Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
October 20, 2007 By Associated press
The Army is adding a week to basic training, not to teach additional skills but to help recruits better master what they're already learning.
The Army is expanding its standard basic-training program from nine weeks to 10 at all five basic-training sites beginning in November.
"We believe we'll get soldiers more physically fit and more disciplined," said Col. Kevin Shwedo, deputy commander at Fort Jackson, S.C.
"Rather than add more tasks, we want to take more soldiers from introductory skills to proficiency, and some from proficiency to mastery by using that time more creatively."
With the extra time, drill sergeants will identify specific skills for soldiers to master.
"It's not that we weren't meeting the standards, but drill sergeants specifically said. 'We can do better things,' " Shwedo said.
"To be a learning organization, you have to be open not only to criticism, but to recommendations as well, and the field told us that if we held the soldiers at least another week we may be able to increase certain proficiencies," Shwedo said.
In addition to Fort Jackson, the new training regimen will take place at Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Benning, Ga. The bases train up to 180,000 soldiers annually, including National Guard and Reserve components.
In March, the Army will revert to the nine-week regimen for its peak training period until October 2008, when the 10-week program becomes standard.
Reverting to the nine-week program is to ensure all resources are in place for a full-scale rollout following the Army's busy period, officials said.
The Army used an eight-week training program for enlisted soldiers from the 1970s until 1997, when it added a week to include more values training.
In recent years, the Army has added skills at the basic-training level to prepare soldiers for life in the combat zone.
Those include a weapons immersion program, in which soldiers carry M-16 rifles — and blank ammunition — at all times in an effort to reduce accidental discharges on the battlefield.
Other programs include combat lifesaver training to enable soldiers to give critical medical care to wounded comrades on the battlefield, such as starting an IV and helping soldiers breathe through a tube.
The Marine Corps has the longest basic training of the U.S. military, with a 12-week program. Navy boot camp is about eight weeks, and Air Force training is at least six weeks.