To say that the US Army is changing, is like saying the weather is changing – it is, always, but this change is unlike anything that has ever been attempted.
The primary concern of the Air Force is airplanes – keeping them flying. The primary concern of the Navy is ships and airplanes. The Marines – God bless em, as great as they are, they are part of the Navy. If you enlist for four years as a Marine grunt, you’ll be lucky if you don’t spend six months, or more, of it on a ship, sleeping on a 30-inch by 72-inch steel bunk, 17 inches below the one above you.
The primary concern of the Army is people. The Army is the ground soldiers, there must be soldiers on the ground, to hold territory. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saw many support soldiers involved in the fighting, either in convoys, moving from one place to another, or real fighting on a Combat Outpost. The Army Combat Action Badge was created to recognize non-infantry soldiers who engaged the enemy in combat.
One of the observations from those wars, was that overall, soldiers were not in good enough physical condition for the heat of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan.
The discussion of better physical fitness started about 15 years ago. The Army had a “Master Fitness Trainer” course in the 1980’s, but it folded, during the wars. It was re-opened in 2013. It trains sergeants and officers in the proper conduct of physical fitness training. They then return to their units to train others.
In 1977, six foot seven, Robert B. Brown was the number two high school basketball pick in Michigan. He went to West Point and played basketball under Coach Mike Krzyzewski, scoring over 1,000 points while there, graduating in 1981. In 2014, then Lieutenant General Brown, Commander of the Army Combined Arms Center, leading a discussion titled “The Soldier Athlete”, at a meeting of the Association of the US Army (AUSA), said we need to train our soldiers like athletes. General Mark Milley, who became Chief of Staff of the Army in 2015, currently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was Captain of the Princeton Hockey Team, graduating in 1980, agreed. So did then Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, currently the Secretary of Defense, who graduated from West Point in 1986.
Regular Army PT (Physical Training), was not preparing soldiers for the physical rigors of combat. There were a lot of combat veterans, in the Army, when the discussion started about how to evaluate soldiers’ preparedness for combat. As the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) was being developed, a much more radical change in physical training was also being developed. This is not just a change in physical training, but a program that focuses on the individual, holistically encompassing the soldiers’ life, physical, sleep, nutritional, spiritual, and mental.
The driving force behind all this is readiness. A recent Army News article said that as of February 2019, more than 56,000 soldiers were non-deployable. Also, more than 21,000 were on a temporary injured list, and more than 15,000 had some kind of permanent injury. Almost half of all soldiers are injured at some point, and 71% of those injuries are lower extremity micro-traumatic musculoskeletal “overuse” injuries. In 2018, more than 12% of soldiers had some form of sleep disorder and 17% of active duty soldiers were overweight. Also, included in this conversation, was active duty suicide. How ever many there are, its’ tragic, traumatic, and too many. For the Army to be able to field a healthy, fit, lethal force, soldiers’ life style has to change.
In 2017, the Army ran a six month pilot program, called the Soldier Readiness Test. It temporarily assigned a strength and conditioning coach, a physical therapist, a registered dietician, and an occupational therapist to selected battalions. The increase in health, fitness, and morale was so successful that a two year pilot program started in 2018, in an expended number of units, with increased funding, equipment, and personnel. It was soon named H2F-lite pilot. Several sergeants from those battalions were sent to the Master Fitness Trainer school, and Athletic Trainers, Strength Coaches, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Dietitians were hired and placed under the supervision of those Battalion Commanders, who were tasked with implementing the program and identifying any bugs. A lead strength and conditioning coach said; “The greatest part for me is that I see people coming to PT in the morning and they are engaged and excited to be there.” Captain Samantha Morgan, a physical therapist said; “People are coming to physical therapy proactively versus being told they have to come, so when people do have PT or training related injuries they’re getting better faster.” The medical people and the Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant, were also brought into the H2F Team. Chaplains are not part of the program to preach, but to monitor unit morale, and help with personal problems. There is a rule in the Army, anyone can go see the Chaplain anytime. Chaplain’s and their assistants are presented with all kinds of problems. In my story “Be an Army Chaplain Assistant”, I tell the story of a Chaplain Assistant who was confronted by an infantry Private, whose wife was having mental issues. Threatening to kill herself and her unborn baby, if he didn’t start spending more time at home. A Private in the infantry has little control of his schedule. That time, everything worked out. The “spiritual readiness” of a soldier is comprised of his or her core values, and beliefs, and life visions, arising from religious or non-religious beliefs, philosophical and moral values.
On October 1st, 2020, the Army published a new Field Manuel (FM) 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness. This makes the program command policy, army wide. The Army physical year (FY) starts October 1st, and funds have already been allocated for current FY 2021, to start implementing H2F. Every Brigade is getting a new H2F staff, to be under the direction of the Brigade Commander. The H2F Program Director will be civil service GS-13, starting salary of about $78,000, although the solicitations say that salary will be negotiated with non-prior civil service applicants. Under the Program Director, will be a Captain, Nutrition Director, with civilian and military dietitians, a Captain Injury Director/Provider, with military and civilian physical therapists and a contracted civilian athletic trainer for each battalion, a Captain Combat Enhancement Director, with civilian and military occupational therapists. There will also be civilian strength coaches advising the professional military physical trainers. In FY 2023, construction is to start on a 40,000 square foot “Soldier Performance Readiness Center” (SPRC), for EACH BRIGADE. That is about twice the size of most current army fitness centers. The Brigade H2F Team will be housed in the SPRC, and every company in the Brigade will rotate through the SPRC several times weekly. Daily physical training will not necessarily be the first hour of the day, for everyone. Until the SPRC’s are constructed, H2F teams will utilize whatever facilities are available, like current fitness centers.
The Registered Dietician’s role is in fueling and nutritional needs for various aspects of performance. The Dietician coaches soldiers on diets that support fitness training, brain performance, healing from injury, and special dietary needs in the field environment. Consequently, the Dietician helps soldiers consider meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking skills, and how to navigate the complex market of supplements.
The Occupational Therapist is primarily involved in the mental fitness of soldiers, utilizing skills such as coaching on sleep optimization behaviors, goal setting, habit change, attention and focus control, energy management, communication, team dynamics, and other tactical mental operations involved in leadership, planning, and Warrior tasks. As an expert in both cognitive and musculoskeletal domains, the Occupational Therapist also supports physical aspects of physical performance such as ergonomics of load carriage, visuospatial skills in marksmanship, and evaluation and treatment of the upper extremities.
This is not just a new PT program, this is a complete change of soldier life style, to that of an athlete. I won’t say professional athlete, because the pro’s usually train for one activity. Gone is the one size fits all approach to physical conditioning. This is a program designed to get to every individual soldier, to change eating, sleeping, and activity habits, to create a healthy person both physically and mentally. A part of this program is leaders’ education, to insure that the change in life style actually happens. Good health and strength fosters good self confidence, which soldiers must have.
The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), was designed in conjunction with H2F. It is a six timed event test. “In shape” people, who have taken it, said that each event didn’t seem to be too hard (except for the leg tuck), but by the time they finished the test, they were exhausted. There is no point adjustment for age or gender. It is, “how capable is this solder of performing in combat”.
This is a big event in an explosive evolution in the Army, that has been growing for about the past five years. A new four-star command (The Army Futures Command) was created and headquartered in downtown Austin, Texas, to not only get the latest technology into the Army as fast as possible, but to solicit new inventions, like a laser 10 times larger than the Navy’s laser weapon, big enough to knock down incoming cruise missiles.
Not only weapons technology, but lighter field equipment, and a new rifle with ammunition capable of penetrating lightly armored vehicles and any body armor. Computer systems and operators capable of invading and controlling adversarial systems. To do all of this, the Army must have healthy, alert, and quick thinking individual soldiers. The Army is a team of teams, but individual soldiers must often be able to think quickly on their feet, and make adjustments, without higher direction, when necessary. Enlisted Management Branches in the Army Human Resource Command (HRC) periodically posts names of soldiers who will be up for reassignment, in a future window. They then post the assignments, that must be filled, during that window, and they encourage soldiers to go online and post their preferences. Quite a change from the old days, when you just “came down on orders”. The United States of America places more confidence and trust in the individual soldier, than any other country in the world.
There is another evolutionary event, in the Army, that goes along with this. That is the demise of the “shark attack”. For many years, on the day new trainees arrive at their basic training company, they have been met by a swarm of screaming drill sergeants. That has become known as the shark attack. I’m not sure when it started. The first Drill Sergeants were created in 1964, just before the start of the Vietnam War. During Vietnam, the majority of trainees were draftees, and did not want to be there, so I’m sure the shark attack started as the drills established dominance and authority over the draftees.
I was the senior drill sergeant of a basic training company 1979 to 1981, and we didn’t do it. Every company was different.
Now that first day of Army Basic Combat Training is called “The first 100 yards”. The new trainees are briefed on what is expected of them, they are organized into platoons and given a couple of resupply missions, which may be something as simple as moving boxes of MRE’s (meal Ready to Eat) from one location to another, but will require platoon team work. They will perform three of the ACFT exercises, the leg tuck, the hand-release pushup, and the standing power throw. Platoons that fail to get the highest score will be an appropriate corrective exercise, pushups (in other words “smoked”). They will then be instructed to retrieve their baggage, and move it into the company area.
Next comes a demonstration by a squad of infantry in full battle dress, moving with M4 carbines and other weapons through smoke and pyrotechnics, showing what they will be able to do at the end of basic training.
