FORT BENNING, Ga. - "The golden rule of basic training is you get what you put into it," said PV2 Jonathan Dunlap. "Put in 110 percent and you will reap the rewards."

Dunlap, who enlisted in the Army to become a combat medic, is one of more than 200 trainees in their fifth week of basic training with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 192nd Infantry Brigade.

Already more than halfway through the nine-week training, the troops continue to get stronger and more confident, said SSG Carmelo Rodriguez, senior drill sergeant for 1st Platoon.

"A lot of families won't recognize their kids on graduation day," Rodriguez said. "Many of them lose a lot of weight here and now stand up straight and tall instead of slouching.

When trainees get here they are timid and shy and talk to you in a low tone of voice but by the time they leave here they're more confident."

The trainees spent the majority of the past two weeks preparing for record qualification on the M16. Depending on their scores, trainees earned the marksman, sharpshooter or expert marksmanship badge. The trainees took their second Army physical fitness test March 8, conducted urban operations training Monday and began advanced rifle marksmanship Tuesday before heading out Wednesday for their chance to throw a live grenade.

PVT Joshua Kihn, squad leader for 4th Squad, 2nd Platoon, shot a perfect 40 out of 40 at the record qualification to earn the "eagle eye" distinction.

"Basic rifle marksmanship has definitely been the highlight of my experience so far," said Kihn, who joined the military as a combat medic. "It's interesting to see how all the training comes together - to see the method to the madness."

Kihn said the urban operations training, where trainees use squad tactics to come upon, search and clear buildings, was an eye-opener.

"You realize how much Infantrymen have to go through," he said. "Most of us out here (signed up to be) combat medics so it's nice to see how some of the other military specialties are experienced."

The physical fitness training is paying off for many Soldiers, including PVT Michael Smith, who said his test scores have improved greatly from the first week he arrived.

"I never thought I'd be able to do as many push-ups as I can do now," said Smith, whose push-up score on the APFT increased nearly 50 percent. "I can do 69 push-ups in two minutes now compared to my first test when I could only do about 34."

Dunlap also saw improvement and went from "bombing" the first APFT Feb. 22 to passing the second APFT.

"'Body by drill sergeant' is better than any gym membership," said Dunlap, using a well-known phrase among the troops to describe the Army's brand of physical training.

Dunlap, team leader for 4th Squad, 1st Platoon, said of all his experiences in Weeks Four and Five, the ruck marches were the most challenging.

The company completed three ruck marches in the last two weeks - 5, 8 and 10 kilometers - in preparation for the culminating event in the final week of training when they will have to complete a 15-kilometer ruck march.

"The ruck marches definitely build a lot of character," Dunlap said. "I went into (the 8-kilometer ruck march) thinking there was no way we were going to be able to make it but by the end I was so proud of myself. The hardest part is when you start beating yourself up mentally when the platoon behind you is catching up to you."

Dunlap said to stay mentally strong he tries to "always remember yesterday."

"Remember how much yesterday sucked and it will make it easier to get through today," he said.

Rodriguez said one of the more noticeable changes in the trainees' demeanor now is their attitude toward teamwork.

"Our goal is to get them away from working as individuals and to start working as a team - we are seeing that now," he said. "They are trying to correct each other now instead of waiting for one of us to tell them they're not squared away, that's always a good thing."

"On Day One, they were confused. They didn't know where to put their bags. They didn't know whether to walk, turn, run - they didn't know what to do," said 1SG Victor Garza, senior NCO for the company. "But five weeks later they are a bit more mature to where they can prepare themselves for the next day's training ... they don't need as much guidance as they needed in the beginning."

In the next two weeks, the trainees will continue training on the M16 and squad tactics. They will also train on other military weapons and prepare for their third field training exercise.

The Soldiers graduate April 15.

Want to know more'
Check out Fort Benning's basic training Web site at

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16