The Army is looking forward to bring back its drill sergeants in a move to make disciplinary training stricter. The Center for Initial Military Training is currently researching on the move and will be presenting its recommendation to Training and Doctrine Command senior leaders this summer. Once the proposal is accepted, amendments and changes in the process will need to be approved by senior Army leaders.
Note that currently the AIT platoon sergeants are in charge of the same drill; however, their effectiveness is at question here.
According to Command Sergeant Major David Davenport, one of the senior enlisted soldiers for Training and Doctrine Command, ?When you think about TRADOC soldiers, when we hand that soldier off to their first unit of assignment, there are three things we want them to be ? fit, disciplined and well-trained.?
He added that the Army loses around 12 percent of its trainees and ?we want to make sure they?re the fittest, most disciplined, most well-trained soldiers. That?s not to say AIT platoon sergeants aren?t doing that, but this is another way to invest in our training.?
According to him, drill sergeants ?are the epitome of a disciplinarian.?
Davenport further iterated, ?As we think about the future and readiness, how do we make our soldiers more fit, more disciplined and better trained? Soldiers always remember their drill sergeants. They measure themselves against them.?
In 2007, the Army switched to AIT platoon sergeants in order ?to recognize that transition of the soldier from a total-control environment to lessening restrictions to prepare them to go to their first unit of assignment,? Davenport added. However, the change did not affect any station unit training, which is usually run by drill sergeants.
Furthermore, Commander Sergeant Major Michael Gragg, one of the senior enlisted soldiers for the Center for Initial Military Training, said, ?It was a matter of trying to get them to associate authority with a figure other than the hat. But what we didn?t realize and didn?t take into account is the drill sergeant in the AIT environment is still working on that soldier.?
In addition, Gragg admitted the fact that the Army did not provide AIT platoon sergeants ?all the tools that they needed to be as successful as they could be.?
He acknowledged, ?The same individuals who are AIT platoon sergeants are the same people who would be drill sergeants. It?s not about them being ineffective, it?s about increasing their effectiveness.?
According to Davenport, the switch to AIT platoon sergeants was a move to introduce new soldiers as noncommissioned officers so they can learn the technical skills required for Army assignments.
He acknowledged the efforts of the AIT platoon sergeants by saying ?it?s working. I just think that to improve the morale of the AIT platoon sergeants and to recognize the hard work they are doing, that they should be parallel to that of a drill sergeant.?
Admiring the platoon sergeants and talking about switching their roles, Davenport said, ?Our AIT platoon sergeants have done nothing wrong. But I hear them. They want badges, they want hats, they want SDAP. If they?re selected through the same process as drill sergeants, and they go to Drill Sergeant School, it seems to me we?re training them like drill sergeants as well, so why not just make them drill sergeants??
In addition, it should be noted here that by making the switch, the Army will have more flexibility to operate these critical positions, according to Davenport.
?If they?re all drill sergeants, if they want to do a third year as a drill sergeant, instead of doing basic training again, maybe we can move them to AIT or vice versa,? he added.
According to the cost-benefit analysis report of the Center for Initial Military Training, making this switch is feasible for the department, according to Gragg. He added that currently the army has enough personnel who can meet the criteria of becoming drill sergeants.
?The question is, is it sustainable?? Gragg said. ?The AIT platoon sergeants are doing an excellent job, but they aren?t compensated with any type of special duty pay. If we?re able to put drill sergeants into the AIT environment, it comes with some associated costs.?
Furthermore, he added that the biggest expensive will be managing Special Duty Assignment Pay, which pays up to $300 a month to drill sergeants.
Currently, the Army consists of more than 2,100 drill sergeants and around 650 AIT platoon sergeants. One drill sergeant is in charge of around 20 soldiers on an average. On the other hand, a typical student load for one AIT platoon sergeant is 40, according to Gragg.
?If we put drill sergeants back in AIT, we would focus on getting the ratio back to 1 to 20, so we would have an increase in the number of individuals in the AIT environment,? he added.
In addition, the Army might also look into other AIT locations to use platoon sergeants in order to assist retain them. According to Gragg, ?where it?s just not feasible to have a drill sergeant there.?
?We may look at programs where we?d like to remain with some type of different variant of cadre than a drill sergeant because of the length of the course or complexity of the course or status of the students in the course. We can?t go into it with a one-size-fits-all,? he added.
However, brushing asides rumors that the move is based upon the poor performance of AIT platoon sergeants, Gragg said, ?Our AIT platoon sergeants are doing an outstanding job with the tools and skills that they have. The problem that we do have is that right now the generation we have coming in is not as disciplined as we would like them to be, so we have to provide them with discipline over a longer period of time.?