Thursday, February 16, 2006

Kinder. Gentler. Dead-er.

Steve Gilliard, whose site I read every day (you should too) has something up from the subscription-only Wall Street Journal online about how the Army is making boot camp a place to fit new soldiers for body bags. Well, that's essentially what's going on.
In recent months, the Army has told drill sergeants to back off the recruits in the dining halls as well. A few months ago, sergeants would hover over new recruits, rushing them through meals, quizzing them about Army regulations and chastising them for minor infractions like carrying their drinking glass with one hand instead of two.

The dining hall still is far from relaxing. But drill sergeants no longer shout at recruits. They aren't allowed to order overweight privates to skip dessert. At first, some drill sergeants refused to embrace the new directive. "There was a lot of balking on the dessert rule," says Capt. Meng, who oversees 11 drill sergeants. "I have had to say, 'Don't even mention it.' "

The Army also has cut the amount of running troops do in boot camp by more than 60% in the past three years. "A lot of these kids have never done P.E. or sports. We were injuring too many by running too much," says Col. Greg Jolissaint, an Army physician with the command that sets baseline standards for boot camp.

Instead of running, privates do more calisthenics and stretching. They also are spending more time learning the basic combat tasks they will need in Iraq or Afghanistan, such as how to spot a roadside bomb. Last month, Sgt. First Class Kevin Staddie, who spent a year in Iraq, was teaching soldiers how to move through a city under enemy fire. Suddenly he called a halt to the exercise. A private who was slithering on his belly lost his only canteen. Sgt. Staddie asked the private if he knew the temperature in Baghdad in August.

"It is 115 degrees," the sergeant said in an even voice. "Will you give me a solemn promise that you'll do a better job securing your canteen? You'll get a whole lot further."

The private nodded and rushed to continue the exercise.

Soldiers also get a few more chances to succeed, say drill sergeants. Not long after she arrived at boot camp, Pvt. Starr Mosley was accused by another soldier of writing letters home when she was supposed to be training. Her drill sergeant ordered the 18-year-old private to crawl on her belly through the barracks and chant: "I will not write letters in the war room."

Pvt. Mosley, who said she wasn't writing letters, refused. The Army offered her a fresh start in a new platoon.

Check the whole thing out--I'm only excerpting a little bit.

I think this is a Very Bad Idea.

Boot camp is supposed to do several things; combat training is not, I repeat not one of them. The most important thing Basic Training teaches you is that you had goddamn jolly well better listen when you are told to do something by, specifically, an NCO. Yeah, you're supposed to listen to officers, too, but recruits do not have much contact with commissioned officers (at least not in my experience, or that of anyone I've ever known who's gone to or served at a recruit training center). That way, when you're told, some time in the future, to "Get your fucking ass down right the fuck now!!!," you do it, without hesitation or discussion. It might just save your goddamn life. You don't get a chance for a fresh start in another platoon after your ass has been tagged and bagged. (For the record, I also have a problem with the recruit who ratted on Pvt. Mosley--you don't do that shit.)

I have no fucking idea why the Army would ease up when you can be abso-fucking-lutely certain that if you have an 11B MOS (or just about any other one, for that matter), you will see a tour in The Sandbox before your EAOS.

That don't make no sense.

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