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Program preps recruits for basic training

The recently restructured program sees the recruits through three phases

NORTH CANTON, Ohio (Army News Service, Nov. 29, 2005) - More than 50 new recruits gathered at the North Canton Armory Nov. 20 for their one-weekend-a-month drill assembly. But instead of reporting to their new units, they reported to their recruiters.

The troops are participating in the restructured Recruit Sustainment Program, a new take on an old idea.

Cpt. Robert H. Paley administers the program, which helps integrate recruits into their new role as Soldiers and prepare them for Army basic combat training. His enthusiasm for the program is evident in the smile he wears as he passionately talks about where the program has been and where it is going.

"We're really excited about (the program)," he said. "Our goal is to make it the benchmark program in the country. That's a lofty goal, but I think we can be the best in the nation."

Although the RSP has been around in concept for many years, recent innovations and an active interest on the part of state leadership have taken the program to a whole new level, Paley said.

The recently restructured program sees the recruits through three phases.

In red phase, indoctrination, newly enlisted troops report to the RSP for their first drill. They receive introductory briefings and attend classes on Army values, personal finance and military customs and courtesies.

Recruits enter white phase during their second drill assembly. The longest phase, the troops continue to receive classroom instruction and hands-on training in basic soldiering skills.

In blue phase, recruits attend one final drill assembly before shipping out. They go to Columbus with their recruiters to meet with the battalion staff and receive a physical fitness assessment and overall check to ensure they're ready to report for initial entry training.

Pfc. Brad A. Shaffer of Canton, a split-option soldier assigned to D. Co., 1-148 Infantry Bn., participated in the RSP program. Shaffer graduated from basic combat training in August and is scheduled for infantryman's basic course at Fort Benning, Ga., in July, 2006.

Although he said he's glad he'll never have to repeat basic training, the program prepared him for what to expect. He said the emphasis on teamwork and leadership was particularly helpful.

"I knew more than anyone in basic training," Shaffer said. "It taught me everything - claymores, map reading, throwing grenades, squad movements, reaction to flares, M-16s. Some of the other soldiers went through (an RSP) too, but you could tell which programs were better than others."

Prior to recent improvements in the RSP, training pipeline losses, a statistic that tracks recruits from signing to actually shipping, ran as high as 40 percent. The losses were tough on recruiters who had to cover the same ground twice, Paley said.

Since May, the attrition rate has decreased to about 10 percent, exceeding all expectations and causing a lot of excitement.

Paley attributes the turnaround to the hard work and determination of the entire recruiting team and particularly, to the vision and innovation of Recruiting Commander Lt. Col. Jerry Rees.

"It's his baby," he said with a laugh. "I'm just babysitting."

The most crucial change in the RSP has been to put the program completely in the hands of the recruiters, who have a vested interest in seeing the recruits through the process, he said.

Gone are the days where new troops see their recruiter only as long as it takes to enlist them and send them to their unit. In fact, new troops are now assigned to the recruiting command and do not report to their units until they return from initial entry training.

Individual recruiters act as squad leaders to their new recruits, preparing them both mentally and physically for the challenges they will soon face.

This day, training began with a modified Army physical fitness test.

"Come on, guys!" shouted Sgt. 1st Class James Youngdahl. "I just had a private do 74 push-ups in one minute! All this excitement and we still have sit-ups to do. Yeah! Alright troops!"

The recruits, in varying levels of physical fitness, urged one another on and responded to Youngdahl's enthusiasm by clapping their hands and shouting encouragement to their fellow recruits.

The goal of the morning's test was to diagnose and make recruits aware of their own fitness levels and to familiarize them with Army physical training, said Youngdahl.

Following physical training, the recruits showered and reported to their classrooms.

In the white phase classroom, Sgt. 1st Class Terry Carpenter began by asking the new recruits why they enlisted.

"For the job training and experience," replied one recruit.

"College money," another simply stated.

"I enlisted because coming here filled me with a sense of pride," said another.

(Editor's note: Information provided by the Ohio National Guard.)

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