Army Making More Drill Sergeants to Increase Discipline in AIT

The morning sun peaks over the rooftop of the Drill Sergeant Academy hitting the black letters from across the way, “This We’ll Defend.” The drill sergeant statue overlooks the physical fitness field at Fort Jackson, Aug. 12, 2015. (U.S. Army’Maj. Satomi Mack-Martin)
The morning sun peaks over the rooftop of the Drill Sergeant Academy hitting the black letters from across the way, “This We’ll Defend.” The drill sergeant statue overlooks the physical fitness field at Fort Jackson, Aug. 12, 2015. (U.S. Army’Maj. Satomi Mack-Martin)

The head of the U.S. Army's Drill Sergeant Academy said Tuesday that most Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeants should be wearing drill sergeant hats by July.

The service began converting AIT platoon sergeants into drill sergeants in February as part of an effort to instill more discipline in trainees going though initial military training. The move comes amid statements from Army leaders that new soldiers have been arriving at their first assignments lacking military bearing and unwilling to work hard.

So far, the Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, South Carolina has converted 178 AIT platoon sergeants into drill sergeants, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Berry, commandant of the academy, told Military.com.

There are currently 367 platoon sergeants left to be converted, he said.

Not all current AIT platoon sergeants will convert to drill sergeants. AIT platoon sergeants who have completed less than 12 months of the 18-month assignment are required to convert to drill sergeants. The remaining platoon sergeants with more than 12 months completed have the option to decline the conversion course, Army officials said.

"Once the conversion is complete, the Drill Sergeant Academy will then go to training all drill sergeants that will then be assigned ... to go out to the AIT sites as drill sergeants," Berry explained.

"The AIT platoon sergeant course and the drill sergeant course were actually very close in curriculum. The AIT platoon sergeant course is six weeks long, whereas the drill sergeant course is nine weeks long," he added.

The Army launched the AIT platoon sergeant effort in 2007 since most trainees -- except those in one-station-unit training such as infantry -- take their AIT at a different installation than where they went to Basic Combat Training.

But over the past five years, leaders in operational units have said they want to see new soldiers arrive at their first unit assignment displaying more discipline.

In surveys of thousands of leaders across the Army, trends emerged of soldiers arriving at first units with a sloppy appearance, poor work ethic and a sense of entitlement, Army Initial Entry Training officials maintain.

The findings prompted the Army to redesign BCT with a stronger emphasis on drill and ceremony, inspections and pride in military history without taking away from critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications and battlefield first aid skills.

Going from a drill sergeant-run BCT to an AIT setting and not seeing drill sergeant hats is "a huge transition" for young trainees, Berry said.

"[I'm] not saying that the AIT platoon sergeant was doing anything wrong at all; they were doing a lot of hard work," he said. "They were getting phenomenal trainees and privates in and out of training, but [this change creates] a continuity of discipline across that initial entry training.”

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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