By Jeff Crawley, Fort Sill CannoneerFebruary 27, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (Feb. 27, 2014) -- Callie Harper of Yukon, Okla., said she knew she wanted to join the military since the first grade. When she turned 18 years old she started the paperwork to join the Army Reserve. After she graduates from Yukon High School this year, she will report to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in July for Basic Combat Training, and follow that with military police training there.
Harper was one of about 80 future Soldiers ushered to Fort Sill by their recruiters from Oklahoma and Wichita Falls, Texas, who got a glimpse of BCT Feb. 22. They spent the day with drill sergeants, Soldiers well into BCT and other staff from E Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery who showed them what BCT is really like.
"I've been able to talk to the drill sergeants and that has been a big help," said Harper, who will be assigned to a Stillwater Reserve unit. "Basic training isn't going to be as scary as all the rumors say."
The future Soldiers are enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program and they came from recruiting centers under the Oklahoma City (OKC) Recruiting Battalion as part of its quarterly Future Soldier Olympics.
At Fort Sill, the future Soldiers fired weapons at an Engagement Skills Trainer (EST); observed current trainees fight in a pugil sticks competition; ate at the Rock House Dining Facility; learned basic map reading, terrain identification, enlisted rank structure; and performed part of the physical training test.
Inside Bldg. 6050, E/1-40th FA Drill Sergeants (Staff Sgts.) Ashley Whitaker and Daniel Jones and eight Soldiers in BCT met with the recruits.
"We want to set you up for success, so you don't get lost in the sauce in Basic Combat Training," Jones told the Future Soldiers. After a video presentation and slide show of what and what not to bring, the group broke off into two groups: men and women, so they could ask candid questions of the drill sergeants and BCT Soldiers.
Questions ranged from bringing cell phones to sleep hours to PT to attending worship services. One of the BCT Soldiers said the toughest part was the adjustment to the military mindset, while another reassured the future Soldiers that after a couple weeks they would get into the BCT routine.
First Sgt. William Jacobs, E/1-40th FA, said the battalion regularly supports the future Soldiers, but it was the first time the battery hosted the program. The battery's Soldiers provided the trainees first hand knowledge about what to expect in BCT.
"There are a lot of fears and misconceptions about basic training," Jacobs said. "People learn about training from movies like 'Full Metal Jacket' and that's very far from the training we execute now."
At EST No. 1, the future Soldiers fired M240 and M249 machine guns, M9 pistols and M16 rifles, which emit an infrared light and pneumatic recoil when fired at indoor targets. No marksmen scores were kept, instead the trainees were just getting use to firing commands and getting familiar with the weapons, said Jim Denekas, training instructor.
"They had fun, and I think that's what the recruiters' intent was," he said.
Future Soldier Cody Shaw, 20, of OKC, said he enlisted in the Army to "change my life around and raise may family right." (He'll marry in December.) He said he gained much from the BCT orientation.
"It's been very helpful. It's a real good heads-up, without it I'd be lost in the woods," said Shaw, who will become a petroleum specialist. ."
Future Soldier Zachary Atwood, 18, of Edmond, was departing for BCT the next day to Fort Benning, Ga.
"Chow was delicious. I expected it to be and it was outstanding," said Atwood, who plans to eventually go into Army recruiting.
Sgt. Gary Mabry, OKC Recruiting Battalion-West recruiter, said BCT is much different today than when he was a trainee in 2008, at Fort Benning.
"Now it's a more relaxed environment, and we're dealing with a higher educated population, so we're able to do more verbal directions," he said.
Lawton Recruiting Company Recruiter' Sgt. 1st Class Lorontia Carter's advice to the Future Soldiers was simple: "Take heed to what is being taught to you today, because it will benefit you in your future endeavors.
Carter said she has spoken to trainees who went through the Future Soldier Olympics and then completed BCT.
"They said it prepared them -- instead of going in blindly, and not knowing and being shocked," she said.