Army basic training got a major face lift in 2018.
Early in the year, Fort Jackson, South Carolina’s basic training program of instruction was updated to encourage more fitness and discipline in new soldiers, while infantry one-station unit training at Fort Benning, Georgia, was extended from 14 to 22 weeks.
Senior leaders have said that extension will be made permanent in 2019, along with extensions for OSUT for the other combat arms, such as armor and engineer. Also under consideration: changes to the length of basic combat training.
“We have packed a lot into basic training — we have — and we need to extend it,” Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told reporters in June. “We know we can make a better product.”
Longer training will require more drill sergeants, so before a decision is even made, the Army has started a push to hire more cadre and decrease the ratio of instructors to trainees.
“We want to essentially cut those ratios in half,” Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told Army Times in October, while adding a platoon sergeant and officer platoon leader to each training unit.
Leaders are voicing their support for a push to re-think training and maintenance of soldiers themselves, and to treat them as elite athletes preparing for a high-end fight.
A 2017 survey of operational unit leadership by the Center for Initial Military Training found that new soldiers were lacking the fitness and discipline expected to integrate into their first units.
“What leaders have observed is that, in general, they believe that there’s too much of a sense of entitlement, questioning of lawful orders, not listening to instruction. Too much of a buddy mentality with NCOs and officers,” CIMT commander Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost said in February.
Fort Jackson responded by adding more drill and ceremony to its program, increasing fitness standards and creating a new, three-part field exercise to test everything the soldiers learned over the previous weeks.
At OSUT, more weapons training, longer field exercises, more land navigation and more combat lifesaving filled out the extra eight weeks.
“What we want, ultimately, is we want any soldier who graduates from OSUT, that they can immediately go and join any formation that they need to go to, no matter what phase of the sustained readiness model they’re in,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the infantry school commandant, told Army Times in March.