The First 100 Yards ends with the drill sergeants marching trainees to their platoon bays to begin what will be the first two weeks of isolated training, known as “controlled monitoring,” as part of the Covid-19 safety protocols the Army began in the spring. Basic training is as tough as it has ever been, and the discipline is as strict as it has ever been, they are just dropping the shark attack. Welcome to the adult world.
US Army soldiers are generally treated with great respect throughout this country. That respect is important, in that it fosters pride in being a soldier. Most soldiers are proud of being a soldier. They have confidence in themselves and their team, and they are part of something bigger than themselves, defending this country. Part of that pride is in wearing the uniform. World War II is the basis, the launch pad, of the modern Army. The Navy and the Marines have the same service uniforms they had in WWII. The Navy tried to stray off the uniform reservation once, but corrected itself. The Army has tinkered with uniforms since the 1950’s. Finally, starting in December 2020, new recruits will be issued the new Army Green Uniform, which is actually the old WWII uniform, and next summer it will be available for sale to all soldiers. Thank you.
It was an honor to have served in the US Army, although, at the time there were situations in which I was engaged that did not conjure up the word honor. Pulling KP (Kitchen Police), scrubbing pots and pans in a hot greasy mess hall from 3:30 AM to 9:00 PM, pulling police call (picking up cigarette butts) on a Sunday morning because I happened to be in the barracks, or cleaning the latrine (bathroom) at 10:00 PM for an inspection the next morning, or landscaping a parade field with entrenching tools, that’s a folding shovel with a two foot handle.
It is an honor to serve this country, but the real honor I feel from my time in the Army was the people with whom I served. Overall, they were America’s best, and still are. Some of my observations in life are that most people are capable of much more than they do, and that intelligence and education are not necessarily related.
Veterans Day goes back to World War I, and from that war is one of the most vivid examples of a citizen-soldier hero, just doing what had to be done, at the time.
Alvin Cullum York was the third child born to William and Mary York on December 13th, 1887 in a two room cabin in Wolf Valley in the area of Pall Mall, Tennessee. Pall Mall has a few buildings and a name, but not much more. Eight more siblings were born to that family, all raised in that two room house. William York worked the farm, did some blacksmith work, and hunted for food. Alvin, quit school after the third grade, to help his dad. He became a crack shot, and was at home in the woods, which was necessary to keep food on the table. Alvin was the oldest of the children living close to home when William died in November 1911, so it fell to Alvin to help his mother raise his younger brothers and sisters. Alvin went to work in railroad construction, then as a logger and devoted himself to supporting his mother and siblings, but he was also a real rebel, becoming a heavy drinker and bar room brawler. Then in the winter of 1914, a good friend of Alvin’s was beaten to death, in a fight. It shook him, he was afraid that if he didn’t change his ways, he could end up with the same fate, so he attended a revival meeting. Then he joined the Church of Christ in Christian Union, where he met Gracie Williams, who helped turn wild hillbilly Alvin York into a Christian. The Church of Christ preached against violence, drinking, and dancing. Alvin became a believer, teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir.
Then in April 1917, the United States entered World War I. Alvin, afraid that he would be drafted, spoke to his pastor who advised him to seek conscientious objector status. On his draft registration card, in response to a question, “Do you seek exemption from the draft?”, he wrote, “Yes, don’t want to fight”.
His case was denied because his church wasn’t a recognized Christian sect, and conscientious objectors were still being drafted, but assigned to support jobs. Alvin was drafted in November 1917 and assigned to Company G, 328th Infantry, 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Basic training was conducted within the units then. Alvin attracted attention because he was a crack shot who did not want to fight. His Company Commander Captain Danforth, and his Battalion Commander Major Buxton, had long conversations with Alvin about Biblical justifications for war. Major Buxton was a devout Christian and cited a variety of Biblical sources to counter Alvin’s concerns. They were able to convince Alvin that war could be justified. He took a 10 day leave to visit home and returned accepting the belief that God meant for him to fight.
The 82nd Infantry Division arrived in France in late May 1918. Alvin’s unit had more training and then participated in the St Mihiel Offensive in September, when Alvin was promoted to Corporal. On October 7th, his unit entered the fighting in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, to relieve units of the 28th Infantry Division. They were ordered to advance the next morning to take Hill 223 and press on to sever the Decauville railroad north of Chatel-Chehery. They took the hill, but moving from the hill they were forced through a triangular shaped valley where they started taking German machinegun fire from the hill sides. The attack was stopped and the Americans were taking heavy casualties. Sergeant Bernard Early was ordered to take 17 men, including Alvin and work around into the German rear to get to those machineguns. They succeeded in slipping through the German lines, and in moving toward the machineguns found a German headquarters unit, which they captured. There were several soldiers and a Major. When the German machine gunners saw what was happening, they turned their guns around and fired on the Americans, killing six and wounding three, including Sergeant Early. That left Alvin in charge. He left the seven able bodied soldiers, under cover, guarding the prisoners, and he turned to deal with the machine guns. The machineguns were only 30 yards away, they couldn’t miss. Alvin wrote in his diary after the action: “Those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful…. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn’t even have time to kneel or lie down…. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and every time I saw a head, I just touched it off. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had. Suddenly a German officer and five men jumped out of the trench and charged me with fixed bayonets. I changed to the old automatic (pistol) and just touched them off too. I touched off the sixth man first, then the fifth, then the fourth, then the third and so on. I wanted them to keep coming. I didn’t want the rear ones to see me touching off the front ones. I was afraid they would drop down and pump a volley into me. — and I got hold of the German major, and he told me if I wouldn’t kill any more of them, if he would make them quit firing. So, I told him all right, if he would do it now. So, he blew a little whistle, and they quit shooting and came down and gave up.” The German Machine Gun Commander, First Lieutenant Paul Vollmer took into account his mounting losses and offered to surrender to York – who gleefully accepted.
Corporal Alvin York had killed 28, captured 35 machineguns and 132 German Soldiers, which he and the seven patrol members marched back to his battalion headquarters. Upon arriving, his Regimental Commander is said to have said, “York, I hear you captured the whole damn German army.”, Alvin answered, “No Sir, only 132 of them”.
Alvin was immediately promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was soon upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He was returned to the United States as a celebrity and given a ticker tape parade through New York. He was pestered by filmmakers and advertisers, but he returned home to Tennessee. A week after he returned home on June 7th 1919, the Governor of Tennessee, Albert H. Roberts came to Pall Mall and before a crowd of hundreds, performed the marriage ceremony for Alvin and Gracie.
The Rotary Club of Nashville offered to raise the money to buy the newlyweds a new home, one of the few early gift offers he accepted, but he insisted that the home be in Pall Mall. Alvin and Gracie had 10 children during their life, eight of whom survived infancy. He founded an educational foundation to assist area children to get an education and did occasional speaking tours, primarily to high schools promoting the importance of education.
Alvin was approached by movie makers several times, but refused all until the war in Europe was growing in the late 1930’s. He finally consented to a movie, about him, but with conditions. First, his share of the profits would go to a Bible school he wanted built, second, no cigarette smoking actress could play the role of his wife, and finally, only Gary Cooper could play him. Gary Cooper first refused, because he was 40 at the time and Alvin was 30 when the action happened, but he consented when Alvin personally asked him. “SERGEANT YORK” was released in 1941. Gary Cooper won an Oscar for best actor and the film got one for best editing. It is a four star movie, and was the highest grossing film of 1941. It is 78 years old, black and white, and still a great, great movie.
Alvin suffered a debilitating stroke in 1953, and died of a brain hemorrhage in September 1964. At that time, I was in the 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry in the 82nd Airborne Division. It was determined to be the closest, in lineage, to Alvin’s 328th Infantry, so we sent the burial detail to Pall Mall, Tennessee.
Currently one of the most prestigious “bragging rights awards” in the 82nd Airborne Division, is the annual Sgt Alvin C York Award, which goes to the company with the highest overall marksmanship scores in the division.
Make Sergeant in two years, Staff Sergeant in just over four. Other than the infantry, there is one job, where that has been happening for the past couple years. If you are considering the Army, but you are not a “kid” anymore, and you don’t want to forever become an equal with the “youngsters”, there is one support job where you can rapidly rise through the ranks.
That job has a fairly high number of soldiers, and a very high requirement for Sergeants. That is CBRN Specialist (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear), MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)74D. AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is 11 weeks, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This is an update of an article I posted a couple of years ago, titled “Chemical”, so you don’t have to read both.
A Chemical Corps Lieutenant Colonel recently described the job like this; “Most 74Ds are the CBRN Specialist for a company, any company. They usually have more senior CBRN NCOs/Officers at BN, BDE, and DIV (battalion, brigade, and division). USR (Unit Status Report) is a monthly requirement in which they crunch many of the numbers. They maintain all the CBRN equipment in a unit and provide training to the unit on CBRN tasks and equipment like detection of agents, personal decon, protection, unmasking procedures and deliberate decon. The vast majority are in other than CBRN units. Chemical Companies are usually the big three: recon, decon, smoke. They conduct chemical reconnaissance with the M93 Fox and similar systems. They provide the expertise and equipment for a deliberate decon of a unit (pax and vehicles). They provide battle field obscurants, most commonly smoke. They lay smoke in support of maneuver units. Recently WMD Response teams have popped up in the Guard and Reserve side that have chemical soldiers along with radiation specialists and EOD.
