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Test program increases Soldier Lethality

22-week Infantry OSUT pilot program trainees graduate -- part one

As part of the pilot class to extend one-station unit training for Infantry soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks, trainees conduct clearing operations Nov. 15 at the Buchanan Range, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo credit: Mr. Patrick Albright (Benning)

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The pilot class for the 22-week One-Station Unit Training for Infantry soldiers graduated Dec. 7 on Inouye Field at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia.

The pilot program resulted in significantly fewer soldiers leaving the class, at graduation less than six percent attrition compared to 10-12 percent for the 14-week Infantry OSUT.

During OSUT, recruits stay in the same unit through Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, and this pilot, which began July 13, expanded Infantry-specific training to bolster readiness, lethality and proficiency before soldiers arrive at their first duty station. The pilot program accomplished this by expanding weapons training, increasing vehicle-platform familiarization and combatives training, adding a 40-hour combat-lifesaver course, increasing land navigation and adding combat water survivability test.

At the graduation, Retired Master Sgt. Leroy A. Petry -- recipient of the Medal of Honor, former member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and a graduate of the 14-week Infantry OSUT training -- served as the distinguished speaker.

"The extra time and effort that was demanded (of) you may have been difficult, but I look at you as the lucky ones for doing the 22-week course," he said during his remarks. "You have a better starting point than anyone before you, including myself. The skills that (you) learned in the heat and the dirt and the mud and the woods and the cold and the tireless nights and the early mornings and the physical training and weapons training were ... to prepare you to be your best, to be resilient, to be more successful."


The pilot OSUT is, according to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, "the first step toward achieving the vision of the Army of 2028." The Army Vision, published earlier this year, puts forth that the Army 10 years from now "will be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any adversary, anytime (sic) and anywhere, in a joint, multi-domain, high-intensity conflict, while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare." The capabilities the Army is developing to achieve this are "centered on exceptional leaders and soldiers of unmatched lethality."

Soldier Lethality is one of the Army's six modernization priorities, which were developed to prepare the Army for a war with peer or near-peer competitors.

During a press conference at Fort Benning earlier this year, Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, who was an Infantry officer at the beginning of his military career, said Soldier Lethality was the priority "closest to my heart." He outlined some of the other innovations besides the new OSUT that are likely to contribute Soldier Lethality.

"So we have in the works right now, for example, enhanced night-vision goggles," said Esper. "We are building -- prototyping -- a new weapon, which is far more powerful, has greater range and greater accuracy than the current M4, if you will. We are also looking at advances in protective equipment for our soldiers.

Col. Dave Voorhies, commander of 198th Infantry Brigade, which conducts Infantry OSUT, said their brigade's part in advancing Soldier Lethality has less to do with innovations and more to do with establishing firmer fundamentals: marksmanship, physical training, land navigation, the ability to medicate, combat lifesaver skills, combat water survival, soldier discipline and more.

"If we do our jobs appropriately, if we professionally mold these kids into Infantrymen, they'll be able to out-PT their team leader, outshoot their squad leader," Voorhies said. "They're going to be as good if not better than their combat lifesavers, maybe as good to help medics out. They're going to be qualified on the machine gun, maybe two, so there's fungibility where you put them in your battle roster. They're going to be the ones certified in combatives ... It's what you expect out of those that close with and destroy the enemy."

Although much of future warfighting involves integrating new technologies into mission execution, Voorhies said some of the training was a deliberate step away from that.

"We're so tied to cellphone technology and digital technology -- and our enemies know that -- that we've got to be experts at the basics," he said. "Experts at the basics means knowing what you're doing without technology -- you know, map and compass -- and they loved it!"

See next week's Ranger and Airlifter for part two of this story.

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