FORT EUSTIS, Va. — National Guard leaders from all fifty states and four territories gathered at Fort Eustis from Oct. 24-25, 2023, to share best practices and lessons learned from their individual Recruit Sustainment Programs.
An RSP is a state-operated program that allows new recruits to be exposed to drill sergeants, military customs and courtesies, and begin physical training to meet the rigors of basic training.
“We are here to listen, learn and collaborate on ways the National Guard is seeing success preparing trainees to overcome the rigors of Initial Military Training,” said Maj. Ryan Short, deputy chief of staff, Army National Guard, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training. “We are going to take these best practices and better understand how we can continue to improve our processes on transforming civilians into Soldiers.”
Historically, the National Guard has the lowest attrition rates within Initial Military Training, and the credit has been given to RSP.
“The skills that trainees, coming from RSP, already have makes the jobs of drill sergeants easier,” said Army National Guard Sgt. Maj. Allen Watts. “Trainees showing up with background knowledge of Army structure, physical training and rank structure allows drill sergeants on the trail to spend more time honing their skill level 1 tasks like tifle marksmanship”.
Trainees participating in their state RSP are also streamlined through the reception process once they arrive at basic training. While RSP doesn’t remove reception operations, their home unit can ensure that the trainee’s paperwork is correctly filled out before arrival.
“A common issue for new trainees is making sure they’re in processing with the correct administrative documents and receiving the correct benefits,” said Watts. “Going through RSP, allows their unit to input their administrative information prior to shipping to basic and if issues still come up, the National Guard liaison non-commissioned officers are there to facilitate”.
Gathering all parties in one place has been nearly a two-year-long effort for Maj. Ryan Short. “We see great things throughout our 54 states and territories, but until now haven’t been able to bring all of these key players together,” said Short. “RSP is a trainees first exposure to the Army, and when we get it right, it not only allows for the trainees to get the best first experience possible, but we also see stronger Soldiers on the backside because of it”.