Today's Army puts LDRSHIP into service
negotiate Fort Jackson's "Endurance Obstacle
Course" while crawling in mud and dodging
barbed wire. This is just part of the training
soldiers must undergo during boot-camp at Fort
Jackson, S.C. (Staff Photo by Vincent Z. Whaley)
By Vincent Z. Whaley
City Press Staff Writer
(Published Sunday, March 5, 2000)
FORT JACKSON, S.C. Rappelling down a 30-foot
wooden tower and crawling on your back in mud while
dodging barbed wire are as commonpace in today's Army
as running several miles and doing push-ups.
But along with maintaining physical and mental stamina,
the Army of the 21st century requires soldiers to mold
their lives around seven values loyalty, duty,
respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal
courage. This special-values training begins as soon
as recruits step off the bus and lasts throughout their
"Each soldier undergoes 26 hours of study just
on Army values during basic training, and I usually
show them a scene from the movie Saving Private Ryan
to illustrate each value," said Lt. Col. Allen
Watts, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 13th "First
at Vicksburg" Infantry Regiment.
"All seven Army values can be found in the final
scene where Ryan is told his brothers have been killed
in action. His response to that tragedy and his sacrifices
in battle illustrate perfectly how an American soldier
should hold to the Army's values. The first letters
of those seven values form an acronym for leadership,
and that is what we want every soldier to develop."
soldier rappells off the Victory Tower at Fort
Jackson, S.C. (Staff Photo by Vincent Z. Whaley)
During a recent tour of the Army's premier basic and
advanced individual training facilities at Fort Jackson,
educators and media representatives from Tennessee,
West Virginia and Kentucky were given an opportunity
to see the newest boot-camp tactics.
The Army's nine weeks of basic combat training are in
three stages Red Phase, White Phase and Blue
Phase. At the end of each phase, soldiers must meet
specific standards that count toward graduation.
Red Phase is composed of introductory lessons in drill
and ceremony, physical training, military courtesy and
wearing of the uniform. Rifle maintenance, first aid,
radio and telephone communications also are introduced,
as is nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. Recruits
also tackle the Victory Tower obstacle course, which
enables them to build confidence and motivation through
While recently participating in Red Phase, Pfc. Matthew
Woodward, of Johnson City, Tenn., said adjusting to
the Army routine was "quite challenging and very
different from civilian life."
"I left home approximately three weeks ago and
have been in basic training for two of those weeks,"
Woodward said. "I have never been away from home
for a long length of time. It is quite a bit different.
The training is more challenging than I expected, but
you just have to do your best to keep up.
"For some people it is a very good decision to
join the Army, but when you come here you have to be
mentally prepared, because it is a lot different from
what you are used to. Some people don't make it, because
it is extremely challenging."
Although Fort Jackson's Victory Tower the same
wood and rope structure that actor Danny Devito rappelled
down in the movie Renaissance Man may
appear intimidating to new recruits, Capt. Christopher
Muhr said they only train on the tower once and "if
they refuse, they go home."
negotiate the Victory Tower obstacle course
at Fort Jackson, S.C.
(Staff Photo by Vincent Z. Whaley)
"When you're up there and you've never rappelled
before, it's very scary, especially for those already
afraid of heights," said Muhr, B Company, 2nd Battalion,
13th Infantry Regiment. "But the key is to keep
soldiers motivated. There are a lot of physical things
to do in basic training, but it's more of a mental thing.
There is nothing we have them do that males and females
can't do as long as they have their head in the game."
With the arrival of White Phase, training intensifies
with additional marksmanship practice, map reading and
a six-to-eight-mile road march. This phase ends with
M-16A2 rifle qualification on a state-of-the-art computerized
Highlights of Blue Phase include a special three-day
training exercise in which soldiers march to the field,
set up tents and learn techniques of using field equipment.
Combat skills, defensive tactics, fire and maneuver,
land navigation and radio communications are the focus
of the 72-hour "Victory Forge," which ends
with a 12-to-15-mile road march.
Many recruits pull through the daily rigors of basic
training by centering their thoughts on mealtime. And
if Fort Jackson's dining facilities, or mess halls,
resemble other Army forts, one thing is for sure
the Army definitely knows how to feed its soldiers.
A far cry from the old stainless steel trays used during
the war years through the 1960s, the Army now provides
modern plastic trays and glasses along with separate
buffet-style lines one for hot items such as
chicken, fish and vegetables and another line for hamburgers,
hot dogs and french fries. And unlike mess halls of
the past, these allow a soldier to get soda, fruit punch,
milk or juice instead of just water.
Of all the different obstacles of basic combat training,
corresponding with and carrying out orders from a drill
sergeant is usually every soldier's least desirable
task. But unlike the Army of years past, the number
of drill sergeants cursing and yelling at their puppy-eyed,
fatigued recruits appears to be dwindling.
"The Army used to be under the concept of breaking
you down like a shotgun and building you up again. It
is no longer that way," said Master Sgt. Joseph
E. Necheporek. "Now the Army builds you up from
where you are with your confidence and self-esteem and
gives soldiers responsibilities and leadership abilities
that some of them don't have.
"The drill sergeant is there to oversee everything
that they do, and they don't deliberately scream and
yell at people. But, of course, the drill sergeant is
the authoritarian and has the responsibility with the
soldiers who just came in to make sure they learn the
basics of the Army.
"It's good for the kids, because instead of the
drill sergeants telling them what to do all the time,
they're placed in leadership positions where they work
among their peers and prove themselves," Necheporek
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Story and Photographs
Copyright © 2000-2004 by Vincent Z. Whaley
and the Johnson
204 W. Main St., Johnson City, Tennessee 37605,
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