Senior leader meets with drill sergeants to discuss controlled-monitoring training, ACFT and more
To gain direct insights into what’s on the minds of drill sergeants as they perform the controlled-monitoring Basic Combat Training model here, Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training commanding general at Joint Base Langley Eustis, Virginia, visited Fort Leonard Wood this week.
Hibbard had an hour-long lunch with four drill sergeants at the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion dining facility. Topics discussed included the controlled-monitoring curriculum, the initiation of the new Army Combat Fitness Test and the two-plus-eight BCT model performed here and at the Army’s three other IMT installations – Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
The drill sergeants in attendance – Sgts. 1st Class Jason Smith and Marcelino Cisneros and Staff Sgts. Sialei Tapusinilahjiri and Katherine Rios – said there are many strengths to the two-plus-eight model.
“For us, it helps a lot,” said Rios, a drill sergeant assigned to the 43rd AGB, talking about the positives of having more time maintaining small-unit integrity with the trainees.
Hibbard said he and other senior leaders are looking at the “pros and cons” of the additional time.
“We’re looking at the discipline that the trainees are gaining by having an extra week with their dedicated drill sergeants,” Hibbard said. “What we’re trying to figure out is how do we look at capturing that maybe as a model for all while looking at the pros and cons on the back side of drill sergeant health as you take a week away from their cycle break, too. There’s a benefit to the trainees because it produces better quality, but it’s at the cost of the health of the drill sergeant. So, we’ll keep an eye on it.”
Hibbard added that under the new training model, trainees are having fewer injuries and less sick call incidents for other communicable illnesses common to a training environment.
“You take a person who doesn’t normally live with 60 other people and you put them in an open bay and everybody gets sick,” he said. “Because we’re so focused on preventing COVID-19, all of those other, normal sicknesses for the drill sergeants and the trainees have dissipated with the two-plus-eight measures.”
He said that, overall, USACIMT is also seeing fewer behavioral health issues under the new model, in addition to the lower numbers of injuries and illnesses, as trainees have more space and time to process the new information being taught.
Spc. Rayanna Johnson, a trainee assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, said the regular communication with her family back in New Mexico and Florida that her unit has allowed during the two-plus-eight model has also helped. She said having that communication with her family has assured them it’s a safe environment.
“Because of everything that’s going on, they felt like it was a good time for me to be able to go through basic training,” she said. “Even though we haven’t been able to do all the hands-on things that we would’ve done had COVID not been an issue, I’ve been pushed to the limit physically and mentally and I’m pretty excited to get through this.”
Fellow Company A trainee Pvt. Megan Borth, from Watertown, Wisconsin, agreed.
“It is a controlled environment and we know we’re in safe hands,” she said. “They are not kidding when they say you join a second family here.”
Hibbard asked the drill sergeants for their views on the ACFT. Smith, who is assigned to the 43rd AGB’s fitness training unit, said he sees the new test as an improvement on the out-going three-part Army Physical Fitness Test.
“It’s a good capture of physical fitness,” he said.
Rios, who agreed that the ACFT is an improvement, asked Hibbard what he thinks the near-future of Army PT will look like.
“What we’re seeing in the operational Army is a change in the culture when it comes to physical fitness,” he said.
Hibbard added that he’d like to see the Army build a Military Occupational Specialty around the Master Fitness Trainer role – ideally having a 50:50 ratio of contractors and “green suiters” to ensure Soldiers are getting customized workouts from strength and conditioning coaches at both home stations and while on deployments.
As part of his visit, Hibbard also met with Maneuver Support Center of Excellence senior leaders and received overviews on and observed operations at the Harper In-processing Health Screening Facility and the 43rd Adjutant Battalion.
USACIMT is responsible for annually transforming 130,000 civilian volunteers into Soldiers who are disciplined, fit, grounded in Army Values and combat ready.