The US Navy said it was expanding it's eight-week boot camp program to include two more weeks of classes focusing on suicide prevention, sexual assault, hazing and racism. 

The change, the first major overhaul in nearly 20 years, comes as the Navy grapples with major shipboard issues over the years that include failures to address sexual assaults, fires and deadly collisions and the rise of extremism within the ranks. 

Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, who heads the Naval Service Training Command, told the Associated Press that the two extra weeks of classes would reinforce the behavior desired in a US naval officer. 

We're telling our recruits ... here are all of the things that we expect you to do, and here's how we expect you to behave and act,' she said, adding that it involves treating people with respect and holding peers accountable. 

'We believe very strongly that those types of behaviors are directly impacting our fighting readiness and the performance of our sailors.' 

The additional two weeks will be devoted to the 'Sailor for Life' course phase where recruits would take in mentorship classes focused on avoiding bad behavior. 

It would also train sailors on how to keep levelheaded and respond to life-threatening situations such as fires and collisions. 

Couture said the changes came after Navy leaders realized they needed to reinforce training and character development skills following problems in recent years. 

The changes were first proposed in 2017 after two ships collided in the Pacific, killing 17 sailors. Years prior, the Navy reported that lack of sleep and preparedness had been causing several crashes out at sea. 

Then in 2020, Navy officials found that sweeping failures prevented the saving of the $1.2 billion USS Bonhomme Richard, which burned for five days off the shore of San Diego in July. 

Although the fire was allegedly started by sailor Ryan Sawyer Mays, who faces charges for the crime, Navy investigators said the crew was 'inadequately prepared' to battle the blaze due to lapses in training.    DailyMail

“We’re telling our recruits ... here are all of the things that we expect you to do, and here’s how we expect you to behave and act,” she said, adding that it involves treating people with respect and holding peers accountable. “We believe very strongly that those types of behaviors are directly impacting our fighting readiness and the performance of our sailors.”

The military as a whole has been seeing increases in sexual assaults and suicides, prompting congressional criticism and spurring leaders to scramble for ways to address the perennial problems. More recently, the services have been struggling to root out racism and extremism, after a number of former and current service members were involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Couture said quite a bit of the added two weeks will involve “life skills” training to address problems such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, hazing and suicide. And the instruction will stress the core Navy values of honor, courage and commitment.

At the same time, she said the additional weeks will also be used to bolster training on how to respond when sailors inevitably face life-threatening situations such as fires, collisions and other mishaps. AP