By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Basic training is where most Soldiers first learn about the "battle buddy" concept - a partnership where two Soldiers watch out for each other in training, combat and non-combat environments. This mutually beneficial arrangement provides accountability, safety and companionship.
If two is good, two dozen might be even better. Last week, senior Wisconsin Army National Guard leaders visited 24 of their young Soldiers assigned to the same basic training company at Fort Benning. Ga., to see the "buddy platoon" concept in action.
According to Lt. Col. Eric Killen, recruiting and retention battalion commander, the buddy platoon is not a new concept, but the Wisconsin Army National Guard has not employed it since 1985.
"In fact, I was a member of a buddy platoon in 1985," Killen recalled. "Maj. Gen. Raymond Matera, the adjutant general, came to visit us."
The idea is to ease the sometimes daunting transition from civilian to Soldier by surrounding young recruits with others that may be in their same National Guard unit or from the same hometown.
"[The Recruiting and Retention Battalion] decided to bring it back as we felt it would be a good way to provide our Soldiers instant camaraderie and a support structure," Killen said.
The concept may have merit, considering that the 24 buddy platoon recruits will be high school seniors less than a week after graduating basic training.
"The sense I got ... was that they liked being in a buddy platoon," Killen said, adding that the recruits he asked liked having someone at basic that they knew, and indicated the buddy platoon system should continue.
"I'm actually having fun with it," Pvt. Jonathan Huston of Algoma, Wis. - a member of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry in Green Bay - said about boot camp.
"I've been learning a lot," added Pvt. Jordan Hauge of Willard, Wis. - a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry in Arcadia, Wis.
"It's been fast, but hot," said Pvt. Stephan Shambrook of Argyle, Wis. - a member of Troop C, 105th Cavalry in Reedsburg, Wis. "I can't wait until we're done. Overall, it's hard, but if I could choose to do it over again, I would."
All three indicated that they are considering serving for 20 years. Hauge said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Jim Hauge, a World War II veteran who served more than 20 years in the Army.
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, commended the Wisconsin National Guard recruits during the visit.
"The fact that you signed up while our country is actively engaged in two wars says a lot about your character," Anderson said. "Thank you."
State Command Sgt. Maj. George Stopper told the recruits that they had matured as a result of good leaders who guided them to the right path. He urged them, once they return to the Recruit Sustainment Program before attending their advanced individual training courses next summer, to help their fellow recruits.
"Take the time to share what you've learned," he said.
32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Command Sgt. Maj. Rafael Conde cautioned the recruits - who all belong to subordinate units of the 32nd Brigade - that their classmates will seem different.
"When you get back, you'll have changed," he said. "You'll be a Soldier. When you get back to school, you'll see things that will make you shake your head. You're different, so relax and let it go."
Huston indicated that he would feel like a "tough guy - superior to my peers" upon his return to high school. Hauge said he felt he would be "more developed" than his classmates.
"We'll have accomplished more than our friends," Shambrook said.
Conde told the recruits he was proud to wear the same uniform. Col. Martin Seifer, 32nd Brigade commander, noted that less than one percent of Americans wear the uniform of the Armed Forces.
"I'm looking forward to having you in our formations and being part of the Red Arrow," he said.