Date: July 28, 2010
By Staff Sgt. Emily J. Russell
Wisconsin National Guard
Today's Soldiers require different skills than even a few years ago as the demands of modern military missions continually change. To prepare Wisconsin Army National Guard recruits for the mental, physical and emotional challenge they will face at basic combat training, the Recruit Sustainment Program teaches new Soldiers what to expect - and do - to keep them in step with this ever-changing environment.
"The Recruit Sustainment Program's primary mission is to prepare newly enlisted soldiers to succeed at basic and advance training," said Master Sgt. Joshua Reed, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Green Bay-based RSP Delta Company. "This in turn supports the [unit] commander's mission and reduces our training pipeline losses which provides the Wisconsin Adjutant General with a more operational and ready force."
The less amount of time a recruit spends between signing up and shipping to basic training means a lower attrition rate. The goal is to get a recruit shipped within 120 days of joining.
"We perform in-ranks inspections and drill and ceremony daily, we want these skills ingrained in each recruit before they [ship to basic training]," said Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Liske, a platoon sergeant for the RSP. "The more they learn here the less stressful basic training will be.
"They can't absorb everything we throw at them so we work on repetition to make sure they have a good grasp on basic skills," Liske added. "We're not as hard [on them] as drill sergeants but we are strict."
Pfc. Dan Grosso, a new recruit who is scheduled to ship to basic training in August, began attending RSP drill weekends in February.
"This is giving me the knowledge I need for when I get [to basic training]," Groso said. "Without the RSP, I'd be a slacker and wouldn't be in the [physical] shape I'm in or know what to expect."
Pvt. Tyler Klozotsky, a Soldier who completed basic training and is waiting to ship to advanced individual training where he'll learn to be a medic, was pleased with what he learned before he left for basic training too.
"I was one of six people who passed the [Army physical fitness test] at basic," Klozotsky said. "Back here, I share my experience from basic training and help out with the new recruits."
New Soldiers learn what will be expected of them whether it's in regard to discipline, tradition or physical requirements. By reducing the amount of uncertainty, the individuals' comfort level is increased allowing them to be more mentally prepared to accomplish the tasks ahead.
"Today kids' fitness levels are trending down, which makes it more of a challenge to prepare them to overcome those physical challenges at basic training," Reed said. "The current generation of kids is used to instant gratification and is very tech savvy; sometimes it takes some additional coaching to get them to understand you have to work hard to achieve certain goals. This doesn't mean they are bad kids or incapable of military service, most are still highly motivated and want to serve their country but we as trainers at the RSP need to be cognizant of the challenges the kids will face."
Instilling the Army "Warrior Ethos" creates a strong foundation of training that allows the recruit the ability to achieve success while attending basic and advanced training. The Warrior Ethos internalizes Army fundamentals as vows - "I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; I will never leave a fallen comrade."
"We have seen a tremendous increase in the success rate of our Soldiers attending training," Reed said. "The success rate has improved by approximately 18 percent. Our drill attendance rate for non-[military occupational specialty qualified] Soldiers has increased by more than 24 percent."
Pvt. Ashley Enderby, a recruit who completed basic training last year, is awaiting her next school where she will become qualified as light-medium truck driver.
"RSP has prepared me well," she said. "I was one of the only privates who knew what they were doing. I felt like I was on top of my game."
Enderby and other Soldiers who completed basic training are a step ahead of those recruits who still waiting to attend basic. Platoon sergeants develop the new basic training graduates by assigning them small leadership roles within the RSP.
"They ask me to lead formations or small groups to perform simple tasks," Enderby said. "It makes me feel like I know what I'm doing and gives me an opportunity to feel what it's like in a leadership position."
The returning basic training graduates help to monitor and correct small groups of new Soldiers and will lead groups of 10 to 20 people.
"When they take charge, they're building confidence and more leadership skills at the age of 17 years old than many 30-year-old civilians," said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Kurowski, a platoon sergeant with the RSP.
"Our service members are singled out at basic training because they know what's going on," Kurowski continued. "They know how to wear their uniform, how to talk to a [non-commissioned officer] or an officer, the correct way to do [physical fitness training] and how to [execute] drill and ceremony movements."
The changes in the new recruits aren't just evident in the military environment; they often shine through in the Soldier's civilian life.
"Parents are so supportive because they see a night-and-day difference in their [children] between their junior and senior year of high school," Kurowski said of the Soldiers who enlist and ship to basic training before their final year in high school. "Discipline, responsibility and integrity play a big role in the change. If everyone in society lived by these Army Values, how great would we be?"
Since the RSPs inception in 2005 the attrition rate of new enlistees who did not go to basic training has decreased dramatically, improving the statistics of Soldiers successfully completing basic and advanced training.
"[In 2005] the ship rate for new soldiers was 77 percent," Reed said. "By 2008 it moved up to 84 percent. [Currently] we're at a 94 percent ship rate which is an incredible improvement which supports our mission of providing the adjutant general with [qualified] Soldiers that are fit, trained and ready to deploy in support of the Wisconsin Army National Guard."