Thursday, February 23, 2006

US Army - It's a kinder, gentler boot camp - even if the enemy isn't

I missed this last week. Via Steve comes this report on the "new" US Army boot camp.

Today, the Army is opting for a quieter approach. "I told my drill sergeants to stop the nonsense," says Col. Edward Daly, whose basic-training brigade graduates about 11,000 soldiers a year. Last fall, Col. Daly began meeting with all new recruits shortly after they arrive at boot camp to thank them. "We sincerely appreciate the fact that you swore an oath and got on a bus and did it in a time of war," he recently told an incoming class. "That's a big, big deal."
OK, well there's nothing really wrong with that I suppose. It's nice to be appreciated.

New privates are getting more sleep and personal time. Even the way soldiers eat has changed. Drill sergeants long ordered overweight soldiers to stay away from soda and desserts. Today, soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood fill out a survey about their boot-camp experience that asks, among other questions, if they liked the food, whether they were "allowed to eat everything on the menu, including dessert," and whether there was enough for seconds.
Can you say, "disciplinary problems"?

Some drill sergeants worry that the "kinder and gentler approach" -- as drill sergeants have dubbed the changes -- is producing softer soldiers. "If the privates can't handle the stress of a drill sergeant yelling at them, how will they handle the stress of bullets flying over their head?" asked Staff Sgt. Clayton Nagel as he watched his recruits file past him in the Fort Leonard Wood dining hall. "War is stressful. I think we overcorrected."
Let's change the name from US Army Basic Combat Training to US Army Self-Awareness Training!

The Army's decision to overhaul basic training came last spring. The service was having a hard time bringing in new recruits. It ultimately missed its 2005 recruiting goals for active-duty troops by 7,000 soldiers, or 8%, and National Guard soldiers by 13,000 or 20%.
Meanwhile, boot-camp attrition was climbing. New soldiers brought in to replace those who were tossed out weren't much better. "We realized that the further you go into the barrel, the lower the quality," says Col. Kevin Shwedo, a senior officer in the Army's Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia.
So, the standards have been reduced and now the training has been made easier to put more soldiers into the field where the bullets still come out of nowhere and still move at the same speed. But the person providing covering fire may be someone who might not have made the cut under the old system. They keep the people who, in the past, would not have made good soldiers. That sounds like a rush to the bottom to me.

The article goes on to describe an atmosphere where there is 60% less running. Recruits are allowed to carry inhalers for mild asthma and those suffering from depression Paxil or Zoloft. Those changes are resulting in a lower overall attrition rate.

In other words, they aren't training soldiers as much as they are cannon-fodder. Is it time for a draft yet?

Read the whole article here. It's worth it.

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