Top NCOs Inform Soldiers in Iraq of Wartime Training Changes
By Pfc. Jason Jordan, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2005 The Army is instituting significant changes in how it trains and recruits soldiers, aiming to make U.S. troops more battle ready for the challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, two of the Army's top noncommissioned officers said during recent visits to Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq.
U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Command Sgt. Maj. John Sparks meets with soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division during a luncheon Nov. 15 at the DeFleury Dining Facility at Camp Liberty, Iraq. Photo by Pfc. Jason Jordan, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The two command sergeants major, John Sparks of the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command, and Lonny Wright with Infantry Branch Command, spoke during separate mid-November meetings with solders from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
"We are enhancing the individual soldiers' skills-ensuring they are better trained and more prepared for today's warfare," Wright said. "Each soldier will go through a live-fire convoy exercise and train on more weapons systems."
Army basic training, he added, also now requires soldiers to carry their weapons at all times and includes military operations on urbanized terrain.
Moreover, Wright said, the Army aims to provide units with more experienced and more specialized leaders, including better-trained drill sergeants, to facilitate and enhance soldier training. As part of this effort, the Army plans to provide units with squad-designated marksmen, who will train an extra two weeks, at their unit's request, before being assigned to their unit.
Increasingly, soldiers will not have to leave their unit for training; the training will come to them, Wright noted.
The Army is developing mobile training facilities, which will bring schools like the basic and advanced NCO courses directly to soldiers. Mobile training programs, he explained, allow soldiers to train during the day, while returning home to their families at night.
The Army also plans to make more training courses available to soldiers on compact discs, which can be distributed to units both stateside and in the field.
"We do not want to create a large number of new programs that we will never complete," Wright said. "We would rather... bring the training that is already available down to you -- bring it closer."
In addition, soldier training will have increasing relevance to real-world missions, with feedback from the field incorporated into the curricula, Wright said.
NCOs from the 10th Mountain Division praised these and related changes.
"This concept of constant change and updates will bring a whole new relevance to the training," said Command Sergeant Maj. M. Todd Hibbs of the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. "The fact is [these changes] "are being driven by what is happening in the field."
If soldier training is not intensified well before deployment, added 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Command Sergeant Maj. Brian Carlson, "then it is too late." Pre-deployment, theater-specific, individual readiness training is inadequate; more training must to be done before that, he said.
Sgt. Justin Kerns, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, agreed. Improving "basic training and... individual soldier skills is a good thing," he said. "I know that when I went through basic, it was just that - basic. [Wright] talked about more experienced soldiers coming down to provide training, and that is good to hear."
And, Wright promised, commanders and top NCOs will work more closely before assuming a new command, in order to better serve their soldiers. "This will put everyone on the same sheet of music before taking their positions," he said.
The Army also wants to ensure that NCOs rotate through both garrison and combat tours of duty.
"I will not allow anyone to stay at Fort Benning, [the Army's training command in Georgia], for more than 36 months," Wright said. "No one is going to hide out there, while the rest of you guys are down here doing the tough work."
But by the same token, he added, soldiers in the field need to rest and prepare themselves with stateside, garrison duty.
"We must protect our young leaders and NCOs in the future," Wright said.
(Pfc. Jason Jordan is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)