A sergeant scolds one of his recruits within the soldiers barracks during basic training at the Fort Sill Army Post in Fort Sill, Okla.
Citing a troubling trend of new soldiers is missing both a good discipline and physical fitness, senior U.S. Military leaders to argue for a harder and longer basic training to prepare troops for battle against the coming ten years.
“We have all the reason to get this right, and much less reasons not to do so,” Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, said at the Association of the United States Army Global Force Symposium in Alabama on Monday. “That is why we are considering various initiatives of a new physical fitness regime to the reform and expansion of basic training — to ensure that our young men and women are prepared for the rigors of the high intensity of the fighting.”
While Esper does not disclose all the details of what an extended Basic Combat Training (BCT) might look like, the Army has already floated the idea of adding two weeks to the 10-week program. A renewed BCT is expected to be implemented in the early summer.
The current BCT is a process in three stages, the first is the “Red Phase.” Consisting of the first three weeks of the training, it is where recruits begin to learn, exercises and ceremonies, the seven “Army core values, unarmed combat and first aid. Recruits are also in contact with the standard weapons like the M-16 assault rifle and M-4 carbine.
In Phase 2, known as the “White Phase,” the soldiers begin to target practice with their guns, and become acquainted with other weapons such as rocket launchers and machine guns. The recruits also a time-obstacle course, and learn to work together with other soldiers.
The last phase, or “Blue Phase,” see the soldiers complete the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), learn night-time combat operations, and go on the 10 – and 15-kilometer area marches. After passing all their tests, the recruits with a diploma of basic training and go to Advanced Individual Training, where they focus on specific skills in their field.
“The ultimate goal of the army is for the stripping of a citizen’s civil status and turn them into a military mindset,” Mike Volkin, an Iraq veteran, and author of The Ultimate Basic training guidebook,” told Fox News. “So, if you boil down the purpose of the basic training program to its essence it would have to comply.”
A U.S. Army recruit practices to secure the area during a chemical weapons exercise at basic training at the Fort Sill Army Post.
The new BCT, will provide an additional focus on the strict discipline and esprit de corps by a greater emphasis on exercises and ceremony, inspections, and military history. It will also concentrate heavily on critical battlefield skills such as marksmanship, physical fitness, first aid and communication.
Together with the new BCT regime, of the U.S. Army, the brass is considering a tougher Combat Readiness Test, which will replace the current three-event APFT with a six-event test Army leaders believe better prepares recruits for the physical challenges of the service to the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills – the most important skills soldiers use to help them survive in the battle.
“There is a large emphasis on fitness,” Volkin said. “In the whole history of the basic training, it is always all about push-ups, sit-ups and two-mile walk, and that is not a real test of fitness. This six-point test focuses more on core strength and cardio.”
Speaking at the AUSA meeting this week, Esper said that in order to meet the challenges the U.S. military faces in the next ten years both in the fight against terrorism, and against other large and well trained armies – the Army must also, conversely, 2017 drawdown. The Army requested the 4,000 extra soldiers will be added to the active forces as part of the 2019 fiscal budget – a move that would swell the ranks to 487,000 active-duty soldiers – with the goal of having a half a million active duty soldiers battle-ready by 2028.
Pvts. Sean Christopher Welliver, left, and John Hubbard, right, drag co Pvt. Willem Wever (C) by means of an obstacle course as part of a first-aid training.
“To meet the challenges of 2028 and beyond, the total Army must grow,” Esper said. “Ten years from now, we need an active component above the 500,000 soldiers, with the corresponding growth in the Guard and Reserve.”
But as the Army looks to expand its ranks, it will also be more selective in who is a soldier.
Gen. James McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told Military.com the service is considering the revision of the screening to better prepare recruits for basic training and beyond.
In addition to the screening of the candidates of the physical condition before they start BCT, the Army would screen them again at the beginning of the training and make sure that they can meet the physical requirements, and is even testing the idea of assigning fitness experts of the two divisions.
“We are putting physical therapists, strength coaches, we put dietitians in each of the units, so if the [new] soldiers to get there, we keep them in shape as they go forward,” McConville said. “We plan to take what we have, we’re going to develop that talent, and we plan to put them in and make them better.”