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  Army Pushes a Sweeping Overhaul of Basic Training

> By THOM SHANKER

> Published: August 4, 2004

> New York Times

>

> WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 - The United States Army is pressing into place

> sweeping changes in its basic training program, introducing rigorous new

> drills and intensive work on combat skills to prepare recruits for

> immediate missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.

>

> In what officers describe as the most striking changes to basic

> training

> since the Vietnam era, soldiers whose specialties traditionally kept

> them far from the front - clerks, cooks, truck drivers and

> communications technicians - will undergo far more stressful training.

> The new training regimen includes additional time dodging real bullets,

> more opportunities to fire weapons, including heavy machine guns, and

> increasing the time spent practicing urban combat and hiking and

> sleeping in the field during the nine-week courses.

>

> Before Iraq, freshly minted soldiers could expect months, if not

> years,

> of additional training in their assigned units before seeing combat.

>

> But with the Army stretched today by long-term deployments to Iraq and

> Afghanistan, a growing percentage of new soldiers are in combat zones

> within 30 days of being assigned to a unit, Army officials say. Even

> those whose specialties are not combat arms often face situations where

> the traditional distinction between hazardous front lines and secure

> rear areas has vanished.

>

> "Historically, combat support specialists had been in the rear of the

> battlefield, far from direct contact with the enemy," said Col. Bill

> Gallagher, commander of the basic combat training brigade at Fort

> Benning, Ga. "The emphasis in their training was more on the technical

> side of their specialties, not on the combat side."

>

> But in the missions soldiers face today, "there is no front, there is

> no

> rear," he said. "Soldiers of all specialties will face direct contact

> with an adversary. They all have to have a common set of combat skills.

> A sense of urgency dictated that we analyze what skills are required of

> them in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, and how to update the nine-week program

> back in the States."

>

> The changes were endorsed at a meeting of the Army's training brigade

> commanders in June, and were promptly put into effect on an official, if

> still interim, basis at all five installations where the Army conducts

> its basic training.

>

> The Army's senior leadership must approve the plan for it to become a

> formal part of the service's training, and additional financing must be

> secured for the changes to become permanent, as more realistic live-fire

> training and longer field maneuvers are more expensive. The changes grew

> out of various studies dating to last summer of lessons learned in both

> Afghanistan and Iraq, when senior officials realized it was time to

> update the tasks and drills in basic training, with an emphasis on

> combat skills for all those in uniform.

>

> "This is the new mentality that says, 'Everybody is going to be a

> warrior first,' everybody is going to have the ability to defend

> themselves and survive in combat," said William F. Briscoe, director of

> the directorate for training plans and capabilities review at the Army's

> Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.

>

> In discussing the changes to basic training, Army officers do not

> specifically acknowledge how deeply the military was stung by some

> high-profile combat failings, including the attack on an Army support

> convoy near Nasiriya, Iraq, early in the war. During that firefight,

> troops of the 507th Maintenance Company were outmaneuvered and then

> outgunned by Iraqi irregulars.

>

> Previous Army training programs for these noncombat specialties

> required

> less than one week of field training. Under the interim training

> program, they will spend up to 16 days in the field. And that time out

> in the woods has been consciously designed to be more stressful,

> requiring soldiers in training to carry heavier loads of water and

> ammunition, and allowing less time for them to sleep and eat.

>

> Support soldiers are also receiving added training for military

> operations in urban areas, which includes drills in how to enter a

> building held by hostile forces and to run convoys through contested

> territory. They will receive additional practice in how to manage

> prisoners of war and how to maneuver and fight when civilians are in the

> line of fire.

>

> "We are teaching quick-fire techniques, moving in an urban environment

> -

> things that have not been done in basic training for combat support and

> combat service support before," said Lt. Col. Fred W. Johnson, commander

> of a basic training battalion at Fort Jackson, S.C., where the Army

> conducts its mixed-sex training.

>

> "And we are introducing an emerging leadership program," Colonel

> Johnson

> said. "We don't expect to create junior officers, but we are teaching

> basic leadership techniques: accountability, precombat inspections, how

> to motivate a small element to accomplish a mission."

>

> The changes in basic training will be seen mostly in the initial

> nine-week course given recruits whose tasks will be combat support or

> combat service support - two categories of Army duty that include

> engineering, personnel, transportation, maintenance and logistics -

> rather than for those in the combat arms specialties of infantry, armor,

> artillery and aviation. After basic training, the support troops receive

> focused training in their specialties before assignments to units.

>

> While previous generations may recall basic training being the same

> for

> all recruits, the modern Army allows many new soldiers to choose their

> specialties when they sign up, and basic training is divided between

> those who go into combat arms and those who go into support jobs.

 

 
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