Basic training changes to improve combat readiness

| November 11, 2010 | 0 Comments

David Vergun
Army News Service

WASHINGTON – Blind obedience-oriented basic combat training is out; confidence-building and thinking-oriented training is now in.

That’s the bottom line of how Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is shaping changes in Army boot camp, changes, leaders say, are improving Soldiers’ preparedness for combat once they reach their units, said Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena, Initial Military Training Center of Excellence, at an Association of the U.S. Army meeting of senior enlisted leadership.

“When we went through basic (training), total control and fear of authority was taught,” Calpena said. “Instead of creating obedient machines to do what they’re told to do, when they’re told to do it, we’re teaching our young Soldiers how to think, how to understand the circumstances and make decisions in stressful conditions — because that’s what’s going on downrange.

“Young Soldiers receiving fire in a marketplace need to make an on-the-spot decision whether to shoot or not (to shoot) under stress,” he said. “We had to radically change the way drill sergeants teach. They’re no longer strictly disciplinarians; they’ve got to train Soldiers on tasks that are relevant to combat so when Soldiers graduate, they’re ready to go into the fight. 

“Soldiers need to understand how the task is performed and how (they are) going to use this task in the fight,” he added. “They really want to know. You don’t have to force obedience into them. Some will perceive this as a lack of discipline. It’s not. It’s confidence.”

Other CSF changes to basic training are improved physical readiness, proper nutrition and injury prevention, said Staff Sgt. Timothy Sarvis, active duty Army 2010 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

“Soldiers need to prepare for combat the way athletes train for competition,” Sarvis said. “This includes eating healthier foods and reducing injuries.”

He said the new Army Physical Readiness Training manual, TC3-22.20, replaced FM 2120, as of Aug. 20. 

“The new manual stresses agility, flexibility, stability, speed, power, balance, coordination and posture,” he said. “Complex tasks and movements prepare Soldiers for the operational forces.”

Several Soldiers demonstrated physical movements trainees are now required to perform, during the AUSA conference. Most of these movements are actually done on the battlefield, such as moving into and out of cover and concealment, crouch-running, moving around and under obstacles, sprinting, jumping  and explosive power landing, according to one of the trainers.

Teaching culture, beliefs, values and behaviors are also part of basic training now that CSF is being used. 

“We used to train the seven core Army values — loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage — using PowerPoint slides,” Sarvis said. “This didn’t hold (Soldiers’) attention very well. 

“Now, we use interactive, scenario-based training, which allows Soldiers to interact with the videos, making decisions along the way (that is) reinforced by the drill sergeants,” he said.

Resiliency training is also another important aspect of basic training, Sarvis said, explaining that Soldiers now need to bounce back from stress. 

Trainees receive the global assessment tool within the first 10 days of training, and the Army then tracks how they improve or decline over their careers. GAT is a self-appraisal designed to boost personal growth, strengthen relationships and give Soldiers better coping skills for dealing with potentially traumatic events. 

GAT can also be used to indicate when Soldiers need to seek professional help. 

“Twenty-five percent of all drill sergeants are master-resiliency trained; they can help show how trainees can effectively deal with stress,” Sarvis said. 

Category: Army News Service, News

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