The commander of the U.S. Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence said Wednesday that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.
About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.
Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Sept. 5 Aviation Hot Topic event.
"It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year," Brito said. "We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].
"This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all."
Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.
"The guidance to the team is ... you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do," Brito said.
The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training earlier this year that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.
"I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit," Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on December 7.
"That is a long time in training."
The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.
But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. "This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants ... so that we can continue the 22 weeks."
The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and "he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away," Brito said.
"I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.