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