There are nine countries known to have nuclear weapons, including China, Russia, and North Korea, also India and Pakistan who share a border and a dislike for each other. There about 20 countries that have or are suspected to have chemical weapons, and eight to ten that are strongly suspected to have biological weapons (anthrax, plague, etc). Since 2011 Chlorine Gas has been used in Syria an estimated 100 times. Chlorine is not illegal it is a disinfectant. It is used to treat drinking water and swimming pool water. It is used in paints, textiles, insecticides and PVC to name a few products, making it is very easy to obtain. Using it as a weapon is internationally illegal. When released, as a gas, it produces a green cloud, and when breathed it breaks down the mucus membranes in the airways creating fluid. A person can drown in his own fluids. There is no antidote, just stop breathing and get away from the cloud, but the damage is permanent. In April 2017 another gas attack was used in Syria. That time it was Sarin or nerve gas. It is colorless and odorless, and even at low concentrations death can occur within one to ten minutes if the antidote “Atropine” is not injected. Symptoms of nerve gas are convulsions, foaming mouths, blurry vision, difficulty breathing, – death. All soldiers, in line units, are issued a spring-loaded atropine syringe along with their protective mask. Just stick it against your leg and it injects atropine.
According to South Korean intelligence, North Korea has been building chemical weapons since 1980, and is estimated to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of different chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax, smallpox, and the plague. Much of which can be delivered with artillery, which is hidden in tunnels and caves very close to the DMZ. Twenty-five million people live in the vicinity of Seoul, South Korea, within range of that artillery. Japanese intelligence believes that North Korea has developed missiles capable of delivering nerve gas. War in Korea would be chemical. Many CBRN soldiers think that a mission of the Chemical Branch, at US Army Human Resource Command, is to try to get all CBRN soldier to Korea, for at least one tour. I know several career CBRN soldiers who have not been to Korea, but most have.
In their initial entry training, (basic training or officer basic) every soldier in the Army goes through a gas chamber filled with CS gas (riot tear gas). They enter the chamber while wearing their gas mask, then on command they remove their mask and state their name, rank, date of birth or anything else the chamber operator dreams up to make sure they get a good dose of the gas, then they exit the chamber and blow their nose, maybe throw up, and flush their eyes with water but do not touch the eyes (that makes it worse). Every soldier in the Army does that at least once a year. The purpose is to give them confidence in their protective (gas) mask. Soldiers are trained to get their mask on within nine seconds. Every company in the Army has a CBRN NCO (non-commissioned officer) (sergeant), and a CBRN Room, which stores, not only a protective mask for every soldier, but a complete MOPP suit. That is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. The CBRN Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST). Top with hood, bottom, boots, and gloves all attached together to keep unseen things from getting to your skin. It’s lightweight, but it is still hot! Training in PPE gear in the winter is not too bad, it just tires you out soon, in the summer it can be hell. CBRN officers and sergeants are careful to incorporate rest periods in full PPE training.
The CBRN Room also stores chemical and radiological detection and decontamination equipment. The CBRN NCO, not only maintains the room and equipment, but participates in training planning, in order to incorporate CBRN into training. Then conducts or supervises CBRN training. The position calls for a Sergeant E-5, at company level. There is a Staff Sergeant E-6 in the operations section of battalion headquarters, and a Sergeant First Class E-7 at brigade headquarters, along with a Chemical Corps Captain.
Soldiers in the US Army Chemical Corps are called “Dragon Soldiers”. The Dragon, a legendary creature, symbolizes the fire and destruction of chemical warfare.
Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the Chemical Center, School and Museum. Chemical Corps officers and enlisted personnel take their basic and advanced courses there, plus special courses, so career 74D’s keep returning to Fort Leonard Wood for, not only specialty courses, but required military education. The standards are a little higher for 74D, an ASVAB score of 100 in ST (skilled technical), which is composed of the following ASVAB tests, GS – General Science, VE – Verbal Expression, MK – Mathematics Knowledge, and MC – Mechanical Comprehension. The course is also intellectually challenging. Comments from 74D graduates are stay awake, pay attention in class, take notes, and apply yourself. The 84th Chemical Battalion, which runs 74D AIT has the newest facility in the Army. Battalion and Company offices and class rooms downstairs, and classrooms and student dorms upstairs in a giant five story complex. Like living in a hotel and going downstairs for your conference. After physical training of course. Students learn CBRN Room Operations (supply, maintenance, training, etc), and biological agents, chemical agents, radiation detection and response, hazardous materials/toxic industrial chemicals, operational decontamination, thorough decontamination, mass casualty decontamination, and basic chemical/biological detection. They really learn how to decontaminate (wash) a vehicle, while wearing a spaceman suit. A lot of time is spent, in MOPP gear, doing hands on in the Chemical Defense Training Facility on Leonard Wood, and there is a field training exercise (FTX). One former student wrote that during a class on some real kinky stuff, the instructor stopped and said; “If you ever really see this, something in the world has gone terribly wrong”. Students get National Hazmat Certification before they graduate from AIT. Students get to keep cell phones, ipads and computers, just not during the day in class. A 74D Specialist, who is now a company CBRN NCO, recently made a youtube video, in which she said that she failed a couple areas and was recycled to another AIT class, making her AIT 13 weeks. Study.
A Sergeant First Class 74D, who was recently a Drill Sergeant at the Chemical School, had this to say; “You will learn the basics of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Operation. What that entails, is learning Decon, Recon, Smoke. Detection, protection, and effects of agents. You will also learn CBRN Room operations and how to maintain all the equipment. One of the most critical tasks you will do in AIT is the Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF) where you will be operating in a live Chemical environment. The cadre will deliberately contaminate area with VX nerve agent. You will actually see him/her place a live roach on a vehicle and the roach will die. Then you will employ the portable decon systems (whatever is in the Army’s inventory) to the vehicles in the facility. Once training is complete, the soldier will have to diff chemical protection gear using the exiting procedures. The last item to be removed will be the mask once you make it to the clear side. You will be in the buff with your mask on taking a shower. Then you will be moved to an area and given “all clear” to remove mask and get dressed. You will also conduct a convoy live fire and advance range learning the small arms I.e. .50 cal and MK 19. You will conduct two FTXs (Field Training Exercise) during AIT in which the last FTX you will conduct as a chemical platoon with primary focus on decon ops and force protection. That’s it in a nutshell. Plenty of opportunities post military. Focus on obtaining a specialty if possible. Tech Escort will open a lot of doors. Smoke has been turned over to the Engineer Corps.”
Two types of assignments can come after 74D AIT at Fort Leonard, Missouri, to a chemical unit, or to a non-chemical unit. Assignment to a chemical unit means you’re with CBRN soldiers doing CBRN work, but most are assigned to non-chemical units, which usually means that they are the only CBRN specialist in the company. My wild guess calculation is that a 74D AIT graduate has about a 75% plus, probability of being assigned to a non-chemical unit. They walk into a company, as a slick sleeve private, and are expected to be a CBRN expert. That makes AIT doubly important.
I found several negative comments from former 74D’s, that they were used as clerks, or drivers, or as the First Sergeant’s “gofer”. Those were usually from new 74D’s in support units, that did not frequently train with their CBRN equipment. I personally saw that happen in support units, but not in combat units. By the same token, I found comments from 74D’s who enjoyed learning other skills. The smart, hard workers, who took whatever task they were assigned as their mission, and performed every job to the best of their ability, with a positive attitude, ended up being promoted and placed in charge of a CBRN room.
If you become the First Sergeant’s “gofer”, become the best gofer possible. As a First Sergeant, you learn the gofers on whom you can depend to get things done, when you need help. Those are the soldiers, the First Sergeant will go out of his way to help, when the soldier needs help. The greatest reward for old sergeants, is seeing young soldiers, they’ve mentored, rise up through the ranks and succeed. Besides maintaining a positive attitude and being a hard worker, the 74D who is aggressive in pushing for CBRN training, usually establishes himself or herself as a key member of the company headquarters.
Below is the Company Headquarters of an Airborne Infantry Company;
Title Rank/Grade Branch/MOS
Company Commander Captain 0-3 Infantry
Executive Officer First Lieutenant 0-2 Infantry
First Sergeant First Sergeant E-8 11B5P
Supply Sergeant Staff Sergeant E-6 92Y3P
Senior Radio Operator Sergeant E-5 11B2P
CBRN NCO Sergeant E-5 74D2P
Armorer Specialist E-4 92Y1P
Radio Operator Private First Class E-3 11B1P
So, what can you do, when enlisting, to try to insure that you don’t get assigned to a support company somewhere, that only does CBRN training once a year at the gas chamber? Get the airborne option. Jumping out of airplanes. The largest unit to which a new airborne qualified 74D would be assigned, would be the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 82nd does have many support companies, as well as the combat units, but I guarantee you, no company in the 82nd Airborne Division does half-assed training. There have been many 74D’s assigned as company CBRN NCO’s straight out of AIT, most have succeeded and were promoted to sergeant in a couple years.
