Less Yelling, More Weight Lifting: Army Reinvents Basic Training for Gen Z


Army drill sergeants inspired by R. Lee Ermey’s ruthless Marine Corps drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket” are about to come out.

These NCOs were for generations a new recruit’s first real introduction to the military, and they are known to yell, curse, and physically punish trainees. But army planners are hoping that instead of the stereotypical screaming drill sergeants in round brown hats, the new generation of non-commissioned officers will act more like strict football coaches.

“They’re not trying to sweat the walls, they’re not throwing trash cans,” the command sergeant said. Maj. Scott Beeson, the top enlisted official at the Army’s Initial Military Training Center, or CIMT, told Military.com during an interview at an Army conference in Washington, D.C. “All it’s going away slowly.”

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The change follows substantial changes in Army physical training. Although recruits had to endure less shouting in boot camp, the new training effectively made the physical fitness and marksmanship requirements more demanding for recruits.

The loud and brutal drill sergeant was seen as a way to toughen up new recruits and prepare them for the harsh realities of war, from the jungles of Vietnam to the post-9/11 battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. But that thinking is changing, and many in the service believe a softer approach may actually be more effective with recruits.

“The naysayers we were initially fighting didn’t believe in this new way of doing things,” Beeson said. “Soft isn’t the right way to say it, it’s just dignity and respect. People want structure, and we try to give it to them. We’re just not assholes when we do it. .”

The idea is to build trust with new soldiers early on, which could make them more comfortable reporting problems to their leaders. Adjusting the way boot camp instructors do business could also help new soldiers absorb training better, with much of it dealing with safety issues ranging from proper firearms handling to training.

And the revamp is partly driven by the military’s need to appeal to Gen Z, who are now reaching draft age.

“This generation is very intuitive,” Maj. Gen. John Kline, CIMT commander, said in an interview with Military.com. “I think they can see if someone is genuine or not. So if [drill sergeants] put on some sort of facade, they’ll see through.”

In 2020, the army got rid of the so-called “shark attack”.

During the deliberately chaotic welcome of new trainees, drill sergeants would swarm them, scream and inflict physical pain on them by ordering them to perform rigorous tasks such as holding heavy bags above their heads for hours on end. The goal was to immediately establish the power dynamic and cause as much stress as possible.

Staff Sgt. Krista Osborne, a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, has been named the Army’s 2022 Drill Sergeant of the Year. Osborne said she was initially too aggressive with new recruits and soon found they were put off by the approach.

“The assault, the yelling, the yelling, the excessive physical punishment…they’re not receptive to that at all,” Osborne told Military.com.

Many drill sergeants try the hard-nosed approach because it mirrors the drill sergeant they had, she said. It was just the way boot camp was.

“I was a lot tougher in my first cycles because that’s all I knew, and eventually I realized it wasn’t working. These interns don’t listen to me. They don’t improve. “said Osborne. “If they don’t do what I want them to do, that’s when I had to tone it down.”

The Army has also totally revamped its main training pillars in recent years, including physical fitness and marksmanship, which are now widely considered to be much more difficult.

The Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, is a more complicated test than its predecessor, which only measured push-ups, sit-ups and a timed two-mile run. Now soldiers must wear kettlebells, lift heavy weights and drag 90 pounds. sled. The requirements can be tough for anyone who has never worked before, which is the case for many recruits.

In previous years, core trainees focused primarily on running and bodyweight workouts. But with heavyweights being the new status quo for Army fitness standards, physical training for new soldiers is as much about teaching them how to train as the training itself.

“We do a lot of circuit training; some can’t even lift the bar,” Osborne said. “With the squat, sometimes just showing them how to squat [is important] because a lot of them don’t even really understand how to squat properly.”

With the new army marksmanship test, soldiers must change positions and reload while targets are still popping up. This is a significantly faster paced event than the old rifle qualification in which soldiers stood still and only changed position during the different phases of the test.

The Army’s new marksmanship requirements can be daunting for new soldiers, who may be shooting a firearm for the first time during basic training.

“We had to spend some time really focusing on mag changes and positioning changes and, you know, reloads and malfunctions. There’s a lot more malfunctions now with the new qualification than there is. there was with the legacy,” Osborne said. “So we really had to put more time into training, and it was a challenge at the start to fit that into the schedules.”

As for what’s next, leaders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville signaled that the service would increasingly rely on the future soldier’s preparatory course at Fort Jackson, in South Carolina.

Pre-basic training was introduced in August as a 90-day program for new recruits who are just outside the Army’s body fat standards or have missed the fitness battery Armed Services Professional, or ASVAB. Soldiers can take a physical fitness course teaching proper nutrition and exercise, as well as an ASVAB course on study skills and high school academics required by the test.

If new soldiers can meet the Army’s academic or weight standards after these 90 days or before, they can undergo basic training. If not, they are removed from the service.

So far, 581 of the 706 students on the ASVAB course – who otherwise likely would not have been allowed to enlist – have progressed through basic training. For the fitness track, 292 out of 366 soldiers qualified, according to internal Army data reviewed by Military.com.

“Early results from this look quite promising and depending on how this plays out over the next couple of months, I think we will look at expanding this to other training sites,” McConville said during an interview. a press conference on October 10.

— Steve Beynon can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: The new army fitness test is here. For real this time. No seriously. But its future is uncertain.

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