By Thomas Brading, Army News ServiceNovember 4, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The Army has permanently broadened one-station unit training for infantry Soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks, with more combat arms career fields expected to follow the charge.
The additional eight-week push for infantry, which replaced a model dating back over 40 years, was designed to build better Soldiers through increased lethality and readiness, said Sgt. 1st Class Tysin Davis, a 198th Infantry Brigade drill sergeant in charge of training future infantrymen.
Earlier this month, armor crewmen and cavalry scout recruits began an extended OSUT pilot program, following infantry's lead. If approved, their 22-week programs will become permanent next year, while other combat arms careers look to do the same.
"The decision was made simultaneously to increase the OSUT of other branches within the Army," said Col. Townley R. Hedrick, Infantry School deputy commandant. "Infantry was further ahead in planning, so the decision was made to start the [infantry] OSUT earlier and use the lessons learned to help shape the other branch OSUT increases to the 22-week model."
The longer training infantry pipeline -- kicked off as a pilot phase last year -- gives "a lot more trigger time" to Soldiers, Davis said, adding that additional weapons training lets privates shoot roughly 1,300 more rounds per Soldier, and hit their 10-level tasks more often.
And, more time on the firing range means an increased number of weapons qualifications, Davis said, along with other additional small-unit and individual skills -- each being fundamental reasons for the extended OSUT.
The increased training isn't meant to focus on innovations, said Col. Dave Voorhies, 198th Infantry Brigade commander, last year in a news release. It's designed to establish "firmer training fundamentals: marksmanship, physical training, land navigation, the ability to medicate, combat lifesaver skills, combat water survival, Soldier discipline, and more" -- all under the leadership of their initial drill sergeant.
"If we do our jobs appropriately, if we professionally mold these young men and women into infantry Soldiers, they'll be able to out-PT their team leader, and out-shoot their squad leader," Voorhies said.
FORGING STRONGER LEADERS
The increased training doesn't just build better infantry, but instructors say they get to witness Soldiers "become leaders out the other side," said Staff Sgt. Jason Semple, a 198th Infantry Brigade drill sergeant.
During OSUT, Soldiers take on, and rotate various roles, from "the platoon sergeant, squad leaders, team leaders, they do everything," Semple said. Within their roles, Soldiers experience leadership tasks through various exercises, such as door breaching.
"It's good everybody gets a swing at [leadership roles] because a lot of these guys, being as young as they are, probably haven't been in a leadership role," said Pvt. Zach Brewer, who said he joined the military "much later in life."
"The 22-week system is an improved version from the 14-week model," said Pvt. Titus Kovalik, an infantryman recruit currently in training. "I've heard a lot of the privates who graduate in 14 weeks and they don't know what they're doing. They have to relearn everything, and learn pretty much all the basics when they get to their unit."
The extended OSUT program was designed to fix the "crammed 14 week, get 'em in, get 'em out mentality," Davis said. "Drill sergeants have a lot more space and time to ensure that everyone's tracking."
In addition to the baseline experiences of individual tasks, Davis added Soldiers also benefit from having additional time to take on collective tasks. "So, when [Soldiers] get to their units, they can understand where their piece fits into the pie."
Rolled out last year, OSUT's initial 22-week pilot phase was "the first step toward achieving the vision of the Army of 2028," said then-Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. "With more time to train on critical infantry tasks, we'll achieve greater lethality."
The Army Vision, announced in 2018 by then-Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, a former infantry officer himself, was created to position the Army to be "ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any adversary, anytime and anywhere."
To meet that goal, six modernization priorities, one of which is Soldier lethality, were developed by Army leaders to prepare Soldiers against near-peer competitors. Since then, changes from the top-down have occurred from the readiness of the force to modernizing equipment.
Even with the 22-week timeframe locked in, the Army Infantry School, partnered with the Maneuver Center of Excellence, "will continue to evaluate the overhauled OSUT program throughout this year and next, with a goal of pipelining ten 22-week courses this year," Voorhies said.
To meet modernization goals, the Army is set to invest in roughly 20,500 infantrymen annually, with one-time bonuses available to qualified new recruits and Soldiers reclassifying. However, for many of the recruits it's about the experience.
"In every measurable aspect of lethality - fitness, discipline, technical and tactical skills - our new 22-week [infantry] OSUT graduates are showing improved levels of proficiency," Hedrick said. "This is an investment in the Army's lethality for the security of the United States now and into the future."