Dates To Remember:
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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.