Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, July 19, 2004

This is coolbert: Basic training in the U.S. Army is said to be the most intensive basic training administered by any military in the world. Now, it is important to clarify that it is not the hardest basic training of all militaries in the world. Far from it. But it is the most intensive. Intensive in two ways. One is that more is learned by the basic training recruit in a shorter time than is learned by any other basic training recruit of any other military. And secondly, the transition from American civilian life to being a soldier in the U.S. Army is the most radical of any society in the world. You change your whole life more radically when you join the U.S. Army.
Now, a comment about basic training. It is just that. BASIC. And that fact seems to be forgotten from time to time. The most common refrain by old-timers is that things are just not what they used to be.  "Back in my day sonny, things were just a lot tougher." Things have just gotten too soft for the current basic trainee. Old-timers harken back to a day when things were far rougher. And this comment is probably heard today from Gulf War One veterans talking about today's basic trainee. And the Vietnam War vet laments the type of toughness that was present in his day. Well, so does the Korean War vet and the World War Two vet. Each vet, the further and further it gets in time, has a recollection that basic training was just that much tougher when he was a recruit.  What is the true status? I just cannot say. Perhaps such things cannot be compared, or should even be compared? The standards and situations are just too different to make reasonable assessments. 
And, as for training, it should be remembered, as I have said before, that basic training is just that, BASIC! After basic training, the soldier is then sent on to Advanced Individual Training [AIT], and then to his unit, where even more training is administered at the unit level. No one should ever expect that a soldier coming out of basic, AIT, or arriving at a newly assigned unit, is ready to do the task for which he is assigned. The infantry MOS, 11B is a perfect example of this. The infantryman has to be able to perform something like one hundred fifty [150] tasks before he is said to be fully qualified. This would entail the whole gamut of infantry tasks, cleaning, maintaining and firing his rifle, establishing a fighting position, use a radio, read and navigate using a map, etc. Coming out of AIT, the infantryman will be able to do only about half of these tasks. The remainder will have to be taught at the unit level. And being able to function as part of a team is also taught at the unit level. After all, AIT is Advanced Individual Training.
And all this takes time. What is it? Two months for Basic Training, three months for AIT, and then how long at unit level to become fully trained and qualified??!! This is all something trainers and drill instructors must keep in mind at all time. Don't expect the raw recruit to be superman overnight. And don't give up on a guy if he cannot master on the first try a task you, the DI or the trainer, have been doing for sixteen years or more!

Personal comment: Now, my basic training company, Echo Company, had very strict rules from the start. Our company commander was a Ranger who just gotten back from Vietnam. He wanted to toughen us for eventual duty in Nam. NO coke, candy, ice cream [cigarettes were allowed however]. We were confined to quarters [tents] when not training. Had to run everywhere we went, no matter what. NO time off on weekends, up early when everyone else was sleeping [PT run was the norm for our company early on weekends]. At the end of the eight week cycle, you never seen a more depressed, despirited bunch of GI's. Like dogs that had been beaten with a stick every day for eight weeks. And next to us was quartered Delta Company. They could anywhere they wanted when off duty, had all the coke, candy and ice cream they wanted. No excess training regimen for them. And what was the final result? Delta Company had all around better PT scores, better rifle range scores,  just all around better test scores in any and all areas!? So this stuff about making you that much tougher by just hard treatment just does not always work. Each case is unique and different.


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