David Wood over at Politics Daily writes from Fort Benning,

….For years – decades – basic training has had an unthinking, mechanical logic to it.

“We were dumb, marching privates,” says Sgt. Jermaine Trevillion, who went through basic training here in 1997. Now, after two combat tours in Iraq with the 1st Armored Division, he’s a drill sergeant.

“The training was mindless – here’s the material, memorize it,” says John Calpena, who fought with the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005. “Today the enemy is always changing his tactics, his operations. We can’t give soldiers mindless solutions. They have to think.”

Full article here.

There are lessons to be learned here for some of the other service branches. I have long felt that a lot of time spent at basic and officer training is mindless. I know my 3 weeks at Reserve Officer Candidate Indoctrination (ROCI) school in July 2002 was mindless. We are a nation at war and my biggest worry was memorizing the organization and regulations manual on how to fold my underwear and socks correctly…. not to mention marching around with a demilitarized M-1. BZ to the Army for fixing things albeit slowly and to Mr. Wood for writing on a subject that I knew needed fixing but was unable to eloquently write about it as well as he did.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Army

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  • Byron

    I could be wrong on this, but I read somewhere that the silly things you have to do in Basic like how to fold your socks and underwear and how to make your bed have a direct relation to your handling of tasks in the future. In combat (so it’s said), you can’t afford an attitude of “it’s just a little bit off, or it’s not quite right”. If you don’t pay attention to the details, people will die, missions will not be accomplished. I guess you could say it goes back to the old saying that starts, “For want of a nail…”.

  • interesting perspective Byron. Thanks for sharing. If that is true, then our shipbuilders need to go through basic training then since they buid ships a little bit off…

  • Byron

    You’ll get no argument from me on that one.

  • jim mc connell

    whatever they did in b/c, it is still with me. folding my socks and underwear the navy way after 40 years as a sloppy civilian. wife won’t do it right. BTW its not about the clothes, it is attention to detail. BT1 Donyatzi would be proud of me.

  • Jim and Byron, thanks for commenting. I hear what you both say about attention to detail. Cant argue with it but I think it proves attention to the wrong details. The mindless training has failed b/c we have forgotten to pay attention to details such as adequate training, spare parts, up-armored humvees, body armor, and the list could go on and on.

    My chief concern is that people in uniform peddle the attention to detail argument is that they dont feel like changing the training regimen. my two cents.. thanks for reading and commenting

  • Fouled Anchor

    Jim, do you really think attention to detail training in boot camp has resulted in senior leadership ignoring the items you listed? Bootcamp is the very first training enlisted Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen receive…I don’t see the connection to major service issues. I would bet there is a better causal connection to be made with officer continuing education and the emphasis on business ‘acumen’ than there is to bootcamp.

    Bootcamp is, or should be, designed to prepare young Americans to serve at the most basic level and to adapt to the service culture. One of those basic skills is attention to detail.

  • Mike M.

    If you want to hammer attention to detail, there is a more obvious method.

    Issue rifles early, require that they be kept clean. Very clean. So clean that they will always work.

    Doing this demands attention to detail. But it is clearly a fighting skill. A link so clear that even the slowest recruit can immediately grasp it.

    Build from there.

  • CDR Lumpy

    Scenario Based Training would be a recommendation. (It is also called Problem-Based Learning)It develops critical thinking more quickly than subject based learning.


    It has become the basis for flight training in the civilian flight training sector, as mandated by the FAA.


  • Byron

    Mike, what about coming up with an ops plan? Will knowing how to clean your rifle help you fill in all the blanks necessary to succesfully run a patrol? Will it help you come up with a good watchbill? Will it help you applying the lessons of navigation?. Demanding attention to detail, even amongst the smallest of things, is your first step in learning complex things. If you can’t master the one, you’re going to have a hard time with the other.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    None of basic training should be mindless. It isn’t exactly high intellectualism, but all should have its purpose. Having been through USMC OCS and having trained recruits at Parris Island for 3 years, I can tell you that attention to detail is not just about the details, but more about the attention. It is an immersion into a new way of thinking, and new standards of expectations. That is a major shift in mindset for nearly every new recruit. That mindset becomes one of uncompromising standards, right or wrong, with little middle ground.

    All manner of things in basic training play into that. Close-order drill, physical training, learning about and caring for one’s weapon, keeping the squad bay clean, learning and endlessly reviewing essential knowledge, all those contribute to the training of a new recruit.

