volume II — Coxswain” performance qualification standard (PQS) “ANY” tasks. 
  • Help students develop critical knowledge, improve tactical performance and enhance leadership skills.
  • Assign students to platforms matching or like the assets they will operate at their designated unit. BFCO receives their first cutters boats in August 2023.  

This course covers over 60% of the coxswain PQS and includes various aspects of leadership within the curriculum. Employing an enhanced military bearing environment, students will operate up to 90 hours over the three weeks with the motto of “Reps and Sets.” This motto emphasizes the vital role repetition and practice play in developing critical skills required for leading boat operations.  

Real-time feedback through Modernized Ready Learning 

One of the key features of the Coxswain Core Course is its use of Modernized Ready Learning techniques, such implementing the unit’s new short-range unmanned aircraft system (SR-UAS) and GoPro cameras. These tools provide students with real-time feedback and assessments, enabling them to make necessary adjustments and improvements on the spot.  

Boatswain’s Mate First Class Jose Emiliani, BFCO’s SR-UAS operator, described the new training capability as “truly remarkable and will be a game changer.” Emiliani explained that with the integration of SR-UAS technology into coxswain training, students will be able to see in real time whether their actions are procedurally correct. “It has the potential to give more confidence to an up-and-coming coxswain.” 

A focus on developing exceptional crew managers 

The final week of the course focuses on crew resource management and the importance of leading a boat crew through low simulation/performance-based drill scenarios. The Coxswain Core Course will integrate comprehensive leadership and management training while simultaneously developing technical prowess. This new learning approach will equip future boat operators with the requisite skills to confront challenges and lead teams effectively and efficiently in a dynamic environment.  

Furthermore, the course benefits students who demonstrate exceptional performance during the training course. These students will be recognized for their on-scene initiative and problem-solving ability, showcasing their potential to become valuable members of the boat forces community.  

The course block plan emphasizes physical fitness and offers daily support for students who preparing for oral qualification boards. The post-course follow-up program will offer graduates an opportunity to conduct a recorded pre-board with members of the Boat Forces Center via Microsoft Teams, increasing their chances of certification.  

Boatswain’s Mate First Class Michael Fitzgerald said, “The introduction of this groundbreaking new course for Coxswains in the Coast Guard marking a “transformative shift in training methodology, empowering our future leaders with unprecedented electronic support and helm time.” Fitzgerald continued, saying this “innovative approach revolutionizes the coxswain training process, enabling us to produce highly skilled and confident professionals who are well-prepared to navigate the challenges of maritime operations.” 

Questions can be directed to BFCO Chief of Afloat Operations Lt. Brian Waters (  


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