FORT MOORE, Ga. — Pvts. Nia Bautista and Shelby Rabbitt-Thomas recently scored new jobs and additional signing bonuses after completing three weeks of Army training in the Academic Skills Development Program at Fort Moore, July 14.
They initially qualified as wheeled vehicle mechanics; each had their heart set on a different path. Both recruits volunteered to attend the ASDP, where they performed successfully and were able to make their shared dream a reality.
“Since I scored well on the test, I was afforded the opportunity to reclassify as a (combat medic specialist) with a $7,500 sign-on bonus and an Airborne (course) date,” Bautista said. Rabbitt-Thomas also earned a path toward the new military occupation specialty and an additional signing bonus.
The ASDP was created in January to enhance the academic abilities of new U.S. Army Soldiers. The Army Training and Doctrine Command-developed program allows recruits to improve the Armed Forces Classification Test, or AFCT, scores they earn during their recruiting process. The classroom-based training culminates in a second exam, which can result in future Soldiers testing into more competitive Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score categories, providing them the possibility of job reclassification, monetary bonuses and duty stations of choice.
"The only thing we ask a trainee when they first show up is that they are willing to learn," said Sgt. 1st Class Kurtis J. Perez, an ASDP instructor. "It's a rewarding experience because you get trainees who are invested in bettering themselves and it motivates us to give them a positive learning environment, not just academically, but for life experience too."
More than 200 students have attended the program since January, with class sizes and final individual test scores consistently trending upward. Last month, nearly three-quarters of students attending the ASDP earned the opportunity for new jobs, bonuses and additional assignments as a direct result of their performance.
"Scores have gone up exponentially," Perez said. "It's awesome to see the transition from graduation rates around 40 to 50 percent now at 60 to 70 percent, with scores drastically improving."
The program supports Army recruiting efforts by offsetting educational inequality amongst recruits and bolstering the number of highly qualified recruits for the services.
"ASDP is a strategic effort to help the U.S. Army meet its annual recruiting requirements without lowering the Army's demanding standards," said battalion commander Lt. Col. Brian Canny.
While meeting the Army’s academic standard to join the service, Bautista improved her AFCT score from 38 to 90 by the end of her course. Rabbitt-Thomas said she rose from 48 to 80. Both credit their success to hard work and helpful instructors.
“Instructors provided helpful study materials,” Bautista said. “I asked questions and reworked problems I didn’t understand.”
The 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade hosts the ASDP in its Sand Hill battalion training area, where Soldiers train to become Infantrymen.
“Drill sergeants on Sand Hill are known for transforming civilians into the most mentally and physically tough Soldiers in the world,” Canny said. “The ASDP works to provide the Army’s fighting force a new generation of more confident and educated Soldiers.”
The program achieves this by affording ASDP students the time, space and expertise to develop themselves academically. Coursework focuses on four critical areas of knowledge: arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension and math knowledge. During class, ASDP instructors provide in-person classroom instruction, intensive practice problems and competitive group activities. Classroom operations involve reviewing over 150 vocabulary words, advanced reading analysis and mathematic concepts spanning logical problem-solving to calculus and geometry.
The program equips students with the fundamental skills necessary for success in the Army and beyond," said Christy Montgomery, ASDP lead academic instructor.
Initially, only drill sergeants taught at ASDP. Recently, the program has grown with an additional twelve experienced civilian teachers who provide the resources and know-how for all facets of the AFCT. Since this addition, test scores have steadily increased, Canny said.
“Our primary focus is academics,” said Capt. Randall Dunlap, commander of 1st Battalion’s D Company, which conducts the ASDP. “However, we prepare students for the military lifestyle both physically and mentally.”
In addition to six hours of daily academic classes, ASDP students start daily with an hour of physical training. This structured PT prepares students for the Army Combat Fitness Test and demonstrates proper execution of dynamic stretching, running, calisthenics and weightlifting. ASDP drill sergeants also provide a daily one-hour class on topics such as Army regulations, basic weapon familiarization, finance, nutrition and many other skills a Soldier must know.
“These classes ensure students succeed not only in initial entry training but also throughout their careers,” Dunlap said.
Bautista and Rabbitt-Thomas departed Friday to continue initial military training for their new military occupation specialty at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.