This is a true 74D story. In 2008, when the economy took a nose dive (recession), a 32 year old man, married with their first child due soon, was working at a pharmacy, when he met an Army Recruiter. A guaranteed paycheck and free health care sounded good, plus his family had a record of military service, but he had never been around the military. He enlisted in July 2008. Basic Combat Training and 74D AIT was at Fort Leonard Wood, from there he was assigned to the 62nd Chemical Company at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 62nd deployed to Kuwait, for a year, where he trained Kuwait National Guard in CBRN hazard detection, mitigation, and decontamination. Upon returning from deployment, in 2010, now a Sergeant and 36 years old, he volunteered for airborne school, he attended the CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance Course at Fort Leonard Wood, and was assigned to the 82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment (CRD), which was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Every Special Forces Group has a 28 man CRD attached. The CRD is broken down into 4 man teams. Team Leader – Sergeant First Class, Assistant Team Leader – Staff Sergeant, and two Sergeant CBRN NCO’s. The teams are often split to two men and attached to Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA). In other words, an A-Team. They don’t go through special forces training, and they don’t wear a green beret, they wear a maroon beret, but they go with an A-Team doing what it does. Comments from Green Berets about their attached 74D’s are usually; “They hang with us or they can’t hang. We soon find out.” This 74D sergeant trained in document and media exploitation and analysis, biometric collection, and unknown substance identification. In 2013, he set up and operated an Exploitation Analysis Center (forensic lab) in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and another in support of French Special Operations Forces in Burkina Faso. In 2015, he went back to Africa, moved everything, and worked with Combat Applications Group (Delta), FBI, and NSA. There was big news in 2017 about four green berets ambushed and killed in Africa. Two of those killed, weren’t actually green berets, but were 74D’s from the CRD, attached to that Special Forces A-Team. One was posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class, and awarded the Silver Star.
In 2016, he was selected to come back to Fort Leonard Wood and be an instructor at the CBRN Advanced Leaders Course, which he did through 2019. He says that training and mentoring the young sergeants, for higher positions was one of the most satisfying jobs, so far, of his career.
His official resume lists the following Army schools; Basic Leaders Course, CBRN Advanced Leaders Course, CBRN Senior Leaders Course, Combat Lifesaver Course, Combatives Level 1, Training/Operations NCO Course, Basic Radiology Safety, Hazardous Materials Technician, Technical Escort (that is really how to fight terrorists while escorting VIP’s), CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance, Exploitation Analysis Center, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) (that’s a tough one), Basic Airborne, Air Assault, Anti-terrorism Officer, Equal Opportunity Leaders Course, Small Group Instruction Course, Foundation Instructor Facilitator Course, Master Resilience Training, and Army Recruiter Course. He is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management with American Military University.
That has been the adventure, so far, of Sergeant First Class Jeff Escott, an Army Recruiter, at the Rolla, Missouri Army Recruiting Office. If this sounds interesting, talk to SFC Jeff Escott.
That is an attention getting title for a story about Unit Supply Specialist, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 92Y. Even the goarmy.com web page BELOW for MOS 92Y sounds kind of mundane.
“CAREERS & JOBS
UNIT SUPPLY SPECIALIST (92Y)
The unit supply specialist is primarily responsible for supervising or performing tasks involving the general upkeep and maintenance of all Army supplies and equipment.
• Receive, inspect, inventory, load/unload, store, issue and deliver supplies and equipment
• Maintain automated supply system for accounting of organizational and installation supplies and equipment
• Issue and receive small arms. Secure and control weapons and ammunition in security areas
• Schedule and perform preventive and organizational maintenance on weapons
• Operate unit level computers
Those who want to serve must first take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a series of tests that helps you better understand your strengths and identify which Army jobs are best for you.
Job training for a unit supply specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and eight weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instructions. Part of this time is spent in the classroom and part in the field, including practice in handling and storing stock.
Some of the skills you’ll learn are:
• Procedures for shipping, receiving, storing and issuing stock
• Stock control and accounting procedures
• Procedures for handling medical and food supplies
• Movement, storage and maintenance of ammunition
• Interest in mathematics, bookkeeping, accounting, business administration and/or typing
• Ability to keep accurate records
• Enjoy physical work
• Interest in operating forklifts and other warehouse equipment
REQUIRED ASVAB SCORE(S)
Clerical (CL): 90″
The Clerical score is from the word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetic reasoning, and mathematics knowledge tests. English and math, and 90 is not a very high score, and eight weeks (actually eight weeks and two days, so count on nine weeks) AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is a short AIT. One might think that this would be an easy clerk job, counting wigits. Nothing could be further from reality.
My story titled “Supply” describes the AIT, and my story titled “Enlisted Quartermaster Corps” also talks about MOS 92Y.
This is one of the most important, sensitive, and demanding jobs in the Army. It may not sound like a brainy job, but it is. The AIT covers basic procedures, but a 92Y is a 92Y and can be assigned to an infantry company, or aviation, or signal, or chemical, or medical, or anything, anywhere from a basic training battalion at Fort Leonard Wood to a Special Forces company where ever they may be, to a Garrison company at Fort Meade, Maryland (Washington, DC). Learning to be a supply specialist just starts with AIT. Everything in the Army that doesn’t breath, flows through the supply system. Everything! Socks, boots, hand grenades, tanks, helicopters, rifles, bolts, nuts and bacon. It has to be stored, requested, issued, and returned. The volume and the value of all that “stuff” is mind boggling.
Property accountability is one of the most sensitive subjects in the Army. Funding the military is a big deal and whether the item is a 9 million dollar tank or a 6 million dollar helicopter or a $200 set of tools, it represents money. Every non expendable item “owned” by a company is recorded in that unit’s property book (now automated). Army Company Commanders are personally responsible for everything “owned” by that company. When company commanders change, a complete physical inventory of the items listed in the company property book is conducted jointly by the incoming and outgoing commanders. Everything is accounted for before the incoming commander signs for the company. The person in that company directly responsible for property accountability is the company Supply Sergeant, MOS 92Y, who normally has a private or specialist assistant.
Some senior commanders require that incoming commanders make a pre-inventory visit, with the supply sergeant, that the change of command inventory is not just officer business.
Before anyone gets anything from the company supply room, whether it be a tool or a vehicle, they sign for it, and that transaction is entered into the system in the company property book. The Supply Sergeant and his or her assistant requests what the company needs, receives it, and issues it. When the supply sergeant orders an item, he is spending money.
Unfortunately, handling valuable items sometimes becomes a temptation, but especially now with everything digitally stored, you can’t get away with it. There is a recent story of a former Chief Warrant Officer, Property Book Officer, now serving 25 months in prison for stealing fore than 40 high-tech night vision goggles, valued at over $500,000 from his unit, with plans to sell them to a local military surplus store. He had simply deleted the items from the Property Book, but with GCSS-Army they were still in the system.
In the past five years, the Army has gone from a multitude of supply procedures to the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-Army). It is one program that allows everyone in the system to “see” everything, items and money, from factory to foxhole. To do that, the Army has gone to commercial SAP software. SAP is a huge and, can be, complicated system. There have been instances where large civilian companies, implementing SAP, have had to completely cease operations, during the implementation process, because they didn’t anticipate the time and learning curve necessary to implement SAP. The Army has accomplished this incrementally, over the past five years.
For someone who is looking at the Army as a possible career, this is one of the most fulfilling and respected support jobs. I’ll go through a probable career cycle of an enlisted 92Y soldier. Basic Combat Training is 10 weeks, but with reception and processing, that eats up three months. Basic training is physically hard, but according to most people going through now, it is also fun. That would probably be at Fort Leonard Missouri, or Fort Jackson, South Carolina. AIT at Fort Lee, Virginia will consume 9 weeks. If you take the airborne option, which I highly recommend, because airborne units are more elite and just better, you would go to jump school for three weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia. Then, after about six months since leaving home, you are assigned to a permanent unit. The lowest level to which a newly arriving 92Y is assigned is to a company. Using an airborne infantry unit as an example, the company Supply Sergeant is a staff sergeant with a specialist assistant. New privates are sometimes assigned to a company, where there is a vacancy, with a good Supply Sergeant. According to the official table of organization, the supply assistant is also the company armorer. That is followed in most support units, that don’t frequently use their weapons, but not in combat units, where there is always arms room activity. In most of those units, someone is pulled from the line to be the armorer, so the 92Y can stay in the supply room. That is not a complete desk job, supplies have to picked up, loaded, unloaded, stored, and issued.
Promotion to PFC E-3 (Private First Class) usually comes after a month or two at the permanent unit. The smart 92Y would first concentrate on learning the job, and performing at the best of his or her ability.
Base pay for a PFC, with less than two years service, is $2,042.70. A single soldier living in the barracks (dorm with own room), free meals in the Dining Facility, after all deductions, including (full SGLI Servicemans Group Life Insurance, and 5% Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), take home pay will be about $1,570 per month.
Other positions where the 92Y, may be assigned could be at Battalion Headquarters in the S-4 (Supply/Logistics) staff section. The Battalion S-4 section looks like this;
NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge) Sergeant First Class 92Y
Assistant Supply Sergeant Sergeant 92Y
Supply Specialist Specialist 92Y
Supply Specialist Specialist 92Y
A new 92Y could also be assigned to the Brigade Headquarters, S-4 Section, which looks like this;
Assistant S-4 Captain
Property Book Officer CW2 (Chief Warrant Officer)
NCOIC Master Sergeant 92Y
Supply Sergeant Staff Sergeant 92Y
Property Book NCO Sergeant 92Y
Supply Specialist Private First Class 92Y
Supply Specialist Private First Class 92Y
A new private could be assigned to the Brigade Headquarters, and after proving himself or herself to be smart, dedicated, and hard working, be assigned to a company, around the time they would make specialist, which would be about 18 months in the Army. I would definitely try to get the company experience, because that is the end of the supply chain, where supplies are consumed. That is also where everyone wants to be friends with the supply clerk, because you have what they need.
