Posted: 4/12/2006 2:38:59 PM EDT
April 17, 2006
In-your-face drill sergeants and PT pain are out. Coaching and combat training are in. So far, instructors and recruits like the results
By Kelly Kennedy
Times staff writer
FORT JACKSON, S.C. — Three seats back, duffel bag in his lap, a freshly shorn recruit sat silently surrounded by 20 other stone-faced soldiers.
After in-processing at the reception station, the new soldiers boarded the white school bus and waited, knowing their drill sergeants would arrive shortly with those fearsome campaign hats perched above steely eyes and mouths poised to abuse.
Drill Sergeant Herman George boarded the bus.
Each scared face stared at his duffel bag as if his mother might pop out and offer up a hug.
they knew what was coming. They’d heard stories from previous generations of soldiers — stories of curse words and push-ups, even hushed tales of recruits being roughed up. But as the bus moved closer to their new barracks, no yelling. tears that had hovered on the brink seeped back inside, shoulders relaxed down into natural positions.
The bus driver turned on the radio. Soon, the private sitting three seats back began bopping his head — just barely.
“If you feel like giving me a lifetime of devotion,” the private started singing along with the radio, “I second that emotion.”
George finally came to life.
“Two-thirteen is the best basic training battalion in the United States Army!” he yelled.
And then, “Get off the bus in a safe, calm manner, hoo-ah?”
Welcome to the kinder, gentler Army. It’s a place where soldiers do push-ups from their knees if they get tired. They perform sit-ups on sleeping mats so as not to bruise their tailbones. If they’re not feeling well, they’re encouraged to report to sick call. And their drill sergeants yell only sparingly.
It’s a world of second chances for recruits who go AWOL or flunk the physical training test; a home to some young adults who haven’t quite stopped abusing their substances; a place where the sick, lame or lazy are encouraged to give it another go.
These are recruits who played video games growing up instead of climbing trees. They are from a generation reared by parents who viewed spanking as child abuse. The only authority they didn’t question was their own.
Overall, they may be softer on the outside than previous generations. But they multitask better. They understand technology. And they volunteered for the Army while watching their possible futures unfold on 24-hour newscasts featuring lost limbs, lost friends and lost lives.
in the middle of a war where the rules change daily, the Army realized that these are just the kind of people it needs — and that the service must retool to make good soldiers out of the Millennial Generation.
“The soldiers have already committed. They know they’re going to war,” said 1st Combat Training Brigade Commander, 13th Infantry Regiment Col. Jay Chambers. “It’s to our benefit to lead them instead of drive them.”
The drill sergeants say they’re seeing a payoff to the new method of training recruits.
“The feedback downrange is that they’re better trained for the fight,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Sandra Emery of 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. “They’re better-prepared to infiltrate and command and execute. I wish I’d had these kids when I was in Iraq.”
Army officials say the new generation of recruits learns more effectively when drill sergeants dial back the aggression and intimidation. Rather than confuse soldiers by yelling at them for everything from an untied boot to a misplaced weapon, they make sure the punishment for a missing M16 sticks out.
Instead of pushing recruits past their abilities in physical training, they concentrate on form — and making sure there are fewer injuries. Rather than force soldiers through difficult tasks to meet a checklist, they coach them into good marksmanship habits. And rather than tell impressionable young people that they’re not paid to think, they encourage them to plan their own maneuvers.
When drill sergeants are more mentor than menace, “The soldiers shoot better, are in better physical condition, and their hearts and heads are in the zone,” Chambers said. “In combat, there’s not going to be a drill sergeant — or a sergeant at all. They can’t wait until they get killed for someone to tell them what to do.”
Winning the attrition war
No one woke up one morning and thought, “I wonder what would happen if we were nice to the new guys?” But even before the Army went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, attrition statistics showed something had to be done. A Government Accountability Office report issued in April 2000 showed that in 1998, 36.9 percent of all service members were leaving the military during their first year of service. The Army ranked at the top of the list for lost recruits. The GAO found people left within their first six months for three main reasons: medical problems caused by training, fraudulent enlistment, and performance problems, such as failed PT tests or the inability to adapt to military life. Other reasons included weight issues, character and behavior disorders, and alcoholism and drug use.
