FORT BENNING, Ga. - The long-awaited graduation day arrived Thursday for C Company's Soldiers.

After a week spent reviewing military tactics, cleaning equipment and packing bags, the more than 230 Soldiers of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 192nd Infantry Brigade, are ready for their next step in the Army - advanced individual training.

But on graduation day, it was all about living in the moment and reflecting on what they've learned.

It's not every day a private thanks his drill sergeant for "chewing him out," but PVT Jadevendell Williams, 21, said he was on the wrong path until his drill sergeants set him straight.

"Back in week two, my drill sergeants helped me 'tighten up,'" Williams said about an eye-rolling incident in the dining facility. "I had a little attitude and they told me I wanted to get rid of that because it wouldn't be helpful for me in the regular Army and in my career."

Williams said his drill sergeants inspired him to change and he's happier for it.

"The best part of this experience has been gaining more discipline and becoming more physically fit," said Williams, of Washington, D.C.

Williams looked forward to hearing what his family members had to say about his improved physique. "I've lost five pounds and gained more muscle. On a scale of one to 10, I would say I was a 'six' prior to basic training and now I'm a 'nine.'"

Williams is headed to a school at Fort Gordon, Ga., to become a nodal network systems operator. He said he hopes to eventually get a degree in information technology using his military college benefits.

PVT Adian Webber, 18, said he's gained a lot of self-confidence from his experience.

"You feel better about yourself when you reach the end," he said. "I felt great after we completed the 10-mile ruckmarch. We marched out carrying big rucksacks and it was hard, but we pulled through and made it to the end. If you can go through all of that, you feel like you could pretty much take on anything."

Webber, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., is headed to Fort Rucker, Ala., to train as an aviation operations specialist.

"In the past nine weeks, the Soldiers have changed not only physically but emotionally, mentally. They start to live by the Army values and embrace the warrior ethos," said CPT Ryan Oliver, company commander.

SSG Edward Tackett, a 3rd Platoon drill sergeant, said his goal in training the Soldiers was to prepare them for the unexpected.

"They could be hit in a convoy and the nearest Infantry unit could be several miles away," said Tackett, who draws on his experiences from 10 previous deployments when training troops. "They would have to defend themselves until reinforcements showed up.

We try to teach them to be forceful and aggressive so if they're attacked they don't have to necessarily rely on an Infantry unit to come in and play 'Rescue Ranger.'"

SSG Nicholas Threlkeld, a 4th Platoon drill sergeant, said once the Soldiers get to advanced individual training they will continue to build upon what they've learned. At the end of AIT, they'll be ready for integration into the Army.

His words of advice to the Soldiers'

"They will get out of the Army what they put into it," he said. "If they wake up with a bad mood, they're going to stay in a bad mood and do bad things. If they wake up motivated and ready to go, they can do anything they want that day."

Oliver said the cadre will not have much time to reflect on the transition the recruits have made from civilians to Soldiers, but years from now, when their drill sergeant cycles are done, they may.

"You pat yourself on the back for about 30 seconds and then start planning for the next 240 guys you're picking up in a couple of weeks," Oliver said. "But it feels pretty good to know we are putting another 230-odd quality Soldiers into the Army to do good things ... and we may even serve together in the future."

C Company's next cycle begins May 4.

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