When someone makes Specialist, and they like the Army and are thinking that they might stay, they will start looking at the requirements for promotion to Sergeant. Civilian education is a big deal, in the Army. If they don’t have a bachelor’s degree, they should start aiming for one. Soldiers can “test out”, for free, on 38 different subjects, at the post Education Centers. Just like civilian CLEP (College Level Examination Program). Many online colleges are now offering accelerated bachelor’s programs. Many get through in three years, I did find a few, who claimed they did it in two years. Depends on how much time you can put into it. There are three big items considered in promotion to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant, weapons qualification score, ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) score, and civilian education. Attendance at an on-post, four week, Basic Leadership Course (BLC) is required, prior to being promoted to Sergeant E-5. Promotion to Sergeant E-5 is currently running at three years and under, for 92Y’s.
Sergeants must return to Fort Lee for an eight week Advanced Leaders Course (ALC), before being considered for promotion to Staff Sergeant E-6. A Sergeant, over three years, married, living with his or her family in family housing on post, which includes utilities and maintenance, will bring home about $2,470 per month, after deductions. (That’s with the free house).
The soldier may desire to become an officer. The requirements to apply for OCS (Officer Candidate School) are, have a bachelor’s degree (any degree), and not have over six years of service. Three months in OCS and they are commissioned a second lieutenant. That Second Lieutenant’s base pay is $4,136.40 per month.
Another career move, which many make, is to Warrant Officer. The requirements are be a staff sergeant or a sergeant on the staff sergeant promotion list, and worked as a 92Y at least five years of the past eight.
If accepted, they attend a five week Warrant Officer Candidate Course, then an eight week Warrant Officer Basic Course.
Promotion to Staff Sergeant could be anywhere between five and eight years, depends on how hard they work, on things like civilian education, and other schools. Most Company Supply Sergeants are Staff Sergeants, although Sergeants occasionally fill those positions. A Staff Sergeant, with over eight years of service, married, living off post (bought a house with no down payment VA loan), after all deductions, has take home pay of about $4,150 per month (remember free health care). A Warrant Officer makes about $1,000 a month more than a Staff Sergeant.
Staff Sergeants must go back to Fort Lee to attend the 10 week Seniors Leaders Course, before being considered for promotion to Sergeant First Class (SFC) E-7. Promotion to SFC can come anywhere between eight and 10 to 12 years, depending on the individual. The higher the rank, the more important is civilian education.
SFC’s must attend a two week Master Leader Course, before being considered for promotion to Master Sergeant E-8. 92Y E-8’s may be assigned to staff jobs or as First Sergeants of Quartermaster Companies. Promotion to E-8, if it comes, will happen between 15 and 18 years, depending on the individual.
Master/First Sergeants selected for promotion to Sergeant Major E-9, will first attend the 10 month long US Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. Promotion to Sergeant Major, again – if it comes, will be around the 20 to 22 year mark. Sergeant Major 92Y’s head the G-4 sections in division level (two star command) and above.
A Master Sergeant, retiring after 27 years of service, starts drawing $3,500 a month retirement. A Sergeant Major, retiring after 30 years of service, will start drawing $4,600 per month in retirement. Both should have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Thrift Savings Plan.
I said Logistician, by the time a 92Y soldier becomes a master sergeant he or she will be a logistician. This is not always an eight hour a day job, especially when units are deploying. In 2012, Sergeant First Class Gidget Borst was assigned as a battalion S-4 (supply) Sergeant at Fort Bliss, Texas. Upon arrival at her unit, she found things not in good order and a supply inspection on the horizon. She had to put some evening and weekend work to bring the battalion supply program back up to par, and then established herself as a key member of the battalion.
SFC Borst’s Battalion Commander said; “We heavily rely on her efforts to forecast the needs of not only our battalion, but also to meet the needs of the elements that are deploying into harm’s way.” She really is now a logistician.
When I went through basic training in September and October 1961 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, we used .30 caliber M-1 Rifles. The same rifles used in World War II. From there to infantry training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where we used M-1’s, BAR’s (Browning Automatic Rifle), and A-6, .30 caliber machine guns. The same guns used in World War II. We zeroed, and qualified with our rifles on KD (known distance) ranges. Half of the company qualified expert on the 500 meter range. The M-1 had distance and accuracy, but it was heavy and only fired eight rounds at a time. When I got to the 82nd Airborne Division, March 1st 1962, it had 7.62 mm M-14 Rifles. A couple years later we got the 5.56 mm M-16’s, and although modified a couple times, M16A2, and M-4 Carbine, the Army is still using that same rifle. A replacement has been identified. Also, around that time the Army built pop up target rifle ranges. Waist up, man sized, green silhouettes, “pop-up” at distances from 50 to 300 meters. The soldier shoots from a fox hole, with a rest, and must hit a minimum of 23 targets to qualify, 23 to 29 hits gets a Marksmanship Badge, 30 – 35 a Sharpshooter Badge, and 36 – 40 an Expert Badge. That system has been used for the past 55 years.
Every soldier must qualify with his or her weapon once annually. Combat arms soldiers do a lot of shooting, starting with the infantry, combat engineers, armor, and artillery. Many support soldiers only fire their rifle during annual qualification. There were instances in the first Gulf war, Desert Storm in 1990, of support soldiers taking a wrong turn and finding themselves in enemy lines. Some were killed and some captured, many were not proficient with their rifle, they had trouble firing back, and if their weapon jammed, they were sunk. Then the “no front lines” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, put the lack of weapons proficiency by support soldiers on vivid display.
For the past several years, the Army has been fortunate to have had some exceptional people at the top. Many changes have and are happening. After going through several years of relatively easy training, Basic Combat Training is now as tough as it has been since World War II. I know some people don’t believe that. It is not unnecessarily tough, it is physically tough, professional training. After the first couple weeks, basic trainees are having fun, some say the time of their lives. The standard army PT test of pushups, sit-ups, and run, that the Army has used for the past 50 years is out, replaced by a very demanding six event test, which is rapidly changing soldiers’ attitude toward physical fitness, and changing the way units conduct their physical fitness programs.
This year, the Army is instituting a new Rifle Marksmanship Program. Under the old program, for the past 50 years, non-combat soldiers, once a year, drew their rifles, went to the range, zeroed the rifle on a 25 meter range, then went to the qualification range. Qualification firing was from a supported foxhole, with four magazines, each containing 10 rounds, stacked in front of the shooter. After 10 rounds were fired at the pop-up targets, the command “change magazines” came from the range control tower, then shooting resumed. If a shooters’ weapon malfunctioned, during firing, and he or she couldn’t immediately correct it, the shooter held up his hand and claimed an “alibi”, which caused a range cease fire until the weapon was functioning. When I was a Drill Sergeant, before the trainees moved onto the range, the drills would grab a rifle and go “knock down” the targets, to make sure they all worked. We all could hit 40 out of 40 targets. Someone once said that a drunk monkey could qualify as an expert, if given enough time on the range.
This past year the Army published TC (Training Circular) 3-20.40 Training and Qualification – Individual Weapons. It is 800 pages of specific guidance for weapons qualification, to be followed by every unit in the Army, regardless of the type of unit.
Now all army units, regardless of the type, are mandated to conduct the same annual weapons qualification program. It starts with classes on how to properly zero their weapon.
After which, the soldiers must pass a written and a hands-on test before moving to the next phase, which is firing with the simulator. The simulator is the army’s Engagement Skills Trainer, which is an elaborate, indoor, laser based unit with a large screen 26 feet from the firer, displaying terrain and targets, with feed back hits and misses. The rifle is of the same weight, producing sound and recoil very similar to the real thing.
After successfully firing on the Engagement Skills Trainer they go to the actual range for dry drills.
The dry drills are of how they will fire for qualification, which is not all in a rested foxhole, but in prone, kneeling, standing supported, and standing unsupported, and quickly moving between firing positions, just as they would do in combat, and with their ammunition magazines in their pouch, not laid out, and changing magazines automatically, not on orders from the tower. In fact, there are no orders from the tower, except, begin, and there are no alibies. If a weapon malfunctions, get it going or lose shots, because now instead of one target at a time popping up, as many as four pop up at one time. The old way took about 20 minutes to fire 40 rounds, this takes about four minutes.
After the dry drills, they go to the zero range and zero their rifles. Next is practice qualification, go through trough the whole qualification, with live ammo, but for practice. Finally, qualification, but not just daytime firing. Qualification firing in daytime, daytime wearing gas masks, then night time firing, and night time firing wearing gas masks.
One sergeant rifle marksmanship instructor said that he always shot 40 out of 40 on the old way. His first time, while teaching the course, this way he shot 22 out of 40.
Firers change positions on their own, starting with standing unsupported, just like a reaction to contact, then drop to the prone unsupported, then to a kneeling supported position, and finally to a standing supported. Under the old system, a soldier could fire “Expert” without hitting a 300 meter target. Now there are five exposures of the 300 meter targets, so at least one has to be hit to qualify as an expert,
Aside from doing their job to the best of their ability, the Army wants soldiers to be physically fit and good shooters.