But interviews with out-processing soldiers showed that many of them left because of poor leadership techniques, such as obscene language or humiliating treatment, and the GAO concluded that “negative motivation has a detrimental effect on some recruits’ desire to stay in the military.”
In the past, the response has been that those soldiers couldn’t hack it — there was even a sense of pride among those who did make it through that not everyone could.
But it costs up to $15,000 to put a soldier through basic training. The GAO report said that if the services could reduce their six-month attrition rates by 4 percent, they would save $4.8 million a year.
“We estimate that in fiscal year 1996, DoD and the services spent about $390 million in fixed and variable costs to recruit and train individuals who never made it to their first duty stations,” the report states.
After Sept. 11, 2001, when it became difficult to bring new soldiers in, those numbers became even more important. In 2003, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command changed Regulation 350-6 to ban drill sergeants from using abusive language, allow recruits more personal time, give new soldiers seven hours of sleep a night and cut down on injuries.
As of winter 2006, graduating recruits may also earn off-post one-day passes, rather than the on-post family-day passes they received in the past.
In just one year of training changes, the Army is seeing a difference. At Fort Jackson, the basic-training attrition rate stood at 12.6 percent in fiscal 2004. In fiscal 2005, that percentage sank to 8.8 percent, according to Fort Jackson spokesman James Hinnant. Armywide, about 11 percent don’t make it through basic now compared to 18 percent last May.
Accessions Command Chief Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp “called us all in and said, ‘Look. The Army needs us to analyze how we’re doing business,’” said Col. Thomas Hayden, deputy commanding officer at Fort Jackson. “They’re having a hard time recruiting, and we’re losing soldiers. Let’s look at us.”
Still, old hands might be surprised at how rigorously these new soldiers are being schooled in combat skills.
In December, the Army added more warrior tasks and battle drills to the nine-week regimen, and increased the graduation requirements — changes the drill sergeants say make basic training more difficult than it has been in years past.
Hayden emphasized that the changes are geared toward a different generation, but the schooling still results in highly trained new soldiers.
“The more we understand about them — where they’re coming from — and the more we attempt to know them, the better we are able to modify the training,” Hayden said. “It’s kind of weird that we didn’t figure it out earlier.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy sell with the drill sergeants who must make the new approach work.
Discipline and control
At the drill sergeant school at Fort Jackson, four instructors sat around a table and worked out the issue. They said drill sergeants themselves have to take a big share of responsibility for the attitudes and abilities of the Millennial Generation: The drill sergeants’ generation raised them.
“We based our ideas of basic training on movies or what our parents told us,” Sgt. 1st Class Bryson Endrina said. “We expected ‘Full Metal Jacket’ when we got there.”
Sgt. 1st Class Deitra Alam agreed, and said the new training was a challenge for the old-school set.
“As kids, we were physically reprimanded — we were beat,” she said, laughing at how parenting has changed. “These people coming in — they’re not used to that yelling and poking. That’s a shock for them. It’s not a culture they come out of.”
At first, she didn’t understand how the new style would work. “I was like, ‘What does that mean? I got to hand out candy?’” she said. “That’s not what that means. That’s not the spirit behind it.”
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Walker said he has had soldiers tell him summer camp was harder. “Some drill sergeants say we’re taking their power base away,” he said. “That’s not the case. We have to come up with more creative ways to get discipline to the soldiers.”
All said they eventually saw the changes as good, but sometimes, according to 1st Sgt. Lester Jones, drill sergeants feel as if their “hands are tied by the new rules.
“Soldiers will tell me things thinking they can get the drill sergeants in trouble,” he said. “They truly believe they can control the drill sergeants. The focus has been on the drill sergeants who have done wrong in the past. Now, we can’t do this and we can’t do that. It takes away our authority.”
Some soldiers, he said, need to be yelled at. And drill sergeants should still be able to say who stays in and who goes out.
“Right now, the attrition rate is the focal point, not what the drill sergeant has to say,” Jones said. “They tell you they don’t have to do what you’re telling them, they go AWOL, come back, go AWOL again and eventually graduate. That’s one soldier too many.”
