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Army Testing New Basic Training Schedule

Test Program Increases Time in the Field

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Updated February 04, 2004
By Spc. Brian Trapp

FORT BENNING, GA -- The Basic Combat Training Brigade at Fort Benning is piloting two programs of instruction that provide more time in the field and focus more on warrior skills.

The “immersion” and “alternate” courses include the original Program of Instruction (POI) from today’s basic training, but add military operations in urban terrain and training with more weapons, without increasing the overall nine-week length of instruction.

The pilot class for the immersion POI started Jan. 29, and the class for the alternate POI picks up Feb. 12.

The new POIs will increase the time trainees spend in the field from three days to 10 days for the alternate POI pilot and to 23 days for the immersion POI pilot. Soldiers will also have classes on more heavy weapons and increase the time spent on the M-249 squad automatic weapon.

“These are weapons Soldiers weren’t seeing before,” said Capt. Robert Olszewski, commander, A Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, who is involved in the immersion POI pilot.

“(Soldiers) will be familiar with a lot more weapon systems than other classes, and they’ll get blocks of instruction other classes haven’t before,” Olszewski said. I think they’ll be better prepared when they get to their units, because they’ll have a wider knowledge base.”

The current POI trains 19 of the 40 warrior skills and four of the nine warrior drills. The alternate POI trains 39 of the 40 skills and eight out of the nine drills. The immersion POI trains all the skills and drills.

“Instead of talking about guard duty in the class room and memorizing general orders, we’re adding some more hands-on training,” said 1st Sgt. James Conner of B Co., 2nd Bn., 47th Inf. Regt. Conner is involved in the alternate POI pilot.

“The quality of Soldiers stays the same,” said Capt. Christopher Colster, B Co., 2nd Bn., 47th Inf. Regt. (alternate POI). “We graduate only the top-quality Soldiers; however, their Soldier skills will be a little bit more battle-focused now.

“The current POI was set up to run eight weeks,” Colster said. “Now we’re expanding the training, but still in the same amount of time, so it’s a challenge.”

To handle the increase in training, the companies are increasing the number of drill sergeants from 12 to 16. The additional drill sergeants lower the drill-sergeant-to-student ratio and prevent “drill sergeant burnout,” Olszewski said.

“Right now, I can only speculate attrition rates,” Olszewski said. “(We’ll) see if injury or attrition rates go up; that’s one of the reasons we’re running the pilot.”

The immersion POI calls for a 20-day field problem for the last phase of training, where the Soldiers will continue to receive instruction but in a field environment.

The cadre for both pilot classes trained on their new blocks of instruction for weeks before training began.

“Eventually, this has to go across the board,” Colster said. “The whole way of thinking in the rear echelon has to change, and we’re happy to influence the changing Army."

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