The Transformation of Initial Entry Training

By Coss, Michael A.; Kessler, Daniel A. | Infantry, September/October 2008 | Go to article overview

The Transformation of Initial Entry Training


Coss, Michael A., Kessler, Daniel A., Infantry


U.S. Army Infantry School Training Update - 192nd and 198th Infantry Brigades

"The high quality of Army leaders and Soldiers is best exploited by allowing subordinates maximum latitude to exercise individual and small-unit initiative. Tough, realistic training prepares leaders for this, and FM 3-0 prescribes giving them maximum latitude to accomplish the mission successfully."

- FM 3-0, Operations

Since we were attacked on September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in the Global War on Terrorism.

As an Army, we have determined that we will be in a state of persistent conflict with an operational environment that is complex and multidimensional with battles fought predominantly within population centers. The current strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan has small units living among the population in combat outposts while clearing their areas of operation, holding the physical and human terrain, and building national capacity. These conditions are further compounded by the current operational tempo and Army Force Generation (ARPORGEN) cycle that has an increasing number of Soldiers graduating from Initial Entry Training (IET) and deploying to combat within 90 days without completing the Soldierization process at their unit. To win under these circumstances, our units require flexible and adaptive leaders and Soldiers who are capable of thinking and exercising initiative on the battlefield from the moment they arrive. IET at Sand Hill on Fort Benning has responded to this challenge and is currently producing the leaders and Soldiers capable of winning in this environment.

Observations and Analysis of the Previous IET Program

The previous IET program established in the 1980s focused on mass producing Soldiers in the most efficient manner possible. This methodology assumed identical experiences would produce identical training results. Trainers believed that if all Soldiers attended the same training, conducted in the same way using the same script, then they would emerge with similar capabilities. This methodology also relied on centralized planning using a set program of instruction (POI) that directed what to train, how long to train, and how to do it using set scripts and procedures believing this would produce the capabilities required.

Our POI metrics focused on the inputs to training rather than outcomes. The POI and other applicable training base regulations directed the rules and procedures for conducting the training. This resulted in trainers who focused on whether or not a Soldier attended six hours of land navigation training taught in accordance with procedures specified in the POI versus whether he could read a map or navigate from point A to B. This condition often led our trainers to train to time and not to standard, leaving little time in the POI for remedial training. This resulted in a "check the block" mentality and did little for developing the leader or Soldier initiative required in combat and in accordance with our doctrine of battle-focused training.

Additionally, because of the diverse educational background of our Soldiers, trainers applied a lowest-common-denominator approach focused on attaining the minimal standard among all. The mind-set was that operational units would complete the training process for the Soldiers prior to having them perform as members of a team or squad in combat. Given today's operational environment, this methodology was not producing the quality, thinking Soldiers our units required; nor was the time available later to accomplish this task prior to deployment to combat.

Making the IET Transformation a Reality

Fort Benning, the proponent for Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT), worked closely with Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the proponent for Basic Combat Training (BCT), to transform all IET training. The proponent leaders agreed upon these principles to guide the required transformation. …

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