US Army to overhaul basic combat training


The US Army is getting ready for some major changes to its basic combat training curriculum to reflect the modern battlefield, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy commanding general for Initial Military Training, says.

Hertling, who is responsible for managing the training of Soldiers from the day they enter the Army until they report to their first duty assignments, made his remarks last week during a visit to Fort Jackson, the largest of the Army’s five basic training centers. “We really took a look at the relevancy of what we’re doing,” Hertling said. “We’re teaching soldiers too much stuff.”

One of the changes Hertling wants to implement is the elimination of bayonet drills, a longtime staple of BCT. Hertling also wants soldiers to focus less on traditional hand-to-hand moves such as grappling and, focus instead on fighting with their hands and knives or other objects.

He said soldiers need to learn how to fight with their hands to make their combat skills more suited to existing battlefield conditions. “The great majority of our soldiers come into training having never had a fistfight,” Hertling said.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it necessary to revamp how many soldier tasks, such as first aid and marksmanship, are taught, Hertling said. He adds there will be a renewed interest in Army values and wrapping soldier training around those values. Also, BCT will focus on producing soldiers at a consistent quality level with the same standards throughout the Army. The key to a consistent product is drill sergeant execution and warrior tasks/battle drills, he said.

Changes to physical training and fitness are already in progress, he said. “I’m a believer that we need something relevant to the conditions on the battlefield,” Hertling said. During his visit to Fort Jackson, Hertling spoke at the post theater during the quarterly Leadership and Training Guest Speaker Program about the challenges facing the Army. Hertling said TRADOC (Training & Doctrine Command) soldiers are a critical part of preparing the Army to continue fighting successfully. “Training soldiers is the least sexy, most important job in the Army,” he said.

Hertling delivered a similar message when he addressed an audience of drill sergeant candidates the day before. “What (Soldiers) become is what you help them become,” he said. “That’s what being a drill sergeant is all about. Those soldiers are your credentials.”
(Hertling is assigned to the Army TRADOC at Fort Monroe, Virginia)

Pic: A US soldier during bayonet training