This is an update of previously published stories about the infantry.
If you’ve ever heard the saying “He’s just a lowly grunt”, discard it, there is no such thing. The infantry soldier is at the top of the heap – the pinnacle of soldiering. The infantry moto is “Follow Me”. Every element of the military supports the infantry. Infantrymen are the combat soldiers’, whose job is to close with and kill or capture the enemy. They are the warriors. The infantry works harder, the infantry goes to combat, there is more pride in the infantry, and the infantry gets promoted faster.
Regardless of far advanced military technology becomes, there must be soldiers on the ground to hold territory. It is the hardest, most demanding, most frustrating, most challenging, greatest badass job in the world.
Here are some recent comments from real grunts;
“It is the worst, most terrible, difficult, strenuous, testing job there is. It is also the best. Hands down. Bar none. I absolutely love it, and many others do as well. So, stop smoking weed and wasting your life, and learn it for yourself.”
“I freaking love it. Because one day when I have to work till six at some dumb civilian job and I’m all butthurt, I can think to myself well at least it’s not the middle of a brigade exercise, day three of straight rain, and I just got done digging a foxhole with overhead protection with proper camouflage, and oh what’s that? Roger sergeant I’ll be ready to move out in ten so bravo company can move into my just built home and I can stay up all night digging another foxhole 2 kilometers to the east. Then I’ll smile and wonder why I chose a job that the only transferable skill is landscaping. But it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Some of the smartest and greatest people I’ve ever met have been infantry. The bond you make with the guy to the left and right of you is something most people will never know, and when you cement those bonds with the amount of bs and hardship you make something near unbreakable. It’ll also teach you a lot about yourself. Plus, it’s freaking badass.”
“I couldn’t imagine being any other MOS, I get paid to hang out with my best friends and shoot stuff all the time.”
“Honestly, if you enjoy pushing yourself (on sleep, physically, mentally) it’s an amazing job. It’s really hard work, but you get through it with your boys and you all form a cohesive bond. The camaraderie of infantrymen is something I’ve never seen anywhere else; true ‘ride or die’ dudes that will go over the edge for you, no questions asked. I will never experience anything as scary, intense, frustrating, or rewarding as my time in the infantry ever again, and it genuinely makes me sad. When you get out you realize how remarkably tame life is back home.”
There are requirements to enlist in the military. You must meet those requirements, for some medical and discipline issues, waivers are granted. Here are my ideas of other aptitudes you should have before enlisting for the infantry. First you have to have that desire, that inner hunger for something more. More exciting, more challenging, more rewarding, and more pride. A desire to be the best at what you do. You have to be fairly smart – of average intelligence. That old tale that all the dumb guys get sent to the infantry, is not true. Some of the smartest soldiers I served with were in the infantry. Infantrymen have to think on their feet, fast. When the shooting starts, there is chaos and the infantrymen have to very quickly figure out either how to put the bad guy out of business, or how to get out of Dodge, if there are way more of them than you. You have to have a good body. Not a muscle builder body, just a good body, with no weak areas. I have had infantrymen in my platoons who were 5’ 5” and weighed 140 pounds, but they could hump a 65 or 70 pound rucksack all day, every day, and they could run 7 to 8 minute miles all day. You have to have endurance, and you never quit. There is also another issue, you have to be honest with yourself and everyone else. If you’re not, you will be soon. An infantry platoon of 40 soldiers, will spend days, sometimes weeks, and during deployment, months sharing foxholes, MRE’s, water, canteens. razors, socks, ammo, and stories. They support they guy who feeling down, razz the guy who screws up, and pull pranks on the guy who is too proud of himself. And will put their life on the line to cover your back. Any BS a new platoon member brings with him soon dissolves. Everybody is just who they are. Maybe that’s why I and thousands of other former grunts and current grunts love the infantry, you learn things about yourself and each other that no one else knows, including family. You share the worst of times and the best of times.
All Army infantry training is on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Infantry and Armor Center and School. Infantry training is conducted in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning both basic combat training and advanced infantry training is in one company – straight through.