But Lt. Col. Mel Hull, commander of the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, said drill sergeants should earn their reputations for being tough mentally, not because they yell a lot.
“The stress should be on the task,” Hull said. “If the drill sergeantis constantly yelling, and the soldier actually does something wrong on the range, how is it going to be any different when the drill sergeant yells at him for that?”
The yelling isn’t completely gone, however. But because the new privates didn’t go through basic before the changes, they don’t know they’re being treated any differently.
For example, a drill sergeant noticed Pvt. Marcus Kelly of Texas had a tube of toothpaste sticking out of his back pocket during physical training.
“I had to do more push-ups,” Kelly said. “My dad told me it would be all drill sergeants yelling and making us do a lot of push-ups, and what really happened was they yelled at us a lot and we did a lot of push-ups.”
Chambers, the brigade commander, said some of that yelling is necessary, as long as the mistake is specific. “Their expectation is to be yelled at, and they will be,” he said. “There will be some high-octane exchanges.”
‘We all made mistakes at 18’
Lt. Col. Frank McClary, commander of 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, pointed to a couple of military police officers standing with a trainee in the company area.
“We had to call them in when one soldier decided he didn’t want to be here,” McClary said. “I call the MPs when things look like they could get rough.”
Between 7 and 10 percent each cycle still won’t make it, he said, even with the new rules.
“We have one or two go AWOL every cycle,” McClary said. “I put them back in training — it’s at the commander’s discretion.”
During the winter holiday break, four soldiers tested positive for drugs — typically marijuana — in a urinalysis.
“I put them back in training,” he said. “Why? They’re 18. We all made mistakes at 18.”
McClary said the changes can be challenging, but they make sense.
Every drill sergeant interviewed agreed the physical-training program had changed for the better, even if they cringed at the idea of push-ups from the knees.
Early one morning, McClary watched a group of new soldiers doing jumping jacks on their first day of physical training. “Ah, the rhythmless nation,” he said, laughing as the privates flailed about. “They look like popcorn.”
Next to the soldiers lay M16s, sleeping mats and water bottles — the training paraphernalia they carry with them everywhere. “We used to smoke them until they couldn’t see,” McClary said. “But it’s not safe, and there are more effective ways to do it. I don’t see as many in sick call.”
Privates train on rubberized tracks; their new PT pits are made of soft “gravel,” and they wear kneepads and eye protection on the range.
Drill sergeants insist that those with sore knees or ankles go on sick call, they make them stretch longer before runs, and they build the soldiers up through circuit training rather than pushing them to run three miles on the first day.
During fiscal 2004, 1,952 soldiers processed out for medical problems, including PT injuries, at Fort Jackson. In 2005, that number decreased by almost 300 soldiers, to 1,659.
“We’re building them up for the run because we know Americans don’t exercise as much,” Emery said. “The whole thing is geared toward minimizing injuries.”
Several privates said they had no exercise experience before arriving at Fort Jackson. “I like the PT best,” said Pvt. Sharmayne Smith of Maryland. “I need to get in shape — I’ve never exercised before.”
Thinking for themselves
For all the changes aimed at reducing stress and injuries, the training remains tough.
“When I talk to other drill sergeants, they can’t believe the stuff we’re doing now,” said Sgt. 1st Class Travis Haugen of 1-13. “They are training harder. They know that if they make a catastrophic error, there will be catastrophic results because they know they’re going to war.”
Soldiers learn more tasks than ever before, including infantry skills that some drill sergeants themselves had never encountered before Fort Jackson — clearing a room, convoy live fire and advanced rifle training. Soldiers learn how to scout for intel, they carry their weapons at all times, and they shoot from a kneeling position wearing full combat gear. Rather than concentrate on one task, drill sergeants harp on the importance of paying attention to several things at once.
“It’s not easier, but it’s more of a thinking basic training than it used to be,” said Pfc. Bryan Hunter, who went through basic training under the old rules at Fort Knox three years ago as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet. “They just train soldiers now, rather than beat them into submission.”
Pvt. John Barnes of Wyoming had also gone through basic before — with the Marine Corps.
“The yelling is still there, but when we’re doing it right, they don’t get on us at all,” Barnes said. “It’s better. It lets us know we’re doing good. And the minute we mess up, they jump right on top of us.”
