Army Considers Adding Drill Sergeants to AIT to Bolster Discipline

U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Staff Sgt. Avila assigned to Foxtrot 1st Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment directs trainees on the First day of Basic Combat Training on June 12, 2017 at Fort Jackson, SC. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Darius Davis)
Military.com |

The U.S. Army may put more drill sergeants into advanced individual training to increase discipline among new soldiers heading to their first unit.

Except for one-station-unit training military occupational specialties such as infantry, most soldiers take their advanced individual training, or AIT, at a different installation from where they went to Basic Combat Training.

When they arrive, AIT platoon sergeants are in charge of them until they complete training and go to their first unit.

"You go through basic training at one installation, and you show up at another installation and you are not met by a drill sergeant, you are met by a platoon sergeant," said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, in a recent interview with Military.com.

"We are looking at making all those folks that are AIT platoon sergeants into drill sergeants," he said.

Unit commanders in the operational force want to see discipline in new soldiers above all else, Frost said.

Related content:

"The number one thing at five times the rate of any other thing that they want is disciplined soldiers," he said. "That's what the operational force wants and that has come back overwhelmingly five years in a row."

AIT platoon sergeants are just as well trained as drill sergeants, Frost said, but they may not have the same "sphere of influence" on new soldiers as a noncommissioned officer wearing the distinctive brown drill sergeant headgear.

"I will tell you that there is something about the sphere of influence," he said. "You go from a three-foot to a 30-foot sphere of influence with that hat alone."

The proposal is awaiting final decision by Army vice chief of staff Gen. James McConville, Frost said.

If approved, AIT platoon sergeants serving in their first 12 months would be required to become drill sergeants, he said. AIT platoon sergeants serving in months 13 to 18 would be given the option to decide for themselves.

AIT platoon sergeants are essentially doing the same job as a drill sergeant, Frost said, but they are not necessarily recognized in the same way, so earning the drill sergeant badge is a career-enhancing move that will also be viewed positively by promotion boards.

"There is a responsibility to being a drill sergeant. There is for an AIT platoon sergeant, but wearing that hat, and being called a drill sergeant and wearing that drill sergeant badge means something," he said.

"It means something to them, it means something to the trainees, and it means something to the Army," Frost said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.