The Army is trying to increase its size, but the current Army leadership has seen, in the past, the bad results of lowering standards to get more recruits. Standards are not being lowered and training is being increased. Infantry OSUT has been expanded from 14 to 22 weeks. There are not many new tasks, but they are spending more time on the basics and producing better trained soldiers. They spend more time in live fire and produce more expert riflemen, more time on land navigation, producing better infantrymen who can navigate in the field with a paper map and compass, they complete the combat lifesaver course, they spend much more time in hand to hand combat training, and the extra two months produces graduates in better physical condition. At the beginning of the transition from 14 to 22 weeks, the Infantry Training Brigade commander said, “If we do our job right these troops will be able to out PT their team leader and out shoot their squad leader, and be as good or better than their combat life savers.”
There are two MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty) in the infantry, MOS 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, and MOS 11C Heavy Weapons Infantryman (mortars). A person enlisting for the infantry, enlists for MOS 11X, then whether the soldier becomes a 11B or a 11C is determined, by the Army, while that soldier is in training. There are way more 11B’s than 11C’s.
Infantry OSUT is no walk in the park. It does not have a 100 percent graduation rate. The Basic Combat Training part of infantry OSUT is the first 8 weeks. Normal basic is 10 weeks, but the OSUT companies don’t have to clean and turn in gear and weapons and practice for graduation, At the completion of basic, they have a simple ceremony signifying their becoming soldiers. Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) is tougher and more demanding now than it has been since World War II. It is not tough in the form of harassment. It is just intense and demanding physical and mental training. In fact the “shark attack” of screaming drill sergeants on the first day has been replaced with a five phase event called “The First 100 Yards”. BCT culminates with a 96 hour field exercise, called “The Forge”, covering over 40 miles, where everything learned in BCT is practiced and graded.
The remainder of the 22 weeks of infantry training is the most physically demanding MOS training in the Army. So, my advice to anyone considering this, man or woman, is to get in shape, pushups, pullups, situps, running, and a lot of walking in boots (army boots if you can get them) carrying a rucksack. There are road marches carrying up to a 60 pound rucksack. People who enlist for Rangers or Special Forces go to infantry OSUT first. I do not recommend that anyone who is not already very familiar with the Army enlist for Rangers or Special Forces. Enlist for Airborne Infantry, then when you’ve been in the Army long enough to know what those units actually do and their requirements, make your decision. The first three weeks are “Total Control”, trainees don’t make a move that is not guided by a Drill Sergeant. That is when they learn how to march, stand, turn, salute, and act like a soldier. After that, the control is a little different, but the intensity isn’t. An infantry OSUT company commander recently posted on facebook for families not to expect many phone calls, communicate by mail. There is an infantry OSUT company with an outstanding facebook page, covering most of what the trainees do, that is “Delta Company 2nd Battalion 58th Infantry Regiment”.
The Squad is the basic maneuverable unit in the infantry. There are nine soldiers in a squad, led by a Staff Sergeant. It takes between five and seven years to make Staff Sergeant in the infantry. The Squad is composed of two four-man teams, each led by a Sergeant. It is currently taking, between two and a half to four years to make Sergeant, depends on how good you are and how hard you work. There are three rifle squads and a weapons squad in a Platoon. The weapons squad has two machine guns and two anti-tank weapons. Those are all MOS 11B. There are three platoons in a company, plus a mortar section. The mortar section is MOS 11C. The platoon is led by a 2nd Lieutenant, and the Platoon Sergeant is a Sergeant First Class (SFC). Infantry officers first job is Platoon Leader, so he or she is also in training, which is understood to be an added responsibility of the Platoon Sergeant. Eight to twelve years is normal for making SFC. There are three Rifle Platoons and a Mortar Section in an infantry company. The company is commanded by a Captain and run by a First Sergeant. Soldiers who make it to First Sergeant are usually in the 12 to 15 year range. Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank, usually comes, for those who make it, at close to the 20 year mark. So, those Command Sergeants Major (enlisted advisors to commanders), who appear to young privates as walking around with no real job, have all been riflemen, team leaders, squad leaders, platoon sergeants, and first sergeants, to get where they are.
