SPC Beverly Sage jumped ship to answer the Armys call. Today she wears combat boots instead of Navy blues, and can fire an M-16 like her life depends on it.
The Army is on the frontlines of the war. If joining means I have to serve in Iraq, Im ready, said the ex-sailor.
Sages confidence is a product of the Armys new Warrior Transition Course at Fort Knox, Ky. The course is designed to make Soldiers of former Airmen, Sailors and Marines. Its also an incentive for second-time volunteers wanting to rejoin the Armys ranks without repeating nine weeks of basic training.
We train these Soldiers with the expectation that every single one of them will see combat. The accepted generalization is that about 50 percent of them will be in combat within six months. Over a three-year period, they all will be, said MAJ Ralph Hudnall, executive officer for 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, which trains WTC students.
The Army Way
Trainees spend the first week at WTC learning the Armys rank structure and military courtesies, and brush up on such core tasks as teamwork development, first aid, drill and ceremony, and land navigation. The goal is to introduce those coming from other services to the Armys way of working, and to refresh the skills of former Soldiers.
Week two is spent at the firing range, where trainees engage targets with a variety of weapons in day- and night-firing exercises.
By midcourse, trainees feel the strain of having to pass a physical-fitness test with just three weeks to prepare.
The hardest thing is the physical part, said SGT Jeffrey Coleman. I exercised at home, but it was nothing like this. This reminds me that Im not 18 anymore.
Coleman, 36, served five years in the field artillery before entering the civilian workforce.
I got out because my wife wasnt comfortable with the deployments, but I always felt I was out of my element after that, said the Desert Storm veteran. This is where Im meant to be in the Army.
Tactical training is the longest and final part of WTC. This segment is a reality-check for trainees who expect theyll never cross enemy lines.
Were training students on the specific tasks theyll need to survive in Iraq, Hudnall said.
Skills taught to make Soldiers combat-ready include convoy and checkpoint operations, urban warfare, live-fire operations and recognition of improvised explosive devices.
Training sites mirror the operating bases Soldiers currently see in Afghanistan and Iraq, complete with convoy routes, checkpoints, media representatives and milling locals. Wrecked vehicles, telephone polls and guardrails also cover the convoy route, and scenarios are peppered with enemy ambushes and IEDs.