He said he needs the opportunity to concentrate in the classroom, and it’s easier when it’s not as stressful.
“It’s extremely difficult,” said Capt. Dion Mancenido of 1-13. “They have to learn 39 tasks and nine battle drills, how to be a member of a team, how to run a checkpoint, and they have to spend 13 days in the field.”
By concentrating on what soldiers need to know in a combat zone, Mancenido said drill sergeants spend more time teaching soldiers what they need to survive.
“The fundamental change is really that it’s what they need to know to be successful in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said.
At “Omaha Beach,” a live-fire range, Pvt. Yeshua Bullock had to make her own decisions about which way to go, which part of a car to hide behind, and which target to go after next. This is also new to basic training.
“We’re trying to teach them how to think, not what to think,” Hull said. “It’s moved from, ‘You don’t need to think, just do what I tell you.’ We don’t need soldiers like that anymore.”
Staff Sgt. Mark Glasgow of 1-13 said he would feel comfortable serving with any of the privates who graduate from his company.
“I’m not going to be doing this for the rest of my career,” he said. “I’m going to be out on the line. And they’re going to be with me.”
Proud graduate of The Benning School for Wayward Boys ('87).
Is this all the Training Posts or just "Slacking Jackson"? Surely they are not doing this to Infantry training, cause if they are than I see it comming back to bite us in the ass at the worst possilbe time.
No really, where's the serious story?
Dont think that the drill sergeants wont find other ways to make it hurt.
I really think that their is a need to have your ass chewed 24/7 in basic for the first few weeks but really after that if your platoon isn't all ate up it probably doesn't do any good to get your ass chewed on a a daily basis, some people are just dumbasses so you have to but others you can talk to them like adults.
this new program just sounds like its for pussys
OMG. So the WSJ article wasn't a fluke.
I'm gonna get alot of shit for this, but I kind of like what I'm reading.
I want to see the results of this training evaluated HONESTLY. If the results reported so far are HONEST, I like what they're doing. At the end of the day, I want my country and freedom defended by the best soldiers, marines and sailors possible. I don't care how they train them, as long as they train them well. The method is irrelevant to me.
I wonder if that's a Jackson/Leonard Wood, or all BCT locations.
for those not Army-literate, Those are the BCT locations for
I have a very hard time believeing Benning/Knox/Sill/Bliss
conduct buisness in this fashion.
I'll take their word for it. If it works it works.
Don't hold your breath.
But seriously, this is disturbing. Kinder, gentler does not work for troops training for combat. This is a mistake, and I'm happy my Marine Corps will have nothing to do with this nonsense.
Yup. That's all I'm saying. If the feedback downrange IS TRUE AND HONEST, then I'm all for it. Like you said, if it works, it works.
Well, I graduated from 21B OSUT in 2004, and I'm glad I was in one of the last "hard" training cycles.
Don't get me wrong, I know it was tougher and more in your face a few years ago, but at least we got yelled stupid and smoked shitless.
That was a good read and an interesting article. I think that the Army is moving in the right direction. High stress "and abusive-esque" training and instruction have their place in the military, but not as universal ways to prepare troops for combat. They should be utilized in specific parts of training or in highly specialized training, but not for the entirety of a serviceman/servicewoman's training.
Err...nevermind. I guess MPs aren't combat arms.
For now, because you know that somewhere at HQMC/DON there is a powerpoint presentation and a three-foot thick postion paper floating around that shows this is just what the Corps needs.
Engineers are not combat arms AFAIK.
Infantry, Armor, Artillery are the only ones classed "combat arms"
I was a medic with line units, so, I'd've had
plenty of shooting to do if it came to that.
I was not refering to them being pouges, just not
I believe Engineers are classed in "CSS" Combat Service Support.
The key is whether the branch is open to women.
Just another step on the bleeding heart/libtard road to the total pussification of this country.
