Army to extend basic training by 1 week
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Starting next month, Army recruits will spend one more week in basic training to hone skills they will use on the homefront and in operations worldwide.
The Army says it is expanding its standard nine-week basic training program at all five basic training sites, according to the Army Training and Doctrine Command based at Fort Monroe in Hampton.
While the added time will not include additional skills or tasks to the traditional training regimen, it will give soldiers one more week of physical training and help them master what they have learned.
“We believe we’ll get soldiers more physically fit and more disciplined,” said Col. Kevin Shwedo, deputy commander at Fort Jackson, S.C. “Rather than add more tasks, we want to take more soldiers from introductory skills to proficiency, and some from proficiency to mastery by using that time more creatively.”
In addition to Fort Jackson, the new training regimen will take place at Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Benning, Ga.
The bases train up to 180,000 soldiers annually, including National Guard and Reserve components.
The program will run through March, and then will revert to the nine-week regimen for the Army’s peak training period until mid-October when the 10-week program becomes standard. Reverting to the nine-week program is to ensure all resources are in place for a full-scale rollout following the Army’s busy period, officials said.
“In order to be a learning organization you have to be open to not only criticism, but recommendations as well, and the field told us that if we held the soldiers at least another week we may be able to increase certain proficiencies,” Shwedo said.
With the extra time, drill sergeants will identify specific skills for soldiers to master.
“It’s not that we weren’t meeting the standards, but drill sergeants specifically said ’We can do better things,’ “ Shwedo said.
Since the 1970s, the Army has used an eight-week training program for enlisted soldiers. The service added an additional week in 1997 to integrate more values training to the program.
In recent years, the Army has added skills at the basic training level to prepare soldiers for life in the combat zone. Those include a weapons immersion program, in which soldiers carry M-16 rifles — and blank ammunition — at all times in an effort to reduce accidental discharges on the battlefield.
Other programs include combat lifesaver training to enable soldiers to give critical medical care to wounded comrades on the battlefield, like starting an IV and helping soldiers breathe through a tube.
Those skills, Shwedo said, are ones “the operational Army told us they needed for success in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Marine Corps has the longest basic training of the U.S. military, with a 12-week program. Navy boot camp is about eight weeks and Air Force training is at least six weeks.
James Martin, a retired Army colonel and expert on military culture at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, said training is a critical investment that “needs to be rigorous, and lay the foundation for one’s identity as a ’Soldier.’ “
“I have always believed that rigorous training and high performance standards early will help to eliminate those not suited for this profession,” Martin said in an e-mail.
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Published in The Messenger 10.22.07