Infantry: December 23, 2003

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The U.S. Army is increasing basic training for non-combat troops from nine to 14 weeks. Since the army decided to cave to political pressure in the 1990s and have women and men train together in basic, they have used special basic training for combat troops. This was because the basic training with men and women had to be diluted so that the women could keep up. Since only men can serve in combat units, the army, in effect, retained all male, and much more challenging and effective, training, for men, at least those in infantry, armor and artillery. This combat arms basic is called OSUT (One Station Unit Training) because it combines the usual basic training, plus the AIT (Advanced Individual Training), which was another nine weeks. OSUT is 13-16 weeks long, depending on which combat branch the recruit is in. For infantry, it's 14 weeks. The new non-combat basic will include additional combat training, with emphasis on support troops defending themselves in the kind of situations now being encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The army still insists on putting men and women through this basic training together, which limits how far the instructors can push the recruits. In the marines, men and women take basic separately, with women instructors running the female basic. For both men and women, the marine boot camp is a more challenging and effective experience. The female NCOs supervising training have a better understanding of what their female recruits are going through, and the recruits know that. Israel also has separate male and female boot camp, because Israel drafts women and frequently uses them for security duty in combat zones. Israeli boot camp is also 14 weeks long and, for the non-combat troops, much emphasis is placed on security matters of the type seen in Iraq, and the anti-terrorism operations in Israel. 

Another program the army is considering adopting is the Israeli "cycle" training. Actually, the army already uses a form of this system, where Israeli units are kept together for as long as possible so that they can train together for at least four months, before going on security duty at a border area or in the Palestinian territories. The U.S. Army, Marines and Navy SEALs use a similar training cycle program, where the last phase of the cycle (3-4 months), the unit is fully trained and considered at peak readiness. After that, troops that are close to ending their term of service, or are due to attend another school or transfer to another job, are allowed to do so. New troops are brought in, and the training cycle begins all over again. The training cycle concept has been around for nearly a century, but it takes firm leadership and discipline to make it work. The U.S. Army has finally concluded that you cannot cut corners and still have the best trained, and most effective troops, possible unless you follow the cycle faithfully.

 


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