AG School officers revisit basic Soldier skills
September 12, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Soldiers taking part in the Adjutant General School's Basic Officer Leader Course are returning to the fundamental aspects of their professions. Part of an effort to get Soldiers "back to basics," the initiative is designed to encourage the development of skills that have fallen out of favor during extended conflicts in the Middle East.
Last week, Soldiers took part in field training exercises designed to replicate combat situations, giving Soldiers in the course the opportunity to test their full array of Soldier skills. Activities ranged from academic exercises to handson challenges involving Basic Combat Training skills.
"This training will help our young officers transition to our everyday changing Army," said Maj. Randy Lefebvre, chief of the Basic Officer Training Division. The goal is for Soldiers to demonstrate applied learning through field exercises, including causality aid, detainee searches, road marches and other activities."
"What we're trying to accomplish at the field training exercise is to expose lieutenants not only to the technical tasks that they do as AG officers, but also making them realize what Soldiers do," said Capt. Jacqueline Murray-Bonno, an instructor at the Adjutant General School. "We're letting them know what they'd be expected to do in a combat theater."
Some of the exercises are the same as those being conducted with Soldiers in Basic Combat Training, she said, while others are unique to human resources officers.
"They'll be given situations on how to react when they have a Soldier who does something outstanding or extraordinary, on how to do positive counseling, as well as negative counseling," Murray-Bonno said. "Then they'll do roving guard duty through the night, followed by a road march."
She said basic Soldier tasks became less important in Adjutant General School training after the recruitment surge that followed the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Even the site used for last week's exercises, Camp Ramadi, has not been in use during the last seven years.
"We're incorporating them again, making sure that they're sound in those basic fundamentals as the Army gets smaller," she said.
For some of the Soldiers taking part in last week's training, some of these skills tasks were relatively new. For others, it was a chance to brush up on skills they have not used since the start of their Army careers.
"Being a former infantryman, the academic side was a little challenging for me," said 2nd Lt. David Rodriguez, who is assigned to a Special Forces unit at Camp Blanding, Fla. "I'm used to doing the job physically, and the Adjutant General side is a lot different. It's more technical and academic. I knew that coming in, and I accepted that challenge."
Second Lt. Grace Lowitzer, who is headed next to 52nd Ordnance Group at Fort Campbell, Ky., said last week's tests were an opportunity to put their learned skills to use.
"It gives us the chance to get outside and start practicing some of those soldiering things that you don't always get the opportunity to do," she said. "It also gives us the chance to be thrown into the pot and really see what it's like to do our jobs together. We've been doing it for nine weeks now, so it's really exciting to put everything together and see what we're doing."
There was a wide gap in both age and experience among the Soldiers taking part in last week's field exercises, but it ultimately made them a stronger team, said 2nd Lt. Brian Metzner, 108th Training Command.
"We tend to be a class made up of folks age 23 or 24, and just coming out of school," Metzner said. "But we also had folks who are prior service and have more age under their bracket, Soldiers in their mid 30s and late 40s. It's created an interesting mix of personalities. We've had to learn how to become a team and accomplish what's necessary."
"You've got a lot of prior service Soldiers here, and a lot of Soldiers coming right out of college, Leader Development and Assessment Course, or ROTC," Rodriguez said. "Mix us together, and you have the academic experience and the life experience of the older Soldiers."