(Editor's note: This story is the first in a two-part series.)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The battle buddy system teaches Soldiers how to work together as a team and how to look out for fellow Soldiers at all times, according to Sgt. 1st Class Casey Vanzant, A Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment platoon sergeant.
"They're always together and that allows them to never feel like they're alone," he said. "The idea is to let Soldiers feel like someone's always got their back."
Battle buddies help each other through training and everyday life, Vanzant added. Even when they're not working, the two are supposed to help each other when necessary. Battle buddies are more prevalent in basic training than anywhere else, but students in AIT are still seen here.
Having a battle buddy is a requirement for Soldiers in basic combat training and advanced individual training, but it's something some couldn't imagine ever being without.
"It's a good idea to have somebody with you when traveling off post," Vanzant said. "Having someone there to watch out for you, on and off post, is always a good thing."
Some battle buddies here haven't worked together long, but the bonds they create come together quickly. Advanced individual training students Pvts. Delonte' Hill and Scott Dorwart were paired shortly after Dorwart arrived here July 28.
"Having a battle buddy here is a really good way to get to know people," Hill said. "We don't have to be together at all times like we are in basic (training), but we wind up spending a lot of time together anyway."
Hill said he faced a situation where he and a former battle buddy were with a fellow Soldier who needed help. He added that, without his battle buddy, the situation might have been harder to handle.
"I was able to help out a female Soldier who was being taken advantage of by some guys," Hill said. "If it wasn't for me and my other battle buddy being there, things might have turned out very differently."
AIT students Pvt. Jeremiah Downing and Pfc. Justin Loftin worked together for more than a month and both said the system has worked well for them.
"It's always good to have someone to talk to and someone who really listens," Loftin said. "At first, Soldiers have their guard up because they don't know the person they've been paired with. They need to be more open minded about the situation because the battle buddy is the guy who's going to be there for you in every situation."