Attrition: New Approach to Stress in Basic Training

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February 23, 2006: In an attempt to keep more of its recruits, the U.S. Army is going easier in basic training. In an experiment, the losses during the first six months of service have been cut from 18 percent, to 11 percent. The theory is that by easing up on the "stress test" aspects of basic (sergeants constantly shouting at you to do things, or else), the recruits will get acclimated to military life, and stress, gradually. This results in fewer recruits dropping out (for physical, psychological or performance reasons), but it's still not certain how well the new recruits have been prepared to deal with the stresses of operating in a combat zone. In theory, the new approach should work, because eventually the recruits are stressed, and those unable to handle it, sent away. They just get the more stressful aspect of their training later, rather than sooner. The main problem, as always, is with the combat support troops. That's nearly 90 percent of the troops, and they appreciate getting Iraq-specific training even in basic. But it will take another year or so before the troops, who went through the "easy in" training, get through a year of Iraq, and have their experiences compared to those who went through old school basic.

 


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