FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Feb. 13, 2020) -- Thirteen Future Soldiers, all hailing from Southwest Oklahoma and ranging in age from 17 to 25 years, initially assembled at the rear of an indoor training bay Feb. 6 to observe E Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery trainees pair off and engage in combatives before marshalling upstairs to take in the finer points of making a proper military bed with its crisp hospital corners and precise 6-inch white collar.This gathering held the distinction of being the first Future Soldiers to tour E/1-79th FA and to observe basic combat training (BCT) trainees under the ever watchful eyes and tutelage of their drill sergeants."We're working now to establish this as a recurring event within the battalion," said Capt. Nicholas Ocegueda, E/1-79th FA commander. "Because this battalion conducts BCT operations 50 weeks a year, it can readily schedule such escorted training observation sessions for Future Soldiers. We see their visits as a means to showcase what we do."According to Ocegueda, 1-79th FA Commander Lt. Col. Eric Kunak has encouraged his battalion to actively and aggressively "facilitate recruitment in order to meet the Army's goals."Fort Sill has seized upon the advantage of its local Army recruiters having surpassed their goals, and that is due, to some extent, to the number of "military brats" found in Southwest Oklahoma's recruiting pool and in several pockets elsewhere in the state, as well as across the Red River, south into north Texas."We see quite a few multi-generational Soldiers here," Ocegueda said, referring to potential recruits, Future Soldiers and trainees whose parent(s) and grandparent(s) served in the military."We want to demystify what's right in front of them" by introducing elements of BCT and letting them observe exactly how drill sergeants motivate, teach and correct Soldiers in training, Ocegueda said.The Future Soldier Training System prepares the Army's Future Soldiers and their family members (spouses and parents) during their transition from the civilian sector into the Army's lifestyle.And, for the Future Soldiers themselves, it lessens some of the apprehension encountered prior to and throughout BCT.Working hand-in-glove with an Army recruiter and after having been tested and processed through a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) where they have signed a contract and received both a ship date and an enlistment date, each Future Soldier is issued a futuresoldiers.com username and password by that recruiter.Once logged in at the futuresoldiers.com website, each Future Soldier discovers, better visualizes, and - in some cases - practices beforehand that which is expected of him or her during BCT's nine weeks and five days of training.Online, these Future Soldiers have access to videos which depict Soldiers in various scenarios comporting themselves admirably, in the finest of Army values and traditions; they can participate in various interactive gaming environments, some of which actively engage them in play all the while revealing but a sample of the Army's rich history, traditions and lore; and they can complete such online military training courses as telling military time, the phonetic alphabet, drill and ceremonies, first aid, and land navigation.A Future Soldier's spouse or parent will have access to additional areas within the futuresoldiers.com website that are not available to the general public.Spouses may also have the opportunity to register with the website's Family Information Center (FIC), an invaluable resource for obtaining specific information on countless topics of interest, ranging from eligibility for TRICARE (a DoD Military Health System healthcare and insurance program) to Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) enrollment to all matters pertaining to a personal financial record and financial management strategies to other benefits afforded Soldiers and their family members, and for asking questions.Why the emphasis on precision bed-making?Back up in one of E/1-79th FA's 60-man bays, local U.S. Army Recruiting Station Station Commander Sgt. 1st Class William Hill explained to the Future Soldiers that military bed-making is - as are most things in the Army - a drill, and that the very act of rehearsal, the art of refining repetitive skills, helps develop a Soldier's discipline and attention to even the smallest and seemingly-in-that-moment most insignificant of details."Learn from your peers. Practice, practice, practice," said Hill. "You'll be surprised how fast you can get these things done when you practice them every single day.""While you can make a bunk by yourself," said Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Randy Blakemore, "it really does take teamwork" to best accomplish that task.Singularly, it might take six minutes to properly make such a bunk to Army standard. But, Hill proposed, with an equally skilled teammate joining in to tackle the task, that time could be shaved by half."Teamwork is essential to success in the Army because," Hill sternly forewarned his charges, none of whom had yet to experience this concept in practice, "in Basic, every second saved matters.""Everything here has a purpose. Focus on the task at hand in spite of the stress, in spite of people screaming around you," encouraged Ocegueda. "Make sure you can accomplish the task, regardless of what's going on around you.""While initially very demanding of all that you do, your drill sergeants will eventually adopt a more mentoring or coaching role," Ocegueda said. "They want you to succeed, as your success is their success."Mastering military bed-making and other housekeeping tasks also serves to develop pride in oneself, while establishing and maintaining good order in the troop barracks, freeing up Soldiers to concentrate on other, weightier things on the BCT training schedule.Accomplish that, adopt the mindset to do all things ever tasked, asked or expected of you to your utmost ability, said Hill, and leadership around you will take notice. And such notice, in turn, might well afford those Soldiers selection for advanced or specialty schooling, training and assignment opportunities they might not otherwise be offered.Looking further down the BCT training syllabus and as but one example, Hill said, "If you want to go to Airborne School but there are no quotas left at that moment, do your best in everything - your physical fitness test scores, your basic rifle marksmanship scores, everything. People will see that and take notice; they will give you what you want."Blakemore added, "Take that schooling, whatever it is that's offered you, even if it has no relevance to your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) whatsoever. You might be an engineer with a Ranger tab, but take it. It'll be good for advancing your career."Future Soldier Hayden O'Hern, 19, from Chickasha, left his job at Braum's Dairy Farms in Tuttle to pursue Army life as a enlisted Soldier. He was scheduled to take his Oath of Enlistment in Oklahoma City on Feb. 11, and is most interested either in being deployed as the eyes and ears of the commander during battle as a Cavalry Scout (MOS 19D) or in serving as a mechanic (MOS 91B).With a family legacy of uncles who served in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, O'Hern, who is single, considered a three-year enlistment to start, with his BCT at Fort Benning, Ga.Married and the mother of two children, 25-year-old Future Soldier Hope Faulkinberry, from Cement had thought about enlisting in the Army for quite some time. Seeking greater financial stability and "with a family depending on me, well, that gave me the final push to enlist," Faulkinberry said.She signed her contract in December, and ships off to basic at Fort Jackson, S.C., Feb. 18 and upon graduation from Basic there heads to Fort Lee, Va., for schooling to become an Ammunition Specialist (MOS 89B).From its handling to storage, an Ammunition Specialist ensures that ordnance is accounted for and properly maintained.According to Hill, as an Ammunition Specialist, Faulkinberry could one day be responsible for "a warehouse stocked with millions of rounds of ammunition of all calibers, everything from small arms ammunition to rockets, every munition used by the U.S. Army."Of her experience at E/1-79th FA, Faulkinberry admitted that she had "watched a lot of videos, so what I saw today was pretty much what I had expected."O'Hern and Faulkinberry credit friends Brandon Mann and Brianna Bonds, respectively, both of whom recently enlisted in the Army and completed BCT, with providing much-appreciated support and encouragement concerning their ultimate decisions to enlist.
While this initial group of Future Soldiers all hailed from southwest Oklahoma, as will most likely the next few groups, a longer-range goal, according to Hill, is to bring to Fort Sill Future Soldiers from Norman, Oklahoma City, Altus and Wichita Falls, Texas, perhaps as early as within the next four weeks.