DEFENSE: Leaders Plan Training for the Post-Afghanistan Army
Black Balling Black Boots
The U.S. Army’s top enlisted man says future soldiers may never have to polish another boot again.
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III says that may be just one of the changes arising as the post-9/11 Army re-evaluates what it means to be a professional soldier.
“We used to wear boots that we were required polish. I’m not sure we’re going to go back to a black boot Army. We’re probably going to stay a brown boot Army,” Chandler told a defense bloggers roundtable today (Feb. 23). But he added, that doesn’t mean non-commissioned officers won’t be holding inspections to make sure the troops are wearing the proper uniform and are otherwise squared away.
Army leaders are working on striking a balance between the spit and polish standards that slipped during 10 years of war and the attitudes of soldiers who joined after 9/11, deployed repeatedly to Iraq and Afghanistan and may see the changes as so much Mickey Mouse. “Being able to pass a PT (physical training) test is part of what we say we have to do,” Chandler said, adding that not being able to pass means “you are not the person that is committed to the Army profession.”
Chandler says the Army is emphasizing the image of the professional and faces several challenges in how it trains its people in the 21st Century. One problem is that in an era of smart phones, video games and super size fast food, many recruits are not physically fit.
“Society has less athleticism, less outdoor activities. Diet and nutrition are not as good as it has been in the past,” said Chandler – who joined the Army in 1981. “We do have some problems in America.,” he added.
Some solutions start before the recruit puts on a uniform, Chandler noted. The delayed entry program gives new recruits as much as a year before they are inducted. That allows them to train and get in better shape for Basic Combat Training.
In the Future Soldier Program Army recruiters were spending time getting recruits and prospective recruits to a better level of physical fitness, he said. Physical fitness training has also changed. “About six years ago we started something called physical readiness training, which addresses many of the issues we have surrounding a less physically fit younger population,” Chandler said.
For example: “You don’t start off running in boot camp in boots,” he noted. Instead training might be limited at the beginning and then build up over the 10-weeks of Basic Training.
In addition to physical fitness, the Army is dealing with health issues – especially the pervasive American problem of obesity. Chandler said he recently met a young female private who had to lose 300 pounds before she was allowed to join the Army. But the Army’s top soldier said he thought the young woman’s drive and determination marked her for a “very successful Army career.”
The Army has also embarked on a “Fueling the Force” campaign that teaches young soldiers how to eat nutritious, less fattening foods.
When your 4GWAR editor visited Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri last fall he visited a chow line – they don’t call it that any more – that did not serve fried foods or sodas.
The Army brass is spending a lot of time and money figuring out what the Army is and what it should be in the coming years as it shrinks in size and thousands of Army men and women rejoin civilian life.
For a look at the white paper, pamphlet, power point slide programs and other materials generated by this institutional soul searching click here. But be prepared for a lot of jargon and acronyms.