Tucked behind Fort Jackson, S.C., the McCrady Training Center is home to a small group of 98th Training Division Drill Sergeants preparing Navy Sailors for combat. This is Task Force Marshall.
“I think the Drill Sergeants bring to the table what needs to be brought to the table as far as a little bit of authority to instill in them the fact that they should be paying attention and listen.” — Drill Sergeant (Sgt.) John Bland, 98th Training Division.
Designed to train U.S. Navy augmentees , the training at McCrady lasts a total of three weeks and is focused on the skills needed to survive in combat. Sailors are trained in basic marksmanship, first aid, land navigation, urban operations and finally convoy lanes and counter-IED operations.
Although the Navy personnel are new to Army tactics, this is not Basic Training, despite the presence of Drill Sergeants in the instructor roles.
“It’s different coming from BCT (Basic Combat Training) to Navy training. They’ve already had their Basic Training … now we are just teaching them how to do it the Army way,” said Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) James Griffin, 98th Training Division. “Most of them have never been on the ground, they’ve been on the ship or in an office.”
Training in accordance with Army doctrine, and preparing the Sailors to join the Army team involves some basic marksmanship requirements that are new to the augmentees.
“They have to qualify to continue with their mission,” explained Griffin. “A lot of them have never fired an M-4, never fired a 9mm. The only training they have is sitting on the 50-cal and pushing the button for a few minutes. We teach them weapons safety, how to break it down and clean it, that’s the biggest part, the weapons themselves and qualifying,” he concluded.
Although the Sailors are well versed with operations on the ship and conduct themselves with professionalism and discipline, they aren’t used to ground operations and the Army standards of ground movement, marching and formations.
“I think the Drill Sergeants bring to the table what needs to be brought to the table as far as a little bit of authority to instill in them the fact that they should be paying attention and listen,” said Drill Sergeant (Sgt.) John Bland, 98th Training Division. “We keep their attention, we kind of keep them on edge a little bit and they are a little nervous when they are around us.”
Watching these Sailors progress from day one to the end of the mission is a favorite of Bland.
“They go from not knowing anything Army to learning everything we teach them and 99 percent of them are just as good as any of the Army Soldiers,” Bland enthused. “The entire mission ends up being successful in the end, I am really impressed with them.”
1st Sgt. Johnny Briones, Bravo company, emphasized the goal of the TFM mission in preparing Sailors for overseas duty.
“These are the fundamentals for these Sailors who are heading over for their missions,” Briones said. “This helps them out for ‘just in case’. Like anything when you go to theater, you never know what is going to happen.”
Arguably, Drill Sergeants are extremely qualified when it comes to training Soldiers. Here at TFM the mission benefits not only the Sailors being trained, but also the Soldiers doing the training.
“Drill sergeants are very good at teaching Soldiers,” Briones explained. “They are used to being hard, being the example, being “in your face.” According to Briones, the Task Force Marshall mission is beneficial to his Drill Sergeants because this isn’t that type of mission.
“Here they have to step back from the Drill Sergeant persona and teach,” Briones said. “It benefits them, they start teaching exactly what they learned at the Drill Sergeant Academy. They aren’t always going to be wearing that hat and they will have to be NCOs.”
Briones explained the Drill Sergeants are able to get valuable experience working with how different types of Soldiers learn and develop. It will help them with their teaching and mentoring as they transition from full-time Drill Sergeant duty back to the regular Army Reserve formations.
But for now, the Drill Sergeants are here at TFM, and they excel at their mission. As subject matter experts, their sole purpose here is to train the fundamentals. Their mission isn’t to turn a Sailor into a Soldier, but to give them the basic skills in case something happens.
“Most of the Sailors are very excited to do this kind of training… they don’t get to handle weapons, they don’t get extra training on convoy missions, first aid, they don’t do a lot of that, it’s a completely new experience and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” explained Capt. Allison Callesen, Bravo company commander.
“A lot of people come up to us after the mission is over or the class is over and say ‘this is the best training I’ve ever received in the Navy or period’,” Callesen said. “I hope they take that back at tell the other Navy personnel they come in contact with that Army Drill Sergeants are really actually experts … legitimate experts.”