Train like you fight, pt. 23

Combat-tested drill sgts. revamp training methods (subscription only)

Army Times:

One year ago, most of Fort Jackson’s drill sergeants had been in place for a three-year stint since the beginning of the war in Iraq. But as those trainers have rotated and new people have filtered in, the post is seeing an increase in combat-vet drill sergeants.

As of March, almost 40 percent of drill sergeants had earned a combat patch.

Those drill sergeants have overhauled training at Fort Jackson — training that hadn’t changed for generations.

“It’s just one of those deals that with enough push and enough feedback, we were able to put it together,” said Lt. Col. Mel Hull, commander of 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. “It took a war to do it.”

Though this sort of thing doesn’t get the headlines like expensive new machines like F-22A fighters, Strykers, or DD(X) destroyers, changing the way we train our warriors is a very basic form of transformation and one that will pay off in spades years before we know if the latest gee-whiz programs are really worth it.

Sgt. 1st Class James Brannen sends one drill sergeant with each soldier through a live-fire range. Before, soldiers yelled, “Buddy ready? Buddy moving!” through a tangle of barbed wire as they low-crawled around logs in a defined order. Now they pick their own paths through cars as they shoot targets, communicate with their battle buddies and lock and load a new magazine. The range opened in January after drill sergeants began planning it in December.

Rather than wait for supplies to come through the chain, they made a quick trip to a lumber yard, then built it themselves.

“Before, it wasn’t as genuine as this,” Brannen said. “We’re sharing the training from Iraq to make it as realistic as possible.”

Not only will this save lives and increase performance today, it’s setting the stage for the future. While much has been made of our “overstretched” military, few have noted that the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have left us with very experienced personnel who want to incorporate lessons learned into the schooling. Trainers are not teaching from theory or a manual. They’ve been there and done that and want to do it better next time.


  1. You know, I just read that Air Force recruits will be soon/are just now learning basic rifle marksmanship in a meaningful way. Sure specific Air Force people had solid weapons training before- SPs, and certainly Pararescue- but there is a new focus on making sure USAF techies and tradesmen can competently handle small arms. Probably long overdue. Regarding the DIY attitude of those DIs in the article, it’s not that uncommon. Motivated NCOs make shit happen every day.

  2. Take a deep breath boys. Lets not take this war stuff too seriously. Air Force & guns? Sure we go quale hunting now and then, we have some killer golf ranges, but like run around and shoot at people? that is what the army is for. If they are serious about this, maybe somebody and form a task force to study the concept, gets some power point presentations going. You know to weigh the risk vs rewards. Off the top of my head the sun block budget and emergency mancure funding is going to sky rocket. Sheeesh if this keeps up somebody might think the Air Force is a military organization.

  3. I do believe this is what Rummy was referring to when he said ‘Battle Hardened’.

  4. James, OK OK, I thought it was kinda funny too. I mean, in my day when a soldier had his hands in his pockets- shockingly poor form, that- he was wearing ‘Air Force gloves’. But still airmen with rifles is an idea whose time has come. Well, actually the time came ca 1968, but we all know that bureaucracies move glacially.

  5. Sailors are getting individual infantry training at Ft. Jackson, S.C. The Army and Marine Corps simply do not have enough people to fill every needed position, and we need the Navy and Air Force to help out. That’s not to say that the Navy and Air Force will be fielding infantry battalions, but augmentees that are attached to Army and Marine Corps units (EOD, MI, Civil Affairs, etc.) will need the training to fight on the ground alongside their Army and Marine Corps counterparts.

  6. GeekLethal 1965 or so. Some general decides to do a surprise inspection of Incirlik air base. Finds a M-14 being used as a tomato vine guide. Orders issue – No air force weapons are to be used for agricultural purposes. 1966 – As part of an effort to bring units with combat history into the theater, U.S. Air Forces in Europe inactivated Incirlik’s 7216th