Carly Schroeder, an actress who has starred in over a dozen movies, Lizzie McGuire, Mean Creek, and most recently Ouija House, turned 29 this past October, and Hollywood guestimates her net worth at around a million dollars. She also graduated from California Lutheran University with a double major in communications and psychology. In March 2019, she enlisted in the Army for OCS (Officer Candidate School), her intention was to try to get into Military Intelligence. She completed basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in July 2019, and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia for OCS. During OCS, she had a change of desire and graduating in September, she was commissioned a second lieutenant and branched Infantry. She then completed the 17 week Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, during which she, not only qualified expert in the new army marksmanship program, she was the high shooter in her class, beating all the guys. She also successfully completed Ranger school this past June, and is now an airborne ranger infantry lieutenant, somewhere in the Army – no publicity, she is now a REAL soldier.
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, August 8th 2018. I have not posted it before, at Life in the Army, because of the sensitivity. Some of the photos may have copy rights, but I’m simply passing them on. I don’t receive any compensation for this, neither did I for the newspaper column, it is simply an attempt to educate civilians about life in the Army.
This column on March 14th of this year was titled “Dear Joe”, which was a letter to a teenager who, like most his age, does not have a future vision in mind. I recommended that he enlist in the Army for three or four years for airborne infantry, because there is no other experience in the world like it. This title “Band of Brothers” conjures up memory of the TV miniseries of Echo Company, 506th Airborne Infantry in the 101st Airborne Division in World War II.
This is about a current “Band of Brothers”.
Christopher Michael Harris was born in St Petersburg, Florida November 3rd, 1991. He was adopted, as a newborn, by Dennis and Susan Harris Kolean. Not long after, they moved to Jackson Springs, North Carolina, where Christopher grew up. He did spend many summers with his uncle, J Michael Harris, in Florida, because he loved fishing and the water. Jackson Springs is only about 15 miles from Southern Pines, North Carolina, which is on the “back side” of Fort Bragg. It is much smaller and quieter than the sprawling Fayetteville/Spring Lake communities bordering the main post. It has a fair sized military population, because some would rather drive the 25 miles through Fort Bragg every day and live in the small town atmosphere.
Christopher graduated high school, in 2010, from Grace Christian School, which is a small private Christian school in close by Sanford. The Sanford Herald reported; William Kerr, his closest friend in high school, said; “There was never a dull moment. There was never a time that I didn’t want to be with him. So smart, always taught me something and always there to protect me. If there was ever any problem or anything at all, he was the first person there. He always took care of everyone and was the most selfless person that I met, and put everyone else’s needs before him. He understood the line between work and play, so when it was play, he played hard. When he worked, he worked harder.” The soccer coach, Chris Pratt said: Soccer was kind of his go to sport. He was great. He was the hardest worker, very loyal. As a coach, you want a guy like that because he would do anything you asked him to do and he was kind of our bruiser, which made him very disciplined.” Head Pastor Joel Murr, who also coached in the athletics department said; “He just loved people. He was a popular kid. The girls will tell you that he had the prettiest eyes that anybody had ever seen. He was a handsome young man, just liked by everybody.”
After high school, Chris Harris worked in public services for the town of Pinehurst, which is about halfway between Jackson Springs and Southern Pines. Then in October 2013 he enlisted in the Army for Infantry with the airborne option. After completing Infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training) and Airborne School he was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The “Devils in Baggy Pants”.
Having been a Platoon Sergeant of an Airborne Infantry Platoon, I can tell you that there is a rank structure in that platoon, but there is also an unofficial pecking order and an unofficial leader in most platoons. Privates (PVT’s), Private First Class (PFC’s), and Specialist are lumped together as “junior enlisted”, and within that group there is often a “leader”, usually a specialist who is smart, quick witted, vocal, and if the Platoon Sergeant is lucky, positive. He is the guy who on mile 35 of a nonsense 40 mile road march, starts making cracks and makes everybody forget about their aches and pains, or at 6:00PM in the evening, after a four day field exercise, everyone is trying feverously to get equipment and weapons cleaned and turned in, and is frustrated because they are still there, starts making jokes and relieves the tension. He is also, hopefully, the guy who bypasses his squad leader and comes to you with; “Sarg, Smith has got some problems and I think he needs some professional help”. Smith could be a private or a sergeant. That’s who I think Chris Harris was, the platoon spark. A friend said; “He walks into a room and you know he’s there. Never a dull moment when he’s around, such energy he brings to everything he does.”
Through a mutual friend, Chris met Brittany Paige Maness. The friend said that they were inseparable from the time they met. They were married in Ashville, North Carolina, October 15th 2016.
On June 30th 2017, Brittany said goodbye to Chris at Green Ramp on Fort Bragg, as his unit deployed to Afghanistan. On July 31st Brittany learned that she was pregnant with their child. She contacted Chris in Afghanistan via Face Time, she said, “Chris you’re going to be a dad!” She said he was ecstatic, that he wanted to be a dad more than anything. She said he teared up at the news, and immediately shared it with his platoon.
Then on the evening of August 2nd Chris’ was with his team under Sergeant Jonathan Hunter of Columbus, Indiana, in a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (an MRAP) conducting a “partnered mission” security patrol with the Afghan National Army near Bagram Airbase when a suicide bomber, in a vehicle loaded with explosives, met the patrol and exploded next to their vehicle. Specialist Christopher Harris and Sergeant Jonathan Hunter were killed, the four others in the vehicle were wounded plus an Afghan interpreter. Colonel Tobin Magsig, the Brigade Commander, was in the next vehicle and helped get the paratroopers out of the burning MRAP.
Brittany said that she had sent Chris some texts, which he had not yet answered. She saw on some military sites, that she monitored, that two soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan, then two officers came to her door. After the notification they asked if there was anything else they could do. She said; “Yes I would like you to drive me to Chris’ parent’s house and be there when they are told.” They did.
The next day Brittany Harris posted on her Facebook page, “As the news spreads about the two soldiers killed in action yesterday in Afghanistan, it is with a very heavy and broken heart that I confirm that one of them was my husband Chris Harris.”
Some of you reading this out here in the middle of nowhere, who have no experience with the military, may think that infantry combat soldiers, who are in a business where they can get wounded or killed, are somewhat hardened to those circumstances. Not true! I’ve written before about how close an infantry platoon becomes. When someone is killed, it is like a member of your family. It tears your gut out. First there is anger, you want to go get them. Then absolute abject frustration, and finally acceptance, mourning, move on, but don’t forget them. Often the leaders have a lingering feeling of guilt that never goes away.
Initially Brittany Harris asked for privacy. She posted; “Right now my main concern is that I want to try and make sure everything continues to be healthy considering these crushing circumstances. I know you will all be respectful as I ask to be left alone. Thank you.”
Vice President Pence met the Angel Flight which brought Sergeant Hunter and Specialist Harris back to the United States.
Specialist Christopher Michael Harris’ full military funeral was on August 14th in the Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery, Spring Lake, North Carolina, just outside of Fort Bragg. It was one of the largest funerals many had seen. The 10 mile procession was led by 100 motorcycles of the Patriot Guard Riders, followed by about 50 Jeeps, each flying an American flag, from several Jeep Clubs, because of Chris’ love of Jeeps. Chris and Brittany were members of the Jeepers United Club.
In October Brittany learned the baby’s gender. She said of Chris’s platoon; “They’re still grieving. They’re just doing it away from the rest of us. I wanted them to be the first to know the gender and reveal it, to let them know they’re family and part of this journey with me.” She sent small “confetti cannons” to the platoon in Afghanistan. They made a cell phone video of their impromptu ceremony. Corporal Nathan Bagley said; “My boy Harris, we’re gonna do it for him – we going to see what kind of baby he’s going to have.” They counted down and pink confetti exploded to applause, whoops and hollers and goofy dances.
That platoon landed at Pope Field on Fort Bragg on March 17th 2018, returning from Afghanistan. On that same day, Christian Michelle Harris was born.
Brittany kept contact with the platoon members, and then decided to have a photo shoot with Christian and Chris’ platoon. She said; “They’ve been a part of her life before she was even born, and I know they’re going to be around for the rest of her life. No matter where the Army takes them all, I will be able to show Christian how they all came together for her.”
On May 29th Pinehurst Photography conducted the photo shoot. The following are their photos.
Today, the Devil Brigade came together to share a moment of silence to honor fallen Paratroopers Sgt. Jonathon Hunter and Spc. Christopher Harris. Today marks the one year anniversary of the suicide attack in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan that took them away from us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of our fallen warriors.
“As long as we live, they too will live. They are now a part of us. We will remember them.”
This is a follow up to my story on MOS 25B, army IT specialist “BE AN ARMY COMPUTER GUY OR GAL”. This is about the signal corps in general.
Signal Soldiers are, or soon will be; Information Technology Specialist – MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 25B, Signal Support Specialist – MOS 25U, Network Communications Systems Specialist – MOS 25H, and Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer – MOS 25S. These are some of the most civilian marketable army jobs. They currently require a four year enlistment and a SECRET security clearance.
The US Army Signal Corps is currently undergoing a massive and rapid evolution. In the “old Army”, with the inclusion of satellites in the military communications systems, enlisted signal jobs ranged from a radio operator/maintainer, with an AIT (Advanced Individual Training) of about eight weeks, to satellite and microwave system operators and maintainers, and multi-channel communication center maintainers, with AIT’s of sometimes over 30 weeks. Those were highly specialized, technical jobs. In the 20 years between 1980 and 2000, the world switched to communicating via computer. The Army Signal Corps struggled to keep up, it trained soldiers to be computer savvy communicators, but they were still highly specialized. As a result, when Iraq and Afghanistan exploded, the Army had qualified communications soldiers, but it took four or five communications specialists, each trained in a narrowly defined task, to do what could be efficiently performed by one civilian contractor. The military hired civilian contractors, and the signal people complained that they weren’t being used.
