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Plans to extend soldiers’ initial training curtailed in Army budget request

The plan was for engineers, cavalry scouts and armor crewmen to join infantry soldiers next year in starting extended initial training programs that would last 22 weeks, giving higher quality new troops to units.

Now, that push has been put on hiatus for all except armor crewmen, who will begin attending roughly six more weeks of One Station Unit Training sometime in 2021 if the budget is approved by Congress as the Army requested.

“At this time, plans are on hold for extending those OSUT programs to the 22 weeks,” said Col. Britt Walker, director of resource analysis and integration for the Army’s G-3/5/7. “The Army’s plan is for infantry to continue to have the 22-week program and for armor to meet the 22-week program.”

Engineers and cavalry scouts are not currently budgeted to start extended OSUT courses. Army leaders didn’t address why specifically the extensions were put on hold when asked by reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

“Extending that OSUT for those two combat-oriented schools is really where the Army decided to put its emphasis,” Walker said, adding that while cavalry scouts are considered combat specialties, “at this point, the Army has decided to stick with the armor and the infantry."

The Pentagon’s 2021 budget request to Congress features overall cuts to the Army’s top line. That forced the ground combat branch to make cuts to some programs in order to fund its modernization priorities.

But leadership didn’t go so far as to say the cuts to OSUT extensions were part of any trade-off.

“I don’t know that they were part of the cuts, but I think it was decided that we could potentially assume risk there — if you would — by not extending those OSUT programs,” Walker said. “Really, the Army wants to focus on readiness with the combat formations first and we want to maintain that tactical readiness.”

Infantry already saw their OSUT training go from 14 to 22 weeks, with a focus on more weapons training, land navigation, vehicle familiarization and the addition of a 40-hour combat-lifesaver certification course. That extension replaced a model dating back more than 40 years.

Then in November, the Army conducted pilot extension programs for armor crewmen and cavalry scouts that took their 16- and 17-week OSUT course and added six and five weeks, respectively.

“Our focus will be more platform-centric,” Col. Dawson Plummer, commander of the 194th Armor Brigade, said in a briefing at Fort Benning during Georgia’s Maneuver Warfighter Conference in September.

Part of the changes include more driving time for armor crewmen in the Stryker, Bradley and Humvee vehicles, making the soldiers more versatile when they get to their first assignment.

The pilot program looked to double the time soldiers spent driving and would have added more than 30 hours of training troubleshooting vehicle problems.

Cavalry scouts also would have gotten more real-world identification training that focused on newer threats being put into various theaters now, Plummer said.

Both crewmen and scouts would have gotten more M4 carbine shooting time, as well, but armor crewmen are also expected to get more pistol firing time in their updated course structure.

Military Times reporter Todd South contributed to this report.

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