Basic combat training gets tougher Oct. 1, when the Army rolls out a battery of tests mandatory for graduation. These aren’t written tests, but trials in the field. Soldiers may be asked to load and unload an M249 machine gun, treat an open chest wound or use their rifle as a bludgeon.Also new: peer evaluations and a 16K ruck march with a time limit as part of the final test.“We looked at making training a little more rigorous,” said Thriso Hamilton, a training specialist for basic combat training at Victory College, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. “We wanted to add an increase in Army values and discipline, a renewed focus on physical fitness, and updated rifle marksmanship training.”With tougher standards, officials also expect more failures and an increase in recruits getting “recycled,” and having to re-take portions of the course.
This is pretty sad. I get that the challenges of the war in Iraq, particularly around 2006, meant some standards slipped. But that was 9 years ago.
I joined in 1985. BCT in those days was only 8 weeks long, not today’s 10.* But in those days, they had an End of Cycle Test. Pretty much every single task taught over the course of BCT was tested. And there was no question of passing four out of five. You had to pass them all. You’d get a couple of do-overs on things, sure. But not many. Fail too many, and you’d recycle back to another training cycle. Fail that, and you were gone.
I’m a little conflicted on the road march part of the revised training. Yes, soldiers need to be able to road march. But this makes four timed marches across 10 weeks. As I recall, we had three timed marches in 13 weeks (and the time was a heck of a lot shorter than six hours for 10 miles!). Road marches also tend to produce injuries, so they often end up costing time and money, as troops have to recuperate and recycle to complete training, or even end up discharged.
Finally, the damn “everybody gets a trophy” patch is just straight up stupid.
*But I didn’t go to BCT. I went to One Station Unit Training. 13 weeks of initial entry training for the Infantry career field. BCT soldiers still have to attend their Advanced Individual Training in their career field.