The Soldiers of the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course faced their fears from 34 feet in ground week and were hoisted to 250 feet in tower week, but nothing compares to being flown at 1,200 feet in a U.S. Air Force C-130. The Soldiers of C Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, have reached jump week.
History was made on Fort Benning Feb. 2, as the Henry A. Caro NCO Academy presented select cadre with the Army Instructor Badge for the first time here. In all, 37 NCOA instructors were presented with the badge, which is the first identification badge approved for wear since the Army Recruiter Badge in 1967.
Feedback from the field regarding the Army Drill Sergeant Academy’s change in August 2014 to Army Learning Model training is positive, said Sgt. Maj. Ed Roderiques, the academy’s deputy commandant. Army Learning Model is the informal name given to “The Army Learning Concept for 2015,” Pamphlet 525-8-2, published by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, and intended for implementation Army-wide.
The Army Reserve is short on trainers, including drill sergeants. “We’re trying to grow them every day, especially female drill sergeants,” said Maj. Gen. Leslie A. Purser.
“My goal is to take advantage of the downsizing of the active-duty Army and bring some of those combat-arms Soldiers or even former drill sergeants trained on the active duty who are leaving the Army,” said Purser, calling from her command, the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Although the 108th Training Command is headquartered in North Carolina, its commands reach to 44 states and Puerto Rico, so Soldiers aspiring to join them have a range of locations where they could drill as trainers.
Two of the command’s three divisions support the four Army training centers at Forts Sill, Benning, Jackson and Leonard Wood. The other division primarily supports Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC units, adjunct faculty at universities, cadet summer training and military academy training.
Since the command has so many units, Purser said it’s also experiencing a shortage of officers to lead them.
A lot of officers leaving active duty voluntarily or involuntarily are not even aware of these opportunities, she said. Leadership vacancies exist from company level up to brigade.
“Absolutely we’re hiring. I’ve got companies without commanders,” she said. “I would love to bring some of those guys in and give them a command or staff position that would lead to a command position.”
Whether officer or enlisted, the benefits of joining the Reserve are enormous, Purser said.
Surprisingly, a lot of Soldiers being separated, including officers, are not even aware of the benefits. Take the point system, she said. When Reservist Soldiers reach age 60, they get paid based on the total number of points they have accumulated, one point for each day of service.
So drill weekends, plus the 15-day block of training per year, means most Reservists accumulate 50 to 100 points annually, she said.
Those with active service coming into the Reserves have an enormous advantage, she said. For a Soldier with 10 years of active duty, that’s 10 times 365 days for a total of 3,650 points. “That’s huge,” Purser said. It means more money when they start drawing retirement at age 60 and they get the opportunity to continue to serve.
And, she said, if in the course of their Reserve service they have deployed or mobilized after 2008, they can count 90 days of that tour toward 90 days for retiring early – the only stipulation being that a Soldier can’t retire before they’re 50.
Some Soldiers who go Reserve may even end up getting a full-time Reserve instructor position at one of the training centers, or elsewhere, she said.
Also, TRICARE Reserve Select is the Reserve’s medical insurance plan “and it’s much cheaper than getting insurance on outside,” Purser said.
Soldiers should look into these opportunities early, Purser said. They should visit their career counselors. Also Reserve Component Career Counselors, or RCCC, are located at every post and are there to explain Reserve benefits during out processing.
TOUGH AS NAILS
Soldiers who want to try for drill sergeant positions should be prepared for a challenging but rewarding experience, Purser said.
“It’s a little more difficult to be a drill sergeant than it is for most other duties because our drill sergeants are truly at the front door of the Army,” she said. For example, the Army Physical Fitness Test requires 60 points in each event — running, sit-ups, push-ups. A drill sergeant must score 70 points in each event.
Only 19 percent of Soldiers are even eligible to be drill sergeants because in addition to the tougher standards, they have to go through a screening process to check for “past violations,” she said. Because drill sergeants, like recruiters, are very influential, the screening process is intense. “We end up with the best of the best.”
Expecting a nine to five job? Don’t apply, she said. Drill sergeants are sometimes with their platoons 24 hours a day.
The U.S. Army Drill Sgt. Academy at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, is also rigorous, physically, academically and mentally, she said.
Sgt. Maj. Ed Roderiques, deputy commandant at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, said that at the academy, there’s a One Army School System. So Reserve and active drill sergeant leaders train both Reserve and active Soldiers on how to become drill sergeants.
“That ensures they’re all getting the same training,” he said, adding that Reserve and active used to have separate training.
Besides the Drill Sergeant Course at the academy, both active and Reserve Soldiers can also train at the Platoon Sergeant Course which is also at the academy, he added. The two courses are separate, with the Platoon Sergeant Course involving the advanced individual training follow-on to basic training.
Not all jobs, though, require graduating from the academy. The 108th Training Command also has position openings at various commands: logistics, administrative, trainers, operations, budget, and so forth, Purser said.
Also, not all drill sergeant-type jobs are at the four training centers. There are also T3 or train-the-trainer jobs, used to improve combat skills of Soldiers Reserve-wide.