Fucking kinder, gentler BULLSHIT.
aviation is open to women and is still combat arms
I dont know,after a while I just kinda numb to the yelling(12B ft.Lenordwood,spring/summer of 90) and realized that if I did good,someone else would fuckup and there would be yelling and pushups,if I fucked up,there would be yelling and pushups
I can see varying the punishment from my worst fuckup in BCT(my earplug case came open,lost my earplugs) to losing a rifle.Afraid when I was in basic,it was all the same.The worst smoking we got,and not sure who did what,the DI had us get into MOPP4,marched down to the sandpit and gave us some extra PT
Ahh, I guess it is Combat Support. I could have sworn I read Combat Engineers were considered Combat Arms.
Well, either way, we still get infantry training and are expected to operate as infantry when needed.
Your Drill Sergeants liked the MOPP4 as well, huh? We got smoked in out war room for about 45 minutes in MOPP4 because someone farted when the Drill Sergeant was talking. Closed the windows, blocked the door with mats. Man those walls were sweating.
I know alot of you may disagree, but I think this might have some benifit. I havent served(yet) but I played football in HS and I know about PT and getting yelled at. If we didnt PT enough or get yelled at when we F'd up we would suck that friday. In the same light if we PT'd too much and got chewed out even when we were working our tail off we would probably suck that friday as well. Its a balance, and if you find that right balance you will create the best possible soldiers, athletes, ect.
I think the army is starting to realise that the yelling and PTing your butt of is a tool, and if you misuse that tool you can be worse of then when you started. It still has its place, but if you overuse it it can do more harm than good.
As for the pads when you do situps and doing pushups from your knees, thats for pussies.
ETA look at the date for the article
Benning 1991 here.
I know a couple of good soldiers that tested positive for pot who got the boot, now they're allowing recruits to test positive because it was a mistake?
I'm sure all that extra rack time, soft gravel pits, and being encouraged to go to sick call to be coddled will really prepare them for the sandbox.
What a joke.
This will be interesting to see how it plays out...
Doesn't sound like all hope is lost to me.
I was smoked so much in the beginning in 2001 that I suffered total muscle failure in my right shoulder. I don't think it did a damned thing to me for discipline or character, it just resulted in my needing to use two arms to write on the chalkboard. With the increased focus on battletasks (the best thing they did was start issuing rifles and blank ammo immediately, every day), and a recognition of the fact that today's youth are different from that of yesteryear, I think the article comes across as rather promising.
That said, I do think that the first meeting with the Drill Sergeants should still be as violent and memorable as ever.
It seems the US Army considers the following to be the combat arms: ADA, Armor, Aviation, Engineers, Field Artillery, Infantry.
I admit to being surprised, I had always thought it was just Armor and Infantry, the others being Combat Support.
Ah! The kinder, gentler army. We can love the enemy to death.
I loved basic training. It pushed me harder than I would have ever done myself and made me realize what I was capable of.
Jesus............. Look what they went and did. Made it so Basic wouldn't hurt anyones feelings.... WarDawg
Basic training in the Army (at least in modern times) has never been extensive combat training. Combat training comes with AIT and unit training which is intense.
It is a different model than the Marines and it produces the best Army in the world.
You have to remember that in the US Army the logistic support has the same basic training as the combat arms. In the Marines the logistic branch is mostly trained separate in the Navy.
By the way, I was in Army basic at Ft Jackson in 1966 and it was brutal. My DIs were WWII and Korean War veterans and they took their job of training troops for Vietnam very seriously. I got my ass kicked many times.
whaaa??? marine corps log training is done at camp lejeune. the only log mos "outsourced" is air delivery specialist and that's done at the abn scol at benning and also ft lee? in va.
man, i hope the army knows what it's doing...seems to me we need to combine smart with tough. the two aren't mutually exclusive, y'know! our recruits are smarter and more sophisticated than EVER before in the history of mankind, but they're also softer and snottier. you wanna train 'em to work as a team, to stand steady while being shot at, you still gotta break down 17-18 yrs of suburban pandering and turn them into steel.
heh, watched one too many marcor commercials, huh?
I began USAF basic oct 09 of 00, graduated, went onto tech school, graduated as a security forces member. Did my 4 and got out. So, while I wasn't in the army, etc, I still know the military.
I think that this is a good thing, as long as they don't get to nice to them.
If they learn more, and learn how to think when they need to, and follow orders when they need to, then how is that bad? If they learn the drills, information, tactics better when they aren't being ass-whooped, then what's the negative of doing it the softer way? On the battle-field, where it actually matters, the benefit might just be a lot bigger than you realize.
