By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)January 10, 2014
The Soldiers-in-training of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment are all learning about the Army together -- but not all of them are learning about military life together.
Nine of the 176 Soldiers-in-training are noncommissioned officers from either the Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force.
Soldiers-in-training of Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment seal their gas masks before heading into the CS gas (tear gas) Confidence Chamber. This company has nine prior-service NCOs among its trainees which will graduate in February.
"As soon as we received accountability, we assigned three NCOs to each platoon to distribute the experience throughout the company," said Capt. Memorina Barnes, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment commander. "We had one NCO in training two cycles ago, but this is the most we've ever seen come through at one time."
One of the Soldiers-in-training is Sgt. Michael Capps. The 36-year-old spent 13 years in the Navy as an aviation ordnanceman and recruiter.
"I'm wanting to finish up my 20 years. I also want to finish my bachelor's degree," Capps said.
"Basic is easier for me this time, because I understand exactly what the drill sergeants are trying to accomplish," he said.
Capps said being an experienced service member surrounded by young Soldiers is a new experience.
"My name probably gets called at least 100 times a day. They are always coming to me trying to figure out what's going on," he said.
According to Barnes, the NCOs are an added benefit to her company, because they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the new trainees.
"A majority of them have been deployed. They are encouraged to share their prior-service experiences to coach, teach and motivate the new trainees," Barnes said. "We take full advantage of their experience and leadership abilities to augment the cadre during training. An example of their augmentation is to assist the drill sergeants to adjust front-sight posts during (weapon firing.)"
The NCOs may train with the younger Soldiers, but they don't share the same living space. The NCOs are assigned separate living areas.
"We give these NCOs the same respect, courtesy and treatment we give any NCO in the U.S. Army, with the understanding that they are undergoing Basic Combat Training," Barnes said.
Former Sailor, Staff Sgt. Odis Houston, said he is enjoying BCT.
"This is more combat. I love the physical aspect of the Army. This training is phenomenal. They really push you to your limits," Houston said.
According to the company commander, the focus of training is no doubt on basic combat, but the first sergeant and drill sergeants of 3-10th Inf. Bn. give the NCOs additional guidance on Army NCO responsibilities.
Thirty-three-year-old Houston spent 13 years as a cryptologic technician for the Navy. Houston said he chose to join the Army because leaving his Navy career to pursue work outside the military was bad timing.
"I was looking to get a civilian job but with the sequester I had to make the decision about reenlisting. At the time, Navy Reserves was really backed up, so I decided to go National Guard," Houston said.
He has a theory on why there are so many NCOs in his BCT company.
"It's a reflection on where our nation is right now. I see people turning back to the military, because of our economy and the way it's going. I believe that is a deciding factor for many. It's very difficult to get jobs now. And now, even the military is downsizing," Houston said.
And at the end of the day, Capps said he is glad there are other NCOs in his company to share the experience of becoming a Soldier.
"It's a blessing to be able to go through this with other NCOs. We all can go through the pains and enjoyment of it all together," Capps said.
A new experience for the company commander, Barnes said having so many NCOs in BCT has been a positive one.
"These NCOs came from all walks-of-life and from three different military branches. They each have something to add to this experience. They are exceptionally motivated and competent and willing to learn," Barnes said.
One of their walks-of-life a little longer than the rest. In next week's GUIDON, the second part of this two part series, will introduce you to another NCO of Company A, 3-10th Inf. Bn. -- Sgt. Steven Lyzenga, a 52-year-old grandpa and former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, currently in BCT on Fort Leonard Wood.
(Editor's note: this is part one of a two part series.)