Sand Hill gets new Basic Combat Training Unit

06/08/2010  |  Vince Little Courtesy of The Bayonet
The Griffon

Col. Terrence McKenrick, left, the 192nd Infantry Brigade commander, looks on as Lt. Col. Joseph D’costa, center, commander of 1st Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division (IET) unfurls the unit’s colors at the March 31 activation ceremony. Photo by Vince Little, The Bayonet.

FORT BENNING, Ga. — A new unit has cranked up on Sand Hill and will spend the next year turning civilians into Soldiers as an additional basic combat training agent for the 192nd Infantry Brigade.


An activation ceremony took place March 31 for 1st Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division (IET), a Reserve element that comes to Fort Benning from LaFayette, La. Leaders said the formation supports the Army’s overall growth and provides the brigade with an extra training outfit to handle the recruit surge that typically hits Sand Hill every summer.

Col. Terrence McKenrick, the 192nd Infantry Brigade commander, said the battalion assumes a “challenging and critically important mission” of training new Soldiers for the generating force.


 “These Reserve cadre and drill sergeants will ensure our new Soldiers are prepared to complete advanced individual training and then join their first unit of assignment in the operational Army, trained and ready,” McKenrick said. “Their dedicated efforts over the next year of their mobilization will ensure our Soldiers are prepared to deploy and fight in support of the global war on terror.”

Nicknamed the “Gladiators,” the battalion arrived March 1 and will do “left-seat, right-seat” rides with the 47th Infantry Regiment’s 2nd and 3rd battalions through April 22. The new battalion’s four Reserve companies are out of Kentucky, Alabama, Florida and Virginia.

The companies include a mix of active-duty and Reserve Soldiers. The battalion also has three female drill sergeants, all from the Montgomery, Ala.-based unit.

Increasing the number of training battalions in the 192nd Infantry Brigade “means more time and more instructors to properly train future warriors,” said Lt. Col. Joseph D’costa, commander of 1st Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment.

“(We) will contribute enormously to Fort Benning, to the Army and to the nation,” he said. “The name ‘Gladiators’ is well-suited for this group of Soldiers ... They are loyal, they are strong and they are well aware that freedom is not free, and is worth dying for.”

D’costa brings recent experience from Iraq and Afghanistan. His command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Elvis Byrd, has spent 31 years in artillery, ordnance, Infantry and military police units. They have led the battalion for the past two years.

The pace will be brisk for the battalion, which expects to produce 1,000 to 2,000 Soldiers per cycle, D’costa said. At the time of the ceremony, about 500 Soldiers were on the ground as two companies had already picked up recruits. The unit could churn out up to 6,000 new Soldiers for the Army in the next year.

The battalion moved into one of two new training facilities at Sand Hill, which house 1,200 Soldiers each. The complex features a large chow hall, state-of-the-art classrooms, training spaces and barracks.

Byrd, who went through AIT at Fort Benning three decades ago, said the difference in today’s amenities and services is stark.

“It was old World War II barracks (back then) — open bay, open showers,” he said. “This has its own showers, own cadre rooms. (Even) compared to the ‘Starship’ 10 years ago, you have more space, the technology is more up to date ... There was no technology back in the time when I came to AIT, it was all open books.”

The technological advancement, just in electronics, offers all sorts of possibilities in the classroom, D’costa said. For instance, platoons in separate rooms can be tied into the same instructor through a video link.

“Especially if you have a Soldier who’s an expert at one thing,” he said. “Instead of sending that Soldier to four different locations, you can have him stand in front of a camera ... and he can be teaching an entire class live, yet have four or five other classes linked in and able to learn the same thing — without having to go next door to each one.”

The battalion’s team of officers and NCOs “will do everything possible to make sure the transformation from civilians to Soldiers is thorough,” D’costa said.

“The bottom line is to get these recruits that have come in and make them Soldiers,” he said. “At least 80 percent of these Soldiers who are coming to us will find themselves in Iraq or Afghanistan, so it’s very important that we train them properly from the get-go.”

He said 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, an active-duty unit out of Fort Knox, Ky., is scheduled to replace 1st Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment, a year from now.

The 378th Infantry Regiment was constituted in September 1918 and assigned to the 95th Infantry Division. The unit participated in numerous campaigns during World War II.

Since 2001, the battalion has continuously provided Soldiers for individual and unit deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. It’s also supported basic combat training, one station unit training, AIT and ROTC missions at military installations across the United States.

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