Here's what I got out of basic training........
I got in better shape,
I learned USAF history,
I shot an m-16
I learned how to get yelled at and it not bother me
The rest, I forgot......didn't mean shit to me. I might just have learned more if I could have heard my own thoughts instead of the DS's constant bla bla bla.
Learned MUCH more in the police academy, which still had it's para-militaryistic moments. They did not, however, treat you like you were in basic, when you were supposed to be learning things that needed to be learned, not just said.
While the old basic training might have been a status symbol........a status symbol won't keep you from being killed on the battle field, learning tactics will, and if they learn tactics better this way, then I am behind it.
That is incorrect. Engineers are classed Combat Arms - as are Air Defense Artillery, Aviation, and Special Forces.
You'll find females in Field Artillery, ADA, Engineers, and Aviation. Infantry, Armor, and Special Forces are the only ones still closed.
ETA - oops - missed Manic's post above.
"He is best who is trained at the severest school" Thucydides
Some of those boys are going to be in Iraq in 6 months, is the sad thing. Poor bastards don't even realize they are being cheated. Oh well, at least it's the nasty army and not my Marine Corps.
Any guesses to when they switch to AIRSOFT?
I mean,come on,real rifles make loud,scary noises,and could hurt someone (give them an owie).
What The Fuck...................................................?
heh, the marine corps has ONE enlisted female with an 0311 mos!!!
wish i could find the story behind that one!!!
They have but not to the same degree. When I was in Sept 85 USMC MCRD, it was 13 weeks stress. when I got done with 2531 school, I went back to visit my DI's. It changed to 16 weeks NON stress. It looked like summer camp. No yelling, nothing.
When I was in yelling was in, DI'd pushing was in, our dicks were in the dirt 24/7. No phone calls, no dessert or sodas in the chow line and no talking. we had 5 minutes to stuff our face and then we were pushed out the door.
i have a friend who just enlisted in the army. i'll have to ask him about this when he gets back from basic.
"The US Marines training this way in the future" someone stated on this board?
The Marines refused co-ed training and is the only branch I know of that is still segregated in Basic by gender.
I went through "the island" in August of 89' and it was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. The rest of my life, no matter what has been thrown at me has been "gravy" beacuse of that experience.
All I can say is thank you Marine Corps Depot Paris Island and the DI's of platoon 2090 for punishing and pushing me far past any limit I ever knew.
I feel sorry for those going through this "pussy" training. Didn't this all start in the Army with the "time out" card when you were stressed by the DI's? All the recruits had to do was hold up the card and they had to stop stressing you out?
Hold your damn card up while Alla Akbar is shooting at you and see what happens.
These "recruits" are being cheated and don't even know it...
Semper Fi fellow Marines.
That little motto is also about standards and traditions.
True, the Corps might overdo things at times, in terms of fanfare and all that.
But we never give out berets to increase morale.
Now would we do this.
Rest assured that nothing has changed.......at least not in India Co/ 3rd RTBN
There's no way that can be real....
Can it? hinking.gif
Glad I decided to attend the wonderful summer camp at Paradise Island.
(BTW, first post here! Ooh-rah!)
Semper Fi, brothers.
And to the army....good luck.
IF its stupid and works, it aint stupid. Todays trooper isnt the same as what we got in the 40s and 50s. Since the USMC takes people with lower ASVAB scores, perhaps they still need to yell and beat their people to get them to follow instructions.
i dont even have to read this thread to know that the army's quality is screwed...
WTF? Since we have been carrying most of the fight, how is this true? BTW have you ever served???
My brother called it "Relaxin' Jackson." It does not suprise me that this started there from what he tells me.
He did his basic at Ft. Knox.
Basic training made me, served me well in Iraq, and continues to bless my daily life.
We'll see how this all pans out.
Benning it getting weak too. We get new guys to my unit talking about how they got passes every weekend and shit during OSUT.
What did they do to my Army?
The PC Patrol turned my Army into a bunch of sissy-a$$ed choir boys.
We'll never win another war again.
This better be a dupe
Man, I think is time for me to join the Marines.