By Kristin Molinaro, The BayonetApril 20, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The message is simple: You've answered the call to duty, now we will answer you.
Fort Benning drill sergeants are teaming up with recruiters to answer questions posed by the public from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday on Fort Benning's Facebook page.
The town hall forum-style Q-and-A session mirrors the installation's Facebook town hall in January, with participants posting questions in a conversation thread and receiving answers back in real time.
The goal is to "dispel all of the tribalism and folklore, ease the minds of future Soldiers and get them in the right mindset," said Lt. Col. Robert Boone, the 198th Infantry Brigade's deputy commander.
Once recruits have raised their right hand to take the oath of enlistment, there is generally a gap lasting from two weeks to a year before they ship out for basic training. In that time, recruits and their centers of influence - such as parents and teachers - may get nervous or become disinterested in the military. Boone, a former recruiter, said he wanted to reach out to recruits and fill that gap.
Boone approached the planners of the post's Facebook town hall about the possibility of "socializing" basic training and hosting a question-and-answer session online.
"Some kids look at Full Metal Jacket and think that's how basic training is, and that's not the case," he said.
The result was "Ask a Drill Sergeant," a two-hour "focused conversation" to draw in recruits and their families to ask the questions they really want the answer to.
A panel of drill sergeants from Fort Benning's two basic training brigades - the 198th and the 192nd Infantry Brigades - and recruiters from U.S. Army Recruiting Command's Tampa Bay, Fla.-based recruiting battalion have signed on to participate.
Boone commanded the recruiting battalion from 2004 to 2006.
Topics range from preparing for basic training, how to get into shape and what to expect while in training.
The session will be open to the public and the recruiting battalion's 1,300 future Soldiers and their families have been invited to take part.
Ask a Drill Sergeant is in its pilot phase and will be monitored by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command to determine its value to other training installations.
It's the first such partnership to date using Facebook to allow drill sergeants and recruiters to interact with future Soldiers and if it's successful, USAREC may look at expanding the initiative, officials said.
"Currently, we are in the initial stages of working a concept with multiple commands as partners using various platforms of social media at various training bases and schools," said George Silva, the chief of USAREC's virtual recruiting and social media center at Fort Knox, Ky. "This would definitely benefit our future Soldiers and their families."
Additionally, the 198th partnered with Tampa Bay recruiters this month to launch a Facebook initiative aimed at connecting basic training Soldiers hailing from Tampa Bay-area high schools with new recruits from those high schools. High school students will be able to view photos of fellow or former classmates currently in training.
Ron Horvath, a spokesman for the recruiting battalion, said the initiative adds realism and reliability to what recruits are learning about the military.
"One thing we find is that young people are looking for personal endorsements in a sense. They can talk to a recruiter, see an ad on television, but if they know a real, live person who's in the Army and can reach out to them, that adds a lot more credibility," he said.
A spinoff is planned in the future for videos to be posted.
To ask a question, become a fan of Fort Benning's Facebook page at www.facebook.com fortbenningfans.