Bluejacketeer: Veterans Create a Simplified Way to Study for the Navy-Wide Advancement Exam
By OSD Communications Specialist Bailey Patton Brackin
The best ideas are usually born out of a need. Bluejacketeer, a learning system designed to help Sailors study for the Navy-wide Advancement Exam, was no different.
In 2013, Allen Wood and his wife Monica were stationed in San Diego. As a dual military couple, they were very familiar with the Navy-wide Advancement Exam and it was time for Allen to start studying. Allen noted, “At the time, I was using a learning technique known as spaced repetition to improve my Spanish. Since spaced repetition is typically used to learn and remember large amounts of information, I realized it was the perfect application for the Navy-wide Advancement Exam.” He continued, “Also, I had just come from my first duty station in San Diego. I felt that I had made a positive impact for my command and I began to wonder how we could make a positive impact on the entire Navy. Bluejacketeer was it.”
And while they had never done anything business related, and the thought of being “business owners” was scary, Allen and Monica got to work. Allen worked on developing the first version of the website, while Monica worked on creating the study material for it. Two years later, after pouring their time and energy into Bluejacketeer and with $35k debt in personal loans for development, they launched. Monica and Allen truly believed they were creating the foundation for something that could be a gamechanger for Sailors. They continued to work on their product, adding information and further strengthening the platform, all while starting their family. “It was very difficult at the time because we were dual military with a newborn. Additionally, I was stationed on the USS Coronado, an LCS class ship with a minimally manned crew. Bluejacketeer nearly failed at least a dozen times, but we kept talking each other into staying with it. And I’m really glad we did. We have an incredible team now, serving thousands of Sailors. We find it incredibly rewarding.” said Allen.
Just a few years later in 2015, Allen met Jonny Coreson who was himself working on exam prep product design. Jonny, also in the Navy, was running a side business developing children’s quiz games on mobile platforms and he wondered if it might translate to test prep. During the time, he was serving as a career counselor at a hospital, so he felt like he had some insight into Naval career progression and areas where Sailors might struggle. Jonny began shopping his idea around to see if someone might have interest in buying an app he would create. No one was interested. The responses he got solidified his belief that a different way to study was needed. All the larger companies seemed to be out of touch with how to best meet the needs of Sailors.
Luckily, Jonny stumbled upon Allen and Monica’s newer test prep website. He was intrigued by what he found at Bluejacketeer – the user design was great and the technology was solid. He decided to take a chance and reach out to Allen. He originally approached Allen from the perspective of a business advisor, interested in helping another Sailor navigate the entrepreneurial process. Jonny knew that Sailors were disenfranchised with the options out there and that Bluejacketeer could be the answer. They chatted for months before actually going into business together.
Jonny said, “Allen had backend content creation in place. He was publishing material that was good quality. He just needed to pour gas on the fire.”
Jonny’s background as a career counselor and business owner was a great compliment to what Allen and Monica had already created. The team began their new venture together just after the March exam cycle of 2016. Today they have more than 19,000 Sailors who use their product. What’s more, their approach of really listening to and honing in on Sailors needs has made them the leaders in the Navy-wide Advancement Exam test prep field. They were the first to launch a study app and podcast and the first to qualify their study questions by quickly citing back to the source of the information. Since that time, other companies have been forced to follow suit. Jonny and Allen love that aspect of their work.
Jonny said, “One of the most rewarding aspects of what we do is to lean forward and assess both the market and the Sailors needs. Then we are able to bring it to fruition and increase the market expectation.”
They are currently working to make Bluejacketeer available for every rate in the Navy. And they have dreams of pushing the test prep needle forward in other fields as well. In early 2019 their company, Patriot Labs, will launch exam prep for First Responders. They will utilize the same technology and approach that has been successful for Sailors through Bluejacketeer.
But the heart of Bluejacketeer will always be serving Sailors. Which is why they have been a great fit with OSD. Jonny actually met OSD CEO and Executive Director Glenn Banton a few years ago through a Veteran entrepreneur network. Jonny was struck by OSD’s work and how it aligned with the Bluejacketeer’s mission. The two developed a friendship with Glenn acting as a mentor of sorts as Bluejacketeer has navigated the early years of growing a business.
Jonny explained, “What struck me about Glenn and OSD was that they had a heart for the veterans and military members. Like us, they were passionate about providing a service that was worthy of the persons time and investment.” As Bluejacketeer continues to grow, he is excited about how they can partner and support the work of OSD.