Drill Sergeant to SMA: Non-Grunt Army Recruits Need Marine Combat Training

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Marines train aboard an amphibious assault ship. (Marine Corps/U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Abraham Becerra (right), a scout sniper team leader with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), performs a speed reload with an M4A1 carbine during an immediate action drill aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. (Marine Corps/Dalton Swanbeck)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Abraham Becerra (right), a scout sniper team leader with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), performs a speed reload with an M4A1 carbine during an immediate action drill aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. (Marine Corps/Dalton Swanbeck)

Army Sgt. First Class Randall Broadhead today told the new sergeant major of the Army that non-combat arms recruits need something like Marine Combat Training to ensure they are ready for the next war.

The drill sergeant at the U.S. Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia and former Marine asked the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston to consider creating additional, combat-focused training like the three-week MCT course all new Marines go to after boot camp during a forum at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"What is the possibility of bringing something like Marine Combat Training into the force to build up that lethality within the soft-skilled [military occupational specialties] and not just the infantry and combat arms?" Broadhead asked. "After Boot Camp, they go to three weeks of infantry training then they go on to their MOS training."

Grinston appeared surprised by the question. "Yeah, we are not going to do that, probably," he said, prompting a few chuckles from the audience.

"First of all, I am not sure about this whole soft-skill, hard-skill thing -- here is what I do know, in combat everybody fights."

Related: Army to Test Extended Infantry Training Program this Summer

In February 2018, the Army announced it was overhauling Army Basic Combat Training to add more physical fitness, marksmanship, communications and battlefield first aid skills after commanders said new soldiers would arrive at new units undisciplined and often unprepared.

The Army also launched an effort last year to extend one-station unit training for infantry soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks to give soldiers more time to practice marksmanship, land navigation, fire and maneuver and other key infantry skills. The effort has spread to other combat-arms specialties such as armor and combat engineers.

Broadwell said that non-combat arms soldiers coming out of the redesigned Basic Combat Training are still lacking in critical combat skills.

"Right now, I do get privates that can't read a map," Broadwell told Military.com. "There is a lot packed into basic and the nine weeks; they are there that a lot of them are overwhelmed ... and I am having to teach them how to read a map and having to re-teach the basics because they weren't taught enough to begin with."

After Marine boot camp, Marines that aren't going to be infantrymen still go to "the infantry school house" for three weeks of MCT, said Broadwell, who served the Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005 an artilleryman.

"They do patrolling, land navigation, hand grenades, machine guns -- all the weapons you would have in a regular infantry squad. And then once they graduate that they go off to their MOS school," Broadwell said told Military.com.

Grinston said that it's very challenging to extend initial military training because it delays when soldiers are scheduled to arrive at their first units.

"You can't just add three weeks to anything without a cost. And I am not talking about the money cost, it's the time cost because you want the medics ... you want all those [specialties] in your units," Grinston said. "As soon as we make it three weeks longer, those are hundreds of soldiers that are not going to be in your units for three more weeks."

One solution that will help make all non-combat arms soldiers more combat ready is the Expert Soldier Badge, an effort the Army unveiled in June that's designed to test soldiers on a challenging battery of tasks that is equivalent to testing for the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) and the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB), Grinston said.

"This is good for our Army," Grinston said, describing the effort that units will begin testing for in fiscal 2020.

Grinston said he has told soldiers about the effort in the past, and "somebody said, 'sergeant major, we don't have time to do that.'"

"OK, here we are in combat, you got shot, your leg is bleeding and the soldier who runs up to you doesn't know how to put on a tourniquet. So I just want to make sure you are OK with that," he said. "Those are the tasks for Expert Soldier Badge, it's warrior tasks and battle drills."

"So, I think we have to have time to work on Expert Soldier Badge."

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

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