Hugh C. Laughlin/TRADOC News Service
Photos by Matthew Thomas/Fort Monroe Photo Lab
FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, Feb. 14, 2005) – The current improvements to initial-entry training and the upcoming changes in noncommissioned officers’ education boil down to one thing for Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Williams: helping Soldiers survive on the battlefield.
After 33 years serving the U.S. Army and three years as U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s top enlisted Soldier, Williams will retire later this month and move on to his next “assignment” as a civilian. Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, TRADOC commanding general, will host a retirement ceremony in Williams’ honor at 10 a.m. Feb. 24 in Continental Park at Fort Monroe, TRADOC’s headquarters.
TRADOC’s senior NCO has guided a number of TRADOC initiatives from concept to implementation on Soldiers’ behalf. One initiative was the comprehensive IET review, which later became the impetus behind the Army’s Warrior Ethos.
“When I first arrived at TRADOC, the command was in the process of conducting an IET strategy review,” Williams recalled. “The mission was to do a total re-look at basic training. That review was a driving force behind Warrior Ethos and changing the way drill sergeants do their job, not merely as teachers but as leaders.”
IET is under constant review, said Williams. This has involved a number of adjustments to Soldiers’ training.
“For instance, we did a total re-look at all the program of instruction for Drill Sergeants School,” he said. Combining the Warrior Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Ga., and the strategic review of IET, “a new Drill Sergeant’s School POI has been implemented with a renewed focus on Army Values.”
For Soldiers going through basic training, “We’ve added in more warrior tasks based on lessons-learned in Iraq,” Williams said. “In fact, when we did the A-to-Z review, many of the drill sergeants and cadre who participated in the review had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were able to tell us up front what we need to train the Soldiers on, because when they first get deployed to the field, they are going to need to know some of these things.”
This review of IET was the driving force behind the warrior tasks and battle drills, and it includes teaching Soldiers important lessons such as convoy live-fire training, according to Williams.
“The convoy live-fire is needed because they do that all the time in Iraq,” he said. “So we wanted to make sure Soldiers in basic training learned the fundamentals on how to protect themselves and what to expect when they get there.”
Another addition to the training program is combatives. “Ever since I was a private, and up to a couple of years ago, we have done basic hand-to-hand,” explained Williams. “This has been the same POI we have been doing for years. Now we have more. It’s not just fighting hand-to-hand; we are now showing Soldiers how to fight and get out of different situations. This helps the Soldiers learn how to fight an enemy within the last couple of feet if they have to.”
TRADOC recently announced changes to the first-aid training given to Soldiers. “A lot of Soldiers are getting hurt over there,” Williams said. “You have to know more than how to put on a pressure dressing. You have to know how to apply a tourniquet, how to administer an IV, how to treat a buddy who might lose his sight, how to treat a Soldier who may have multiple injuries, and you have to understand trauma. So we are teaching Soldiers how to do advanced first aid.”
Williams recalled how basic training has changed – although it now incorporates the warrior tasks, battle drills, first aid and more, that has not always been the training standard. “Another significant change to the nine-week basic training POI is we used to take you through each phase, and in the end, we would have a 72-hour culminating event,” he described. “It was your three-day field-training exercise. Along the way, when you finished each phase, there was no big culminating event. After your first three weeks of basic training, we didn’t test you to see if you retained all that information.”
Basic training now tests Soldiers after each phase of their training to ensure they are retaining what is being taught. “Now, after each phase, we take you to a ‘sticks lane’ and take the individual tasks you learned during the first three weeks and test you on those tasks, and include those in the collective tasks and big culminating event,” William explained. “We do this after Week Six and again after Week Nine.”
Other changes to basic training include weapons immersion, said Williams. “In the past, we didn’t issue a Soldier a weapon until he or she completed Basic Rifle Marksmanship I, II and III, (until Soldiers went) to all the ranges, and they still turned in their weapons every night,” he said. “Now, after the third day of basic training, Soldiers get their M-16, and they keep that weapon with them all the time. Even in the barracks. After about six days into basic training, we issue that Soldier a magazine with about 20 rounds of blank ammo. Now they learn how to clear that weapon before entering a dining facility, in and out of the barracks. He or she now has a better understanding of his or her weapon. Soldiers keep that weapon with them at all times because that’s what they’re going to do in Iraq.”
Williams announced that the Army Chief of Staff recently approved E-5s to become drill sergeants, validating the results of a proof-of-principle program that began with Fiscal Year 2004. "We believe if you can have a sergeant in charge of a patrol in Afghanistan with all that responsibility, certainly he or she can stand up there and teach a platoon of civilians on how to become a Soldier,” he said.
