Not A Drill: Army Softens Basic Training


For new Army recruits, boot camp will be a lot more like summer camp. The U.S. Army is changing its approach to Basic Combat Training, moving away from many of the harsher traditions associated with the grueling days that serve as the introduction to military service for all recruits.

Specifically, the Army is eliminating the day-one Basic Training tradition known as "shark attack"--in which recruits are swarmed by yelling drill sergeants ordering them to do exercises and carry out physical tasks. In its place, the Army is implementing "The First 100 Yards," a calmer and more organized series of what the service calls "mentally and physically challenging events" that focus on building teamwork between recruits and trust with their superiors.

The new approach is already rolling out at basic training sites across the country, but veteran soldiers are not on board. "I find this to be absolutely asinine, that we would be watering down what has worked for literally hundreds of years," says Arthur Rizer, Iraq War veteran now with the D.C. think tank R Street. "Ultimately, the entire point of basic training is to make sure the individual has the mental fortitude for war."

The new approach came about after the military was forced to make major changes to basic training amidst the coronavirus pandemic. But it also comes as the armed forces have faced a drop in recruiting numbers, as well as difficulty in finding qualified recruits, in recent years. "The whole point (of basic training) is to get you tough, to get you mentally ready," says Rizer. "We don't break you permanently, be we ensure you can come together, and you can't do that with that soft, gushy coating that civilian life gives you."

It's far too soon to know what the results of this new approach will be, but Rizer believes it's a huge mistake. "The military has one mission and one mission only, and that is to engage the enemies of America and destroy them," he says. "That is what the military does, and anything that deviates from that core mission is troubling."


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