Voluntary Reclassification Initiative for 3rd ID 19K

By Pfc. Destiny HusbandJuly 24, 2023

The 3rd Infantry Division is leveraging the flexibility and trainability of infantry Soldiers (11B) in addressing a shortage of M1 armored vehicle crew members (19K) as a way to use local assets to solve a problem in the division that is currently plaguing the Army nationwide.

This coordinated effort began with a XVIII Airborne Corps resource conference. The shortage is an issue across the Army, but the division’s solution allows Dogface Soldiers to broaden their careers and skillsets while leveraging a innovative way to transition to a new job field without having to attend Advanced Individual Training.

There are two unique options available for an 11B to become a 19K. One is by qualifying as a loader during a live-fire exercise (commonly referred to in the Army as “gunnery”). The other is by completing a Combat Training Center rotation. As part of the Army training program, CTC rotations offer brigade-level training exercises for armored, infantry, and Stryker brigade combat teams. Soldiers who need additional training ship to Fort Moore for AIT to earn 19K as their primary Military Occupational Specialty and continue as an 11B for their secondary.

Spc. Jeremiah Salazar, a new 19K assigned to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, transitioned by qualifying as a loader at a gunnery. He said that his experience with his new responsibilities made him realize how essential 19Ks are when protecting our nation.

“Having 19Ks means that we can definitely dominate the fight,” Salazar said.

Tanks are are among the most recognizable representations of contemporary warfare and offer their crews excellent defense against adversaries.

“Our main platform is the Abrams tank, so to have the crew trained and able to operate that platform is very significant for the 3rd Infantry Division,” said Sgt. Maj. Jason E. Insell, the senior enlisted advisor for 3rd ID’s personnel office.

Insell, along with other senior enlisted personnel, was an integral part in creating this reclassification solution for 3rd ID. His office's mission is to execute efficient personnel strategy, direct and oversee initiatives that increase sustained personnel preparedness, and manage projects that benefit the Army's most valuable resource: Soldiers.

“For Soldier development, it's really good because it shows that a handful of Soldiers can not only do one job, but can also do another,” said Spc. Matthew Hondo, another new 19K assigned to 3rd Bn., 15th IR.

Hondo spoke about how getting into a tank for the first time made him notice the significance of being a tanker, and that he had made the right choice when he volunteered to transfer from 11B to 19K.

Early this year, Soldiers who volunteered for the program had nearly a month to complete hands-on training to transition to 19K while preparing for an upcoming National Training Center rotation.

“The first two weeks were a little stressful because when you get inside the tank, you have little idea of how things operate, but over time, you learn everything,” Salazar said.

Approximately 40 Soldiers volunteered to reclass, though many did not need additional training. 19Ks have four different positions in a tank: a driver, loader, truck commander, and gunnery operator. The majority of infantrymen have the necessary training to be a loader, which made the transfer relatively easy. The speed in which infantrymen could be trained to do the job not only increased the readiness of the entire division, but also spoke to the quality and trainability of the Army’s infantrymen.

“What it comes down to is essentially 3rd ID finding a way to try to solve our own manning issue,” Insell said.

It is projected that the number of 19Ks will continue to decline across the Army, but 3rd ID has shown once again why Soldiers are the most valuable asset in our division, while also giving junior Soldiers new opportunities to broaden their military careers.