For instance, the 377th Theater Sustainment Command has 30,000 Soldiers. During a recent exercise, Operation Sustainment Warrior, the 377th brought in drill sergeants to help other Soldiers brush up on skills like physical training, land navigation, marksmanship and so on, she said.
When Soldiers first came to receive help from the 377th, their marksmanship qualification rate was about 55 percent, she said. “We loaded them up with a bunch of drill sergeants and when they left they were at 100 percent qualification.”
During the war years, 2001 to 2011, the 108th Training Command allocated 13 drill sergeant battalions to active duty to help U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, with the increased initial entry training requirements as missions expanded in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, pointing out that the 108th is operationally controlled by TRADOC, but reports to the Army Reserve Command administratively.
The command also provided drill sergeant units to U.S. Army Central Command to assist training Soldiers for the Iraq and Afghanistan armies. “Their military and civilian police training was critical in helping those countries develop their internal security and infrastructure protection program,” she said.
Part of that effort was a female drill sergeant company, a first of its kind, which in 2012 developed the first female officer candidate school in Afghanistan, she added.
Reserve Soldiers currently comprise Task Force Beast, providing training, advice and assistance support to the Afghan security forces. In all, 471 Soldiers have supported that mission from the beginning, Purser said.
“We have great Soldiers here” at the 108th, she concluded. “They’re so motivated and inspirational.”
FORT SILL, Okla. (Feb. 5, 2015) — Thirty-nine Soldiers were pinned with the field artillery branch insignia as they became the Army’s newest cannon crewmembers, or military occupational specialty 13B, Jan. 30, in Bldg. 2437 here.
The Soldiers of C Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, Class No. 10-15 earned the right to wear the insignia after completing the 5.5-week course as they became proficient in one of three howitzers: 105mm, 155mm or the self-propelled 155mm.
“They were a very hardworking class,” said Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Kirsch, Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeant. who served as the class administrator and logistician.
The battery graduates roughly 1,000 cannon crewmembers per year, Kirsch said. This class consisted of 22 National Guard Soldiers and 17 active-duty Soldiers.
Students usually knows what unit they will be assigned to in the first or second week of class, and so they will learn the howitzer piece of their unit, whether it be a M119A3 105mm towed howitzer, M777A2 155mm towed howitzer or M109A6 self-propelled howitzer, Kirsch said.
In his invocation, student Pvt. Damian Nunley said: “Lord, I pray that when we see an army rise against us you make our hearts and minds as strong as steel.”
Retired Col. Steven Arntz was the speaker. He was a career field artilleryman, and served as the 75th Field Artillery Brigade commander here from 1993-95.
Arntz provided the new cannoneers with advice.
“Stick with the training no matter how repetitious, sometimes how boring, no matter how cold or tired or stressed you are. Continue with the training because your life and the lives of others depend on the training,” said Arntz, who is president of a local defense contractor.
Field artillery works as a team and teamwork is the glue that makes it the “King of Battle,” Arntz said.
“Every member must know and do his part if ‘King’ is to be successful,” he said.
No matter how accurate the targets the forward observers (FO) send, no matter how precise the calculations made by the fire direction center (FDC) — it means nothing if the cannoneers’ gunfire is not effective and efficient, he said.
Trust is a must in the profession of arms, said Arntz, who retired in 1998, after a 26-year Army career. Cannoneers trust the FOs and FDCs and conversely they trust the gun crews.
“Perhaps of equal if not more importance are the infantrymen — the Soldiers on the front lines who rely upon you to deliver the devastating steel on target 24/7,” Arntz said.
Afterward, Arntz said today’s field artillerymen are very professional and probably have a greater aptitude than Soldiers in the past because of the Army’s stiffer entrance requirements.
“[Still] the 13 bravo basic rudimentary skills set haven’t changed. You still have to know the howitzer and put it in place,” he said.
He said it was about time the 13B MOS opened to women.
“Because of the technological changes in field artillery there are all kinds of opportunities for females,” said Arntz. “Were not shooting 200-pound projectiles any more, they’re 90 pounds and 50 pounds, so there’s certainly room for them to do that if they have the skills.
“And, the rockets and missiles we use nowadays, anyone can do it no matter what gender you are, so they (women) can be a force multiplier,” he said.
During the ceremony, Pfc. Enrique Gonzalez was recognized as the distinguished honor graduate, and for achieving the high Army Physical Fitness Test score.
Two honor graduates were commended for demonstrating the highest proficiency on their respective howitzers: Pvt. Michael Deem on the M777A2, and Pvt. Kenton Roman on the M119A3. And, students Pfc. Timothy Garris and Pvt. Adrian Lopez were promoted during the ceremony.
The ceremony concluded with the class reciting “The Soldier’s Creed” along with every Soldier present at the ceremony joining the graduates to sing “The Army Song.”
Pvt. Jacup Miers, from Yuma, Ariz., was resilient before he ever put on the Army uniform. He wears the look of determination in his eyes. He tells of his life before the military as if he is listing the facts, nothing more: “My mom did heroin and she was kind of a prostitute. She had to make money and she did crack and all that stuff,” said Miers.