Anybody who knows a soldier knows they spend a lot of time training. One of the things that surprised me when I transitioned to civilian life was how little time corporations spent on training employees on things that generate revenue, versus things that avoid lawsuits. There’s a pretty good chance that the last corporate training you had was on diversity, sexual harassment, sensitivity or some such thing. The Army has that too, of course, but the focus is on training to do your job. When you aren’t actually fighting, you’re training to fight.
There are a couple of different components to training. One is individual skills, and the other is unit training.
Individual training follows two paths-common skills, and MOS specific skills.
Common skills are those tasks that every soldier is expected to know, whether they are in Special Forces or work in an office. Common skills include first aid, rifle marksmanship, basic land navigation, defence against NBC weapons, that sort of thing. Since we expect a Staff Sergeant to know more than a PFC, there are also Skill Levels. A Staff Sergeant would be expected to know all the common tasks at Skill Levels 1 and 2, but also has to prove himself on Skill Level 3 tasks. These skills are perishable and so you have to train on them again and again. You are also tested on a regular basis, generally annually. The test is pass/fail, but if you do fail a test, you get a second chance to pass.
MOS specific skills are the things you need to know or do for your actual job. For instance, an artilleryman needs to know how to work a cannon, and a heavy equipment operator needs to know how to drive a bulldozer. Again, we expect a Sergeant to know more than a Private, so we have skill levels here as well. For instance, a Private in the Infantry is expected to move as a member of a fire team, while a Sergeant is expected to lead a fire team.
These are all individual skills, but we don’t fight as a bunch of individuals, but rather as units. Once a unit has refreshed its individual skills, it quickly moves into training as units. Generally, units will train on squad level tasks, then platoon, company, battalion and finally as a brigade. Each level of training is more complex and builds on the previous, and indeed each subordinate level is repeating it’s tasks to refine and reinforce its training. Usually, when a unit is training, it is being graded by either a sister unit, or sometimes an outside evaluator. Once gone through this training cycle, the unit will be deployed, placed on alert, or begin the cycle again. Because of personnel turbulence with people leaving the Army or going to another unit, and new people coming in, the highest level of proficiency can’t be maintained very long. And so begins another cycle.