There are three basic types of infantry units. Light Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, and Stryker Infantry. Stryker is the newest, built around the Stryker vehicle, which is a heavily armored, eight wheeled, fast moving, (62 MPH) vehicle carrying a nine-man infantry squad. It comes with various weapons systems from machine guns to 105mm tank guns, to hellfire missiles. Mechanized Infantry rides in Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The Bradley is a lightly armored, tracked vehicle, with a 25mm cannon, designed to transport an infantry squad, and keep up with Abrams tanks. A plain infantryman can end up in any of these types of units, however if the soldier has the airborne option, he will be in an airborne unit, which are all light infantry. There are five airborne Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), three in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Vicenza, Italy, and the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson (Anchorage), Alaska. The 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York is light infantry, with two BCT’s, and the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky is light infantry, with three BCT’s. The 101st is called an Air Assault Division, because they ride in helicopters, but they are basically light infantry. The Mechanized and Stryker grunts get to ride some, but they also have to maintain that steel monster in the motor pool, and they still walk about as much as light infantry.
The infantry unit with the highest morale (happiest) in the military is the 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd also works the hardest, because one the 82nd’s three brigades is always on alert to get the entire 5,000 man brigade with all vehicles and equipment, rigged for a parachute drop somewhere in the world, in the air within 18 hour of notification. The 82nd is America’s Fire Brigade, it is always fully funded, conducts realistic and exciting training, and has the best leadership the Army has to offer. That also means that they train the hardest, and as much as the paratroops bitch and complain, they love it. There is a saying around Fort Bragg, that paratroops have that airborne “swagger”, because that maroon beret looks better on their heads than a black beret on a leg’s, because they have a sense that they earned it. In paratrooper language, a “leg” is a sub-human soldier, who is not Airborne. There is a saying that when the President calls 911 the phone is answered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Airborne infantry is light infantry, but their method of delivery to the battlefield causes them to train differently than non-airborne. Non-airborne infantry gets to the battlefield on a vehicle or a helicopter, airborne jumps from an airplane onto the battlefield. Adverse weather or enemy anti-aircraft fire can cause airplanes to drop paratroops not at their planned location. Individual paratroops can become widely scattered during a jump. I can tell you what happens when paratroops are dropped in 35 mile an hour winds. Made national news that time. Because of that possible scenario airborne troops are briefed down to the last Private on the entire mission and objectives. That started in World War II and continues today. When time permits the entire platoon gets to see aerial photographs and mock-ups. The airborne has a term LGOPS (Little Groups of Paratroopers). If a paratrooper can’t find his leaders, he just finds other paratroopers and goes on with the mission. The first combat parachute jump was in Sicily in July 1943. Due to winds and enemy fire the paratroops were scattered over many miles in places they didn’t plan to be. Little groups got together and cut every telephone line they found, they ambushed vehicles and attacked troops causing the German commanders to think they were facing a much larger force than was actually there.
Combat soldiers do not have a “job”, like supply, signal, computer, mechanic, cook, etc. Their “job” is training for combat, “soldiering”. You can study, but you can’t train for “reaction to an ambush”, until you get ambushed (in training). You can study, but you can’t train for a “company in the attack”, until you are on the ground in thick brush, trying to figure out how to be quiet and get in position.
There is probably not a typical day in the army for an infantry soldier, but a day, when not in the field, goes something like this. Get up around 5:30, be in PT (Physical Training) formation at 6:00. PT until 7:00 to 7:30. Back to your room clean up, get in uniform, and get some breakfast. You can cook in the kitchen in your room, or go eat for free, since you live in the barracks, in the DFAC (Dining Facility). Between 8:30 and 9:00 is a company work formation, then on to whatever training is on for the day. Lunch at noon, and off at 5:00 PM. Training could be classroom or hands on in the local area, or if airborne, a parachute jump, which usually starts early and goes all day.
The infantry is my favorite. I kept getting “good jobs”, in the old army, but I kept going back to the infantry. I would rather have the muscle aches in the infantry, than the stress level in some of those “good jobs”.