In the past eight to ten years, Army leadership – the three and four stars – who came up the ranks with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, having to deal with logistics, casualties, and communications, while dealing with an enemy combatant, have been changing the Army more rapidly than it has changed since World War II. The US Army Signal Corps is now in the midst of change.
In April 2016, the Department of Defense (DOD) started moving from the Command Cyber Readiness Inspection (CCRI) to the Command Cyber Operations Readiness Inspection (CCORI). The new CCORI was to not only test a system for compliance with all DOD directives, but to challenge the security of that system. Then in November 2018, Colonel Joseph Pishock, Commander of the 1st Signal Brigade in Korea, together with Major James Torrence, Operations officer of the 41st Signal Battalion of the 1st Signal Brigade, wrote a scathing article in “Small Wars Journal” about the US Army Signal Corps. Their point was that the Signal Corps had become so addicted to rigidly complying with cyber standards that it was afraid to take risks. In other words, not allowing the addicted computer geek specialists and sergeants to try anything outside specific guidelines, to defeat a cyber threat. They said the culture of the Signal Corps had to change. In the Signal Corps of the old days of radios, it worked or it didn’t work. In the cyber world of today, it works but someone is trying to get our data, which is the number of troop movements, logistics, ammunition, operations orders – everything. In the civilian world the computer geek at the keyboard is the first line of defense. The Army also has computer geeks, it just hasn’t been allowing them to take risks and try new things.
In an interview in August 2019, Brigadier General (BG) Christopher Eubanks, Chief of Signal and Commandant of the Signal School, at that time, said that the Signal Corps is consolidating from 17 MOS’s to 7. It is revamping all signal AIT’s to the new consolidated MOS’s, to produce better trained and more versatile signal soldiers. The signal jobs (MOS’s) for which an individual may enlist are being reduced from 13 to 6, and finally, I believe, to 4.
This is a transition currently in process and won’t be completed for another two to four years. Some MOS consolidations are scheduled to be completed October 1st 2022.
Brigadier General Christopher Eubank and
Command Sergeant Major Richard Knott
The US Army Signal School is located at the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia (Augusta).
Throughout the dozens of comments, I found from current and former signal soldiers, the one subject that came up in almost all, was that they did a lot of cross-training, because they were often not assigned to a job consistent with their MOS. 25B’s working in 25N positions and vice versa, 25U’s working in both. It appears that the overall attitude of the Army has been, a signal soldier is a signal soldier.
Current MOS 25C Radio Operator/Maintainer is being merged into MOS 25U Signal Support Systems Specialist. The current AIT for 25U is 16 weeks. Retired Signal Sergeant Virgin Houston said this; “I think this is the hardest signal MOS because you are alone in an infantry or other type unit. If something uses electricity, you will be expected to make it work and fix it. Very high pressure, but rewarding. This is the black sheep of Signal. You are jack of all trades and master of none. I don’t think these folks are given enough training.” Hopefully the training is being fixed with this revamping. The 25U is not only a computer guy or gal, he or she is the commo expert in an infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineer, or other “line” unit. High Frequency (HF) radios are used in combat units, because many things from enemy hacking to a thunder storm can shut down satellite communications.
AN/PRC-163 Multi-Channel Handheld Radio
AN/PRC-158 Multi-Channel High Frequency Manpack Radio
RF=300H Wideband HF Manpack Radio – Allows Secure High Frequency Wideband data transfer
Army standardized tactical computer allows Commanders to actually “see” the battlefield from their command vehicle.
Current MOS 25Q Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator/Maintainer and MOS 25N Nodal Network Systems Operator/Maintainer are being consolidated in new MOS 25H Network Communications System Specialist, effective October 1st 2022. Currently, 25Q’s install, operate, and maintain multi-channel line of sight and tropospheric scatter communications systems, antennas, and associated equipment. The AIT for 25Q is 15 weeks long. MOS 25N’s are the tactical network people. That AIT is currently 21 weeks. One 25N said this; “25N is a fantastic job full of certification and plentiful networking with civilian contractors and field service representatives. It is difficult but rewarding. You’ll work in truck-mounted, airconditioned switch shelters. You are as marketable as they come, if you decide not to reenlist.” Another said to over maintain your generator. Oil it, grease it, love it, and fuel it constantly. Without the generator, you’re just another lowly radio operator. Virgil Houston, said this is a good one for transference to civilian jobs. He also said that 25Q is good for transferring to civilian jobs. He also said that both were often done by civilian contractors.
Current MOS 25P Microwave Systems Operator/Maintainer is being merged with MOS 25S Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer. MOS 25P AIT is currently 11 weeks, and MOS 25S AIT is 18 weeks.
The Army Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T)
WIN-T Tactical Communications Node-Lite (TCN-L) and Network Operations Security Center-Lite (NOSC-L) are now being fielded to light infantry units after a successful operational test at the Network Integration Evaluation at Fort Bliss, Texas, in July 2017. (Photo by Jen Judson/Defense News Staff)
There are three other signal MOS’s, soon to be consolidated to two, that are also part of the Signal Corps. MOS 25M Multimedia Illustrator, is being consolidated into MOS 25V Combat Documentation/Production Specialist. There is also MOS 25V’s partner MOS 25R Visual Information Equipment Operator/Maintainer. These jobs are not part of the Signal Corps community. Their AIT is at the Defense Information School, at Fort Meade, Maryland, along with the MOS 46S Mass Communication Public Affairs Specialists AIT. The signal corps recommended that these be transferred to Public Affairs, but there appears to be some resistance from Public Affairs. I feel that they will eventually be transferred to Public Affairs.
The enlistment requirements for all these signal MOS’s are ASVAB scores of 100 in EL and 102 in ST. The EL (Electronics) score is a combination of four sub tests, Electronics Information, General Science, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge. The ST (Skilled Technical) is also from four sub tests, General Science and Mathematics Knowledge, plus Verbal Expression (English) and Mechanical Comprehension. All require a SECRET security clearance, which entails a National Agency check, including financial history, and interviews, if deemed necessary. At present, most require a four-year enlistment. That could change, as MOS’s and AIT schools are consolidated.
Signal AIT is being completely restructured. The goal is to train an all-around signal soldier. All MOS’s will be together for about the first month of AIT. In that “Foundational Training”, there will be a day and a half of Orientation and pre-assessment, four days of Computer Literacy, two days of Operating Systems/Printers, and about 10 days of Networking/Security. After the Foundational Training, AIT students will separate into their MOS specific training. After the MOS training is complete, all will return for a joint four-day field exercise, with all practicing their combined skills in a tactical environment. I feel that after this has been fully implemented, all signal AIT will be around 20 to 25 weeks. If it goes to 25 weeks, or more, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the enlistment requirement go to five years.
Reports from current and former AIT students at Fort Gordon are mixed about academics and general life as an AIT student. Academically, the 25B’s and 25N’s said that it was easy, if they were already a computer person, if not it was hard – study, study, study. As far as life outside the classroom, freedom of movement appears to differ from company to company. All complained about multiple daily formations, including weekends. This seems to be a symptom of what Colonel Pishock and Major Torrence called a fear of commitment and risk taking within the Signal Corps. Decisions being made at high levels, relieves junior officers and sergeants of responsibility, thereby detracting from their inclination to make leadership decisions. The result comes through to enlisted soldiers, as a lack of trust. Although, that appears to get better further into the course. There are surprise inspections for alcohol and drugs and other infractions of rules.
Some cautioned not to let your physical condition deteriorate, during AIT. They said that regular PT is not enough to keep you in shape for the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test), and that a couple failures can result in a discharge. The entire Army is completely serious about personal physical condition.
Where are signal soldiers assigned? Everywhere there are soldiers. Including the Airborne Option in the enlistment contract, will probably point the new enlistee to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, although there are a few airborne signal soldiers scattered with Special Forces Groups. They don’t become Green Berets’, they are in signal units that support Special Forces. One of the Special Forces MOS’s, 18E, is Communications. Being a signal soldier would be a good basic education for someone desiring to become a communications Green Beret. I saw SF commo guys, in Vietnam, throw a wire up in a tree, pull their little radio out of their ruck and talk to the world.
These are high tech, brainy jobs which are also good paying civilian jobs.
Most high school seniors have now graduated in some form. A year from now, where do you want to be? Just completing a year of college, or in a solid job making around $35,000 a year if you’re single, if married how about making around $50,000 a year, and going to college.
I spoke at the Veterans Day Assembly about the opportunities that are available in the military. After a soldier has been in the Army for a year, he or she will have completed Basic Combat Training, and most all AIT’s (Advanced Individual Training), plus special training, such as airborne school, and is assigned to a permanent assignment, and probably will have been promoted to PFC (Private First Class E-3).
Let’s do some numbers. A PFC E-3, single soldier living in the dorm in a private room, receiving no extra pay, such as parachute pay, and paying 3 percent of their pay into a Thrift Savings Plan, which the government matches, claiming him or herself as one dependent will have take home pay of around $1,635.00 per month, half paid on the 1st and half on the 15th. No rent and no food expense if you eat all meals in the Dining Facility, which has excellent food, and 100 percent health care, if you need it. If you are married and your wife or husband is living with you in family housing on post, your take home pay will be around $2,085.00 per month, and you’re living in a nice house, no rent, no utilities, no maintenance, 100 percent health care (babies are free).
