'Unique generation' of Soldiers will 'learn differently'
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FORT KNOX, Ky. (Jan. 22, 2010) -- Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the Training and Doctrine's deputy commanding general for Initial Military Training, spent some time at Fort Knox last week for a conference on reception battalions.

Hertling said the conference was being conducted on post because Fort Knox has a "very good" reception battalion, and representatives from the Army's other four reception battalions would be observing the best practices of the 46th Adjutant General Battalion.

Reception is just one of the many aspects of the new organization, IMT, which stood up in September 2009. Its mission is to bring more consistency to Army standards, especially as they are applied to training at the earliest encounters with new Soldiers and officers.

On a daily basis, Hertling said, roughly 47,000 students -- Soldiers-in-training or young officers -- are in initial military training.

Several factors contributed to the creation of the IMT.

The Soldiers themselves have changed, according to Hertling.

"We have a very unique generation of Soldiers coming into the force," he said. "They learn differently and (the Army) must train them differently."

In addition, Hertling said what the Army trains has changed.

"We have to train them for things that we've never trained for before -- a conflict that may last decades as opposed to years," he said. "It's also much more complicated than it's ever been before."

Not only have the Army's battles shifted, but units are learning that Soldiers have been trained differently at various basic training sites, so there is some deviation in their skills. Hertling wants those deviations gone.

He maintains that sometimes the Army has tried to train too many things, which can result in "task paralysis," and a generalized loss of focus.

In other cases, Hertling said the Army is teaching skills that have little use in today's conflicts.

"For example, bayonet training -- something that's been a staple in our Army -- is kind of hard to teach right now when most of the weapons we use don't have the ability to affix a bayonet. So why are we training it'" he asked. "We're changing the way we train fighting with a rifle, and that's how we're couching it now, as opposed to bayonet training."

However, basic training menus will continue to focus on skills that are near and dear to drill sergeants, like rifle marksmanship and physical conditioning, albeit with a few caveats.

"We have statistical data gathered over the last years that shows we have an unbelievable decline in American society -- increasing obesity, decreasing physical capacity, decreasing bone strength," Hertling said. "All of those things contribute to the health of our youth, so we have to do a very fine balancing act between physical training and not injuring the Soldier. You have to bring them on board through a process."

Given these differences, Hertling said he has several changes planned for the Army's trainers.

"We've begun an analysis of how we train values," he said. "In the past, we had drill sergeants teaching the seven Army values by telling stories. Well, if you have 9,000 drill sergeants -- like we do -- that means you have 9,000 different stories to inculcate values. So, we have a project ongoing to determine the best way to teach the seven Army values, the Soldier's creed, and the warrior ethos."

Hertling has also asked for a review of combatives with a view to moving away from wrestling techniques. He expects a completely revamped program to be ready in the next two-to-three months, based on the work that the combative program's proponent, Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, has done with subject-matter experts in martial arts, fighting techniques, and rifle fighting.

Another change based on lessons learned from combat and medical SMEs is a shift in first-aid training. No longer called Combat Lifesaving but instead Tactical Combat Casualty Care, first aid to be taught in basic training will eliminate the standard IV stick, which isn't as helpful in a combat situation as originally thought.

Hertling added that the basic training program of instruction will be totally rewritten to reflect these -- and other -- changes. The reworked POI should be available soon because the Army tech writers are already working on the second half of the rewrite.

Coming soon, Hertling said, will be the global assessment tool as part of the <a href="http://www.army.mil/csf" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Comprehensive Soldier Fitness</a> program. New Soldiers will be surveyed for strengths in five areas: mental, physical, social, family, and spiritual. If a Soldier shows social skill deficiencies, for example, he'll be given additional programs to help him improve his social skills and build resiliency at the same time.

Another area under the IMT's inspection is the relay of information, especially from the initial-entry battalion to a Soldier's first unit of assignment.

"Believe it or not, even though we're an Army over 200 years old with a lot of technology, we still transfer data to that first unit in a little brown envelope that the Soldier hand-carries," Hertling explained. "A young Soldier could easily open that envelope and take out what he doesn't want reported to his unit. (The new unit) won't know how he qualified with his weapon, or if he did first-aid training, if he passed his PT test, or whatever."

A new program called the Digital Training Manual System should eliminate those problems, and if it works as intended, it would stay with a Soldier for his entire career. It would also link to the <a href="http://www.va.gov/" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Veterans Administration</a>, which should help close the gap in medical care that still occurs between active-duty and retiring Soldiers.

Most of these changes affect enlisted Soldiers, however, Hertling said officer training would also be affected. For young officers at Knox, he said the joint training of armor and infantry would present the most change.

"Colonel (Leopold) Quintas (commander of 1/16 Cavalry) was telling me today that he's working hard right now to determine the best practices to pass to (Fort) Benning on how to train armor/cavalry officers. There are some things that are very different from an infantry perspective. They are both maneuver officers, but there are some techniques you want to train armor/cavalry men differently than you might train infantrymen."

"Colonel Quintas and Colonel (David) Thompson (commander of the 194th Armored Brigade) -- those two guys here -- you could not have better brigade commanders for the kind of jobs they're doing now."

"We're just trying to gain efficiencies and make better Soldiers," Hertling said.