FORT CUSTER TRAINING CENTER, Mich. — Soldiers rarely forget their first day of Basic Training. As a matter of fact, most Soldiers tend to have vivid memories of multiple drill sergeants barking out orders creating a fog of confusion and stress.
Remembering that day does not necessarily mean Soldiers want to relive it though. However, that is just what some Army Reserve Soldiers of 3/330th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) got to do multiple times Nov. 5, 2016, at the Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Michigan.
Reliving day-one of basic training multiple times in one day was the task of several leaders from across the regiment and part of a competition-like event during the 3/330th Infantry Regiment’s battle training assembly weekend.
The original goal was merely to have current Army Reserve drill sergeants demonstrate effective day-one trainee techniques to drill sergeant cadets. But with over 30 drill sergeants from five companies having valuable experience to share, the leaders decided to make the esprit de corps event into more, said Capt. Derrick Babcock, the Alpha Company commander who helped create the event.
The drill sergeants were broken down into company teams and given seven minutes to demonstrate their most effective methods on dealing with trainees on their first training day. To make this training active though, the drill sergeants needed trainees to practice on. This is where regimental leadership stepped forward. For all five company teams of drill sergeants, various officers and noncommissioned officers played the role of private. Watching the drill sergeants in action was motivating for the cadets, said Babcock. It was a way for us to show them ‘here is one of the things you can look forward to.’
Of course, with each company team of drill sergeants showing their best methods on dealing with trainees, there needed to be some kind of result, said 1st Lt. David Olson, the Alpha Company Executive Officer who helped create the event.
|Army Reserve Soldiers from 3/330th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) conduct an esprit de corps event by having their drill sergeants compete at “welcoming trainees” during their battle assembly weekend at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Mich. The event, which simulated a day-one style pick up that our Army Reserve drill sergeants would use at Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga. , pitted the different companies from across the regiment to earn bragging rights to tiles like Most Intimidating and Most Creative.|
“The operation wasn’t really a competition, but bragging rights had to be awarded, so our assigned safety officers determined who they thought did the best job based on energy, creativity and a few other factors.”
The other factors considered in the training event were aspects on how the drill sergeants applied their impassioned encouragement to the trainees. Like anything in the Army, there are regulations. How to deal with trainees falls under the Army Training and Doctrine Command Regulation 350-6. The regulation outlines everything from language to physical contact to corrective action.
By having the leadership act as trainees, they got to see their drill sergeants in action, said Babcock.
“It is good to put the drill sergeants in an environment where they can be observed.”
The unique skills of drill sergeants are challenging to say the least as they have to mold civilians into warriors though nerve-wracking yet respectful training. It can be a fine line between creating stress to test a future Soldier’s ability all while inspiring them to challenge themselves, said Babcock.
“They have to balance intimidating with motivating, and all within the regulations.”
The benefits of the event were not just limited to drill sergeant cadets seeing a glimpse at the job and leaders seeing their drill sergeants in action though. The drill sergeants themselves had the chance to turn tables of power on their leaders, if only for a few minutes and have a little fun.
“As a Soldier, I vividly remember my day-one pick up: getting off the cattle trucks and the fear that the drill sergeants put through every fiber of my being,” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Foust, an Alpha Company drill sergeant. “I enjoyed allowing our command teams the opportunity to relive their day-one pickups. And, for the officers with whom some have never experienced the joys of a pick up, giving them a small taste of being a private was thoroughly enjoyable.”
Besides having fun, the drill sergeants said the event offered them a lot of training value too.
“Not only was this event good for unit cohesion and morale, but it allowed for drill sergeants to effectively exercise their experience and knowledge on a group of day-one Soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. Cameron Edmonds, an Alpha Company drill sergeant.
After five rounds of drill sergeants welcoming them as privates, the leaders still agreed the first-time event was a success and had huge training value, said Babcock.
“As a leader, it’s important to reward Soldiers with training that is both engaging and also focused on overall mission readiness. It’s also important to be humble, putting ego aside in order to show your Soldiers that you will not ask them to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself. This event accomplished those key leadership tasks.”
Training and readiness is all the regimental leaders may have needed at the end of the day. However, the drill sergeant teams demanded some bragging rights on which company did the best job. So they wanted the results of the nonofficial competition.
Alpha Company drill sergeants earned the title of most intimidating with their fierce stares and loud orders. Bravo Company drill sergeants earned the title of most creative title by making the trainees pick up leaves and stuff them into their pockets while low crawling, which demonstrated a unique and effective use of a police call in a tactical mode.
Now that Alpha and Bravo companies have those bragging rights under their belt, Babcock realized he will have to plan this event again.
“Next year, we will expand from a subjective grading scale and offer an official grading sheet.”