WASHINGTON -- If you want to get really good at something, you've got to practice doing it a lot, whether it be sports or training for combat, said Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito.
That was the logic behind the Army's decision to extend One Station Unit Training for new Infantry Soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks, said Brito, commander, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, during a presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army's "hot topics" forum Wednesday.
The training is fundamentally the same as what it's always been --- physical fitness, marksmanship, land navigation, drill and so on -- but the repetitions of that training have significantly increased, he said.
Before, when Infantry Soldiers reported to their first duty station, they had some development to undergo before they became proficient and battlefield ready, Brito said. The hope is now they'll be able to hit the ground running, he said.
The pilot for that extended OSUT began July 25, with graduation for the two companies set for Dec. 7. "That's a long time training," he said, adding there were some initial worries about the stress that time would have on the trainees as well as the drill sergeants.
Those fears, however, seem to have been allayed thus far, as there have been no injuries and no one has yet quit or been dropped, he said.
Brito said he thinks the extra marksmanship and grenade training will result in more Soldiers getting expert badges in both events, and that will give them a motivational boost as well.
Soldiers will also get more field time, he said, noting they'll spend 12 nights in the forest and 70 total rucksack marching miles.
A possible problem with the extended OSUT, he said, is how National Guard Soldiers will fare. A 22-week period can be disruptive to their work or college studies, he said, noting a few Guard Soldiers are in the current pilot. The Army will have to give this some careful evaluation, he added.
Brito said that the Army chief of staff wants basic combat training to be a "crucible event" that toughens Soldiers up for possible combat. As such, Brito said he thinks the extended OSUT will do just that and will "revolutionize training."
The extended OSUT is being considered for some other combat arms branches at this time as well, he added.
Besides the extended OSUT, Brito said another revolutionary step the Army is taking is analyzing what types of physical training best corresponds to a more effective warrior.
Brito has talked to some of the researchers involved in the new Army Combat Fitness Test, and he said "there's a lot of science" that went into determining which exercises were needed and how they should be executed. "They took their time to get it right."
Events in the ACFT directly translate to movements on the battlefield, such as scaling a wall or carrying a wounded comrade off the field of battle, he said.
As the ACFT now stands, it is "gender neutral," he said, meaning that males and females get graded the same way for the same exercises. "I don't think that will change after the pilot."
One change being made as a result of the pilot is standardization of the exercise equipment required to execute the ACFT, he said. For instance, the sled's size, weight and shape is now being standardized.