    I used to tell my Drill Instructors that what they must do above all else is instill discipline. Discipline begets self-discipline. When a recruit has that, and the knowledge and values instilled in boot camp, you have that “basically-trained Marine”.

    Give me a young Marine with that, and his NCOs and junior Officers will teach him everything else he needs to know. Without discipline, all the lessons and knowledge is transient.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    *Burma Shave*

    Without discipline, all the lessons and knowledge ARE transient. Sorry, Mom.

  • Grampa Bluewater


    Once again:

    The young recruit is silly… (you know who)

    balanced by:

    The most important thing a Commander can do for the
    welfare of his troops is ensure realistic training…(Rommel)

    Basic military requirements, basic specialty theory and skill training, sequenced training specific to equipment and in rate knowlege, basic military team training, practical on the job individual and watch team training, leadership and administration introductory skill training, tactical team training, team leader training, refresher training for new developments, and on to the next level while increasingly guiding, teaching and polishing those who come behind you, designing and improving training based on all you can learn from experience and stretching yourself to reach for the next higher skill level.

    Sounds like life to me.

    The beat goes on…(S & C Bono).

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Yep! Our old friend RK.

    “Learns to keep ‘is rifle an’ ‘isself jus’ so!”


    “All you recruities what’s drafted today,
    You shut up your ragbox an’ hark to my lay
    An’ I’ll sing you a soldier as far as I may,
    A soldier what’s fit fer a soldier!”

    The man knew his stuff.

  • Ray Kilmer

    Lord Nelson is supposed to have stated “Before a naval officer can aspire to high command, he must first know the duties of a seaman.”

    Furthering the idea of the above quote; while Chesty Puller was a Captain in the Marine Corps he was sent to the Army’s Infantry School for officers. Chesty Puller had already been in the Marine Corps for 13 years (for those that do not know, he actually enlisted as a private in 1918, but was quickly selected to become an officer) with most of his education/experience coming from being in the field. While at this school Chesty Puller found that his instructors had been picked from the ranks of schoolteachers and lawyers, and that combat was not a factor. Puller also found these men lacking with knowledge when pressed with unexpected questions and he also found that their knowledge was limited to that gained from books. Later during this school, Puller found out that the instructors stated that they had no answers for his questions. As a matter of fact, Puller took over many of the classes with his stories of real situations and how he overcame them. Like Lord Nelson, Chesty Puller thought that the best way to lead properly was by being there, leading your men and gaining the experience first hand.

    With the above stated, there are many goals of basic training of which two are accomplished by the instructors, of any service. The instructors have to educate the civilian on “basic” information which will set the fundamentals for higher information. One cannot just jump into calculus without first learning lower mathematics.

    Another major goal of the instructors during basic training is to simulate the chaos of war to see if the young recruit has the character traits to withstand the hardships. Instructors cannot shoot nor beat recruits, but they must weed out those that cannot handle the difficulties of war, physical and mental. Why waste resources on traiing a person advanced war skills if they cannot handle basic training?

    So, there are many reasons for what seems to be “mindless training” to a person that does not think out why they are doing something. One such item is the requirement of sitting indian style during Marine recruit training although the Marine Corps has thousands of chairs. After 2 months of sitting indian style the recruit finally gets to use this sitting style on the rifle range where the recruit spends hours a day in a position that has become comfortable.

    I would also offer that no person can be disciplined without something to be disicplined toward. In other words, there must first be a chosen purpose that one is disciplined toward before a person can be highly disciplined. So, basic training should also teach the person the past of their chosen service and country which should instill in them the pride noted of military members when they earn the title of their chosen service.

    Once the person graduates from basic training they should be sent to there MOS school which should be taught by the people with the real world experience in that field. After this further and slightly more advanced training, almost everything else can only be learned through the experience of being there, schools will never be able to simulate what dealing with real world situations can teach.

    If our military members are going to win wars then they have to be willing to fight and to do that they must be tough if they are going to survive and win. When Chesty Puller was asked almost 60 years ago if he would change his training methods he responded; “I’ll train my new men as Marines have always been trained. I want’em to be able to march twenty miles, the last five in double time, and then be ready to fight.”

    The tactics on how one wins a specific fight/battle/war will constantly need to be adapted to. But, this can only be learned through constant training of real world situations, not simulators, and or the real thing which cannot be learned in basic training nor a class room. But, basic training should remain what it was desgigned to be, the first checking point of seeing who has what it takes to earn the title of warrior of which not everyone will.