As new Soldiers graduate from basic training, they move on to their technical schools in advanced individual training. “When a person finished basic training after nine weeks, he or she would go off to his or her AIT, and that was 99.9 percent driven toward one thing: technical training and learning your job,” said Williams. “We now have to change that.”
The warrior tasks and battle drills learned during basic training are now being sustained during a Soldier’s technical training. A requirement during AIT is to complete a 72-hour FTX.
“Normally, that was done at the end of your AIT,” said Williams. “For example, in an AIT that lasts 27 weeks, Soldiers could go from basic training, where they did all their ‘hooah’ stuff, into AIT’s Week One all the way through Week 27, where they learned their technical skills without doing anything ‘Soldier-like’ other than PT in the morning and maintaining their barracks. Then their school would culminate with that 72-hour FTX, showing how they would use their technical skills in the field. We need to change that whole mindset.”
Williams explained how this was being done. “We want to inject more BRM in AIT. If you are going to be there for 27 weeks, and you haven’t touched that M-16 through that whole time, we want to ensure you remember how to still be a Soldier first,” he said. “So when you complete that 27-week AIT and you head off to Iraq, you haven’t forgotten what we taught you during the first nine weeks.”
In addition to IET and AIT, the Noncommissioned Officers Education System is another TRADOC responsibility. “NCOES was built on the Cold War,” Williams said. “Our (Advanced NCO Course and Basic NCO Course) were built when we had a peacetime Army and you didn’t have to worry about time being a factor.”
That condition changed with the United States’ current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We started rebuilding our NCOES system, calling it ‘Transforming NCOES,’” explained Williams. “Everything just stopped when the war started. We’ve found that units could not afford to let their top enlisted Soldiers attend these lengthy courses for ANCOC, BNCOC and Sergeants Major Academy because they were needed to fight the war.”
TRADOC has implemented some changes to the NCOES system, asking school commandants to re-look their classes and incorporate the lessons being learned on the battlefield. “Our NCOES is now made up of the Cold War model that we’ve changed, the lessons-learned that we’ve added, and the restructure from the review of the courses,” said Williams. “We’ve shifted some stuff, incorporated the lessons-earned, and it is better.”
Williams believes these courses are too long. “I looked at our sister services to see what they are doing for their senior-enlisted academies,” he said. “The Navy has a six-week course, and the Air Force does theirs in seven weeks. Our Sergeants Major Academy is nine months long.”
Williams said TRADOC is looking at how to break down that nine-month academy into manageable pieces. “We really need to change from nine months to shorter periods of time to allow sergeants major to get this training,” he said. “We have to reduce the amount of time our sergeants major sit in a classroom. If you don’t, you are asking unit senior-enlisted Soldiers – key folks – to leave that unit for nine months. Commanders are not going to be able support that.”
As the Army begins to reorganize into its future construct, TRADOC is in the process of reviewing NCOES to ensure Soldiers get the training they need while still meeting their unit’s mission requirements.
“If you are building an NCOES system, you need to build it so the Soldiers can still go to (the Primary Leadership Development Course), BNCOC and ANCOC schools,” said Williams. “There are different alternatives, whether it breaks training down to a shorter time or we break up the training into three or four different, shorter sessions. That will allow that Soldier to get the training, return to his or her unit for a time, and then come back for more of this great training. We can do that, but it hasn’t yet been implemented, and we are looking at what the best options are.”
Looking ahead as the new TRADOC command sergeant major – Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Sparks, currently command sergeant major of the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. – prepares for his duties, “TRADOC has been at the spearhead of transforming the Army,” said Williams. “We have been looking at everything on how to redesign the Army – everything from changing different brigades to Warrior Ethos. We are the foundation of the Army. That is what we do: transform the Army.”
In the next three to five years, the Army will probably implement the new NCOES and will have transformed into a new organization based on Striker brigades, said Williams.
The Canton, Miss., native witnessed many changes in the Army since he enlisted in October 1972, and his Army career was a wealth of experience he drew on at TRADOC. His basic training was at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., then he was trained on field-artillery missiles at Fort Sill, Okla., Now, as he continues packing his office, Williams looks back at his assignments, which have taken him overseas to Korea twice and once each to Germany, Turkey and Hawaii. Between the overseas assignments, Williams was assigned to Fort Sill nine times – one of those tours was as a drill sergeant, another was as a Multiple Launch Rocket System instructor, and another as the command sergeant major for the Field Artillery Center and Fort Sill.
“The next command sergeant major will have his hands in lots of worlds here at TRADOC,” Williams said. “I could do this job for the rest of my life. I’ve spent many hours with the incoming TRADOC CSM, and I’m confident he will assist Gen. Byrnes in moving TRADOC forward.”