Army to Test Extended Infantry Training Program This Summer

U.S. Army Infantry soldiers-in-training assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 198th Infantry Brigade, begin their first day of Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT) February 10, 2017 on Sand Hill, Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo/Patrick A. Albright))
U.S. Army Infantry soldiers-in-training assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 198th Infantry Brigade, begin their first day of Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT) February 10, 2017 on Sand Hill, Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo/Patrick A. Albright))

U.S. Army training leaders said Wednesday the service plans to extend infantry training as part of an effort to make soldiers in close-combat units more lethal.

The Army will launch a pilot program at Fort Benning, Georgia, in July to study extending infantry one-station unit training, or OSUT, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commandant for the United States Army Infantry School, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium.

"We want to increase the physical and mental toughness. We want to increase their capabilities so they will come out more qualified across the board on all the soldier skills and also be better prepared," Donahue said during a panel discussion on soldier lethality.

The Army has named soldier lethality as one of its six modernization priorities. The effort coincides with the recent launch of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' Close Combat Lethality Task Force.

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The Army team heading up the soldier lethality initiative is working on multiple projects, including training improvements and modernizing infantry squads with better weapons and more advanced technology.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper on Monday said the Army is considering extending basic training.

The Army recently embarked on a redesign of Basic Combat Training. Recruits will go through a new Army BCT that adds new focus on discipline and identity with curriculum additions emphasizing military history increased training in areas including marksmanship, first aid, physical fitness and marksmanship.

As previously reported, Army Training and Doctrine Command officials have said they’re addressing a trend of soldiers newly out of basic training who demonstrate carelessness with equipment and appearance, a poor work ethic and failures in discipline.

Army leaders had considered extending the 10-week BCT, but "it was kind of hard to do that when you are growing the Army at the same time," said Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command.

"We also realized that we could probably look at the time we have available and maximize that, so we are doing that," he said.

Infantry OSUT, at 14 weeks long, "is one of the shortest initial entry training sequences we have in our Army," Townsend said. "We definitely need to extend that."

The Army is confident that the Close Combat Lethality Task Force will fund the extended training program for infantrymen, Donahue said.

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

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