More Army Combat Arms Specialties Will Soon See Extended Training

As part of the pilot to extend one-station unit training for Infantry Soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks, trainees received instruction on the M240-series medium machine gun Sept. 21, 2018 at Malone Range complex, at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army/Patrick Albright)
As part of the pilot to extend one-station unit training for Infantry Soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks, trainees received instruction on the M240-series medium machine gun Sept. 21, 2018 at Malone Range complex, at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army/Patrick Albright)

The Army is looking to extend entry-level training for armor, cavalry and other combat arms specialties as early as this fall, according to the service's top civilian.

If the pilot program is successful, other units such as engineers and artillery may also see an expanded curriculum, Army Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday.

But it'll take some effort before the Army goes through with the new changes, he said.

"One of the things we have to do to do this is shift a lot of noncommissioned officers back into [Training and Doctrine Command] to make sure we get the ratios right," Esper said in a media roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon.

He added, "That's a big change for us, and it's manpower-driven."

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The new pilot program is similar to the one that extended infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT) from 14 to 22 weeks.

"We're expanding the infantry basic now. It's really proved itself out," Esper said. "Depending on how that proves out, we'll likely make that par across the entire Army."

Esper saw the test program at Fort Benning, Georgia, in November, and received positive feedback.

"Those soldiers had exceptionally high [Army Physical Fitness Test] scores -- [between the] 260 to 270 range, and their attrition was half of what previous classes were," he said. "And their tactical performance was exceptional."

Esper continued, "It's a combination of not just extending Infantry basic training from 14 to 22 weeks where you have more time, but also reduce the ratio of drill sergeants to soldiers, and I think we're at about 12-to-one compared to 20-plus-to-one."

Soldiers can receive a more personal training experience, which adds to how they develop and learn their core skills. As a result, the training environment is more manageable and streamlined, given that "these kids were doing physical fitness twice a day in some cases," he said.

In September, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, commander of the Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning, said the Army had received guidance to begin looking at other units that could benefit from the OSUT expansion, such as 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," Brito said during the annual Association of the United States Army conference.

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 program adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.

It follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training earlier designed to instill 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.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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