FORT SILL. Okla. -- Like the times, the Army is changing and it's starting from the ground up with Basic Combat Training. The transformation went into effect July 1, as the standard for training future Soldiers.
First, United States Training and Doctrine Command public affairs wanted to dispel any rumors the training has become "softer." In a press release they stated with an extra week of training, the warrior tasks and battle drills have been refined and are now geared toward training fewer and more relevant tasks, well.
"It's not soft. It's just different and the physical training has become a lot more regimented and more battle-focused. It's focused on training more people to achieve that initial basic training standard while mitigating injuries," explained Capt. Kyle Lippold, commander of G Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery.
On Aug. 4, his Soldiers trained at the 25-meter rifle range in their third week of BCT. As they went through basic rifle marksmanship, the most noticeable difference was the lack of kevlars and other familiar gear. The trainees were firing "slick" or in ACUs.
"It lets them feel the recoil of the weapon. You know a lot of people come into the Army without having a lot of experience shooting a weapon. So, in order to let them understand the recoil and how it affects their site picture, how it affects their shooting we have them take their gear off. They put the gear back on for advanced rifle marksmanship," said Lippold.
TRADOC stated rifle marksmanship is more extensive, with more hours on the range, more bullets fired and Soldiers using both basic and advanced techniques.
Lippold continued saying the new standard is geared towards "outcome based training." The Soldiers are taught more of the how and why of what they're doing to give them a better understanding.
"The intent is to develop a more situationally aware Soldier. In the current conflict Soldiers do a lot at the squad and platoon level so they are making strategic decisions," said Lippold.
His example was a Soldier on patrol who may encounter someone in the streets of Baghdad. That Soldier has to quickly decide if that person is a threat or not and therefore they must have the proper knowledge and training.
As Lippold continued to explain the switch, the familiar sounds of drill sergeants loudly correcting Soldiers echoed on the range. Obviously, not everything has changed. One major revamp was to the traditional physical training of pushups, sit-ups and long runs.The new physical readiness training is geared toward progression.
"A lot of these Soldiers come in and haven't been in physical activities in high school so we start out with a preparation drill to warm up the muscles and go on from there," said Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Parrish, who is a Fort Sill drill sergeant. "It used to be you take a Soldier and without the progression you may be putting too much on that Soldier. They're going to inevitably get hurt."
He said he's seen less injuries so far with the new crawl, walk, run methodology. Even in the beginning if some of the Soldiers are more physically fit, he said they all progress to the end state where a rigorous workout is safe for everyone.
The Army is also taking a more holistic approach focusing on nutrition as well to keep Soldiers healthy and resilient.
"We talk nutrition from day one. The health of the Soldier is the bottom line. They're going to be ineffective if they're in sick call, so we make sure they get time to eat and that the food they're eating is good for them," said Parrish.
One of the exercises in BCT that didn't make the cut was the bayonet assault course. TRADOC contends the last time the U.S. used bayonets was in 1951 and the rifle used now isn't meant for bayonet charges. Now, Soldiers will do more pugil drills in pits and on obstacle courses. Combatives has also shifted with Soldiers being taught to fight on their feet with twice as many hours of instruction.
The Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Combat Lifesaver Course no longer include an intravenous stick, and Soldiers are taught prevention techniques.
"Basically they're teaching them the first thing is mission. I'm not going to do that casualty any good if I become a casualty and then it progresses from there. Now the situation is safe. Let me get that casualty out of harm's way," said Parrish.
He added the emphasis is to give a quick assessment, give first aid and then let the combat medics do their job.
The seven Army Values are still being taught, but they are being expanded to teach Soldiers to use those values in combat, in garrison and during their off-duty time. The goal is to build a better Soldier and citizen. At the same time cultural awareness is instructed to quell misunderstanding and prepare those Soldiers who will likely see a different part of the world during their time in the military.
Of course, the basic trainees may not know the difference in the training other than what they're told, but for Pfc. Charlie Guerra, who has been in Junior ROTC the past four years, he was more ready than most.
"It's not what I expected, but I think it's a good system. You have to come here and be prepared yourself, It's all up to you on whether or not you want to do good in basic training. And whatever you put in is what you're going to get out of it."
"It's a go-no-go style. BCT is getting more rigid because there's less room for error on a Soldier's part. Soldiers have more responsibility to achieve the end state of the task we're doing. And I think that's what we need," said Parrish.
Drill sergeants are also doing their part to ensure Soldiers are well trained.
"I think the way that basic training is going it's gearing toward what we need to get to and that's sending a Soldier who's familiar when they get to their advanced individual training and operational unit. What they're going to throw at them they've at least seen the basics of already. And I think that just helps the operation along. It creates a more well-prepared Soldier," said Parrish.