After getting settled in your job at your permanent assignment, go to the post education center, and talk to a guidance counselor. The ed center counselor is thoroughly familiar with DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support). DANTES will help you get semester hours for military training and experience. Basic training produces around 5 SH from most schools. Some AIT’s give you many semester hours, some do not. Health Care Specialist MOS 68W (Combat Medic) is 16 weeks and produces close to 30 SH, so does the 16 week 35F Military Intelligence Analyst course. The 20 week 25B Information Technology Specialist (computers), and the 20 plus week 17C Cyber Operations Specialist (hacker) course gets close to 60 SH, as does the 26 week 46S Public Affairs Mass Communications (photo journalist and broadcaster) course. Most of the combat arms AIT’s don’t produce that much. Those hours must be accepted by a college or university, but several military friendly schools are represented at every post ed center. The counselor knows which schools give credits for what. The counselor is also familiar with DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests), in other words CLEP (College Level Examination Program). DANTES has 38 subjects on which you can test out, for free, and get semester hour credit without attending a class. They also provide study material prior to taking the test. The counselor will help you prepare a Joint Service Transcript (JST), documenting semester hours for military training and experience. JST’s are accepted by over 2,300 schools nationwide, but primarily by the 1,800 schools in the SOCAD (Servicemembers Opportunity College) network. These schools form a network that helps servicemembers get associates and bachelors degrees. They accept hours from military education and experience and they accept each-others hours.
Military TA (Tuition Assistance) is $250 per semester hour, for up to 16 semester hours (SH) per year. Almost 100 percent of the colleges and universities represented at Army Education Centers (every post has an ed center), have set their tuition at $250 per semester hour (SH).
Is it really possible to go to college while on active duty? Absolutely! The Army is so serious about civilian education that every semester hour is worth one promotion point to Sergeant. However, your day job comes first. Is it possible to go from being a high school graduate to a bachelors’ degree in four years, while in the Army? Probably not. Time is the big factor. Combat arms soldiers don’t have as much off time as support soldiers. Their training is often in the field and often at night. I did read a comment from one infantryman who obtained a bachelors’ degree in five years. He was shooting for OCS (Officer Candidate School), for which you have to have a bachelors’ degree and no more than six years of service. He surely had to sacrifice almost all social life to do that. Many combat arms soldiers use online classes almost exclusively.
I’ve attended and taught evening college classes at the education center on Fort Leonard Wood, and I’m familiar with online. In my opinion, attending class in the evening is easier, for the student, than that class online. On post classes usually top out at around 20 students, you have almost one on one instruction, you can ask questions, bounce off other students, and immediately find out if you are on the right track. The only advantage of online classes is that you can set your own time, but you basically have to teach yourself. They often take more time and study than attending class. Many colleges and universities with on post classes now use eight week sessions. Two 3 SH classes per session equals 30 SH year, if you can hit every session.
What jobs and assignments allow you the time to go to school? Even if college is your goal, don’t pick an Army job based solely on its’ ability to let you attend classes. If you want to be an airborne ranger, don’t accept anything less. As I have said before, research the Army, talk to people, and select a job that you think you will enjoy. During my Army career I met many career soldiers who were initially drafted into the Army. And many who enlisted for three years to get the GI Bill. Almost 20 Percent, 2 out of 10, people who enlist in the Army, spend 20 years and retire. Our son, Richard, spent four years as an infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division and saw combat in Somalia in the summer of 1993 (Blackhawk Down). He got out when his enlistment was up, finished college, and has enjoyed a very successful career in the information technology field, but to this day says that the smartest decision he ever made was to enlist in the Army.
Some jobs, like those I mentioned above, will give you almost two years of college when you finish AIT, many will not.
So, I encourage you to consider the Army. Basic training is physically demanding and challenging, but ends up being fun. No gain without pain. It’s your future – take control.
The soldier whose job is to setup and maintain computer networks and systems. Help people with computer problems, including swapping components, such as drives and motherboards, and routers, and keep all the computer systems operating, is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 25B Information Technology Specialist. These are the Army IT professionals. I have written before (see my article COMPUTER HACKER) about MOS 17C Cyber Operations Specialist, those are Top Secret people hidden away doing Top Secret stuff. The 25B’s are the everyday, every unit, computer professionals, who keep the systems up and running.
This is, with doubt, one of the best Army jobs that transfers directly to lucrative civilian jobs, and because the Army will turn you into an IT professional, it requires a five year enlistment The Army now communicates just like the rest of the world communicates, by computer, so it has a lot of IT professionals to keep it communicating, securely. Shoot, move, and communicate is what the Army does. That puts 25B in the Signal Corps. The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 25B is currently 20 weeks long at the Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. This story is specifically about MOS 25B IT Specialist, I will follow it with another about other signal jobs, because the Signal Corps is currently undergoing a major overhaul.
First, this MOS requires a SECRET security clearance, because of the information to which they are exposed, so a person needs to be squeaky clean, other than minor traffic tickets. Getting a SECRET security clearance means a background check, which includes a national agency check, public and financial records search, and depending what that reveals, maybe personal interviews.
What a 25B IT Specialist does.
Install, operate, and perform unit maintenance on multi-functional/multi user information processing systems, peripheral equipment and auxiliary devices. Perform input/output data control and bulk data storage operations. Transfer data between information processing equipment and systems. Perform Battlefield Information Services (BIS) consisting of printing services, publication management, files, form management, reproduction services, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Privacy Act (PA), unit distribution/official mail, correspondence management and classified document control. Troubleshoot automation equipment and systems to the degree required for isolation of malfunctions to specific hardware or software. Restore equipment to operation by replacement of line replaceable unit (LRU). Perform system administration functions for the tactical DMS. Install, operate, performs strapping, re-strapping, PMCS and unit level maintenance on COMSEC devices. Assist in the design, preparation, editing, and testing of computer programs. Draft associated technical documentation for program reference and maintenance purposes. Modify existing application packages using application, and operating system software, appropriate computer language commands and files.
That includes helping non-computer literate people, and going back in after work to install something for a commander or a section that is working late on a big project. You may be a hero, and you may be just that invisible computer person that makes it work. To be that successful IT Specialist, that gets out of the Army and directly goes to work at three times the salary, you also have to do more on your own. Ten years ago, a 25B, preparing to leave the Army, wrote that he had been accepted by Homeland Security at $85,000 a year. Certifications must be obtained on your own, and they are necessary both in the Army and required in the civilian market. A+ N+ Sec + are stepping stones, then CCNA.
Where are 25B’s assigned. Anywhere and everywhere in the world there are US Army soldiers. That includes any type of unit, signal units, medical units, and combat units. There are 25B’s in every Brigade Combat Team, Rangers, and Special Forces (they are not Green Berets, but they assigned to Special Forces Groups).
Understand this, Army IT Specialists are soldiers, first. Just as every soldier is a soldier first. Basic Combat Training is as intense and thorough now, as it has ever been. It is 12 to 14 hours days, six days a week for 10 weeks, converting people from civilian to soldier. Every soldier in the Army, regardless of job, must pass the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) once annually, and qualify with their rifle and go through the gas chamber once annually. Two big things that help soldiers get promoted are their ACFT score and weapons qualification score. You can be the smartest computer geek in your unit, but if your PT (Physical Training) score starts going down, you will see dumb guys being promoted ahead of you. The Army is absolutely serious about physical conditioning. The ACFT has one scoring system, no compensation for sex or age. Just, is this soldier fit to perform in combat.
Some comments from 25B’s. One 25B Staff Sergeant, with seven years in the Army, wrote this; “It is a very rewarding job personally, but don’t expect to be seen or awarded for doing your job or going above and beyond within the field. You’re barely noticed because if you keep updates and software up to date, then you will never see users unless they need a password reset of their account is locked out.” He also said this; “Try to broaden your opportunities from the start and you will surpass your peers. This is a hard MOS to get promoted in, but I made staff Sergeant in 6 years by being certified, working hard, and going above and beyond to learn things I have never touched before.” Another said; “If you’re the most knowledgeable guy in your section, you’ll get 0 classes because they don’t want you to not be there. You’ll never PCS (Permanent Change of Station), because your unit doesn’t want you to leave. You’ll get calls to come back in because the commander needs some random stuff installed.” Another said that units seem to put a death grip on good 25B’s.
The requirements to enlist for this MOS are meet the requirements to enlist in the Army, and be able to get a secret security clearance, and score above 95 on the ST (Skilled Technical) part of the ASVAB. The ST consists of the following tests; General Science, Verbal Expression, Mathematics Knowledge, and Mechanical Comprehension. A score of 95 is not very high. A person that will succeed in 25B should have GT and ST scores in the 120’s. Completion of high school algebra is also required, plus normal color vision. Other attributes you should also have to succeed in this MOS. You should be a computer person. Not just someone who uses a computer and thinks this would be a lucrative career, but a person fascinated with the computer and its operating system, someone familiar with TCP/IP who can setup a network with a router and multiple computers and printers. Comments from current and former 25B’s concerning AIT are that being a computer person before enlisting in the Army is a big plus in AIT. Some said that the Army teaches you everything you need to know in AIT, which is true, but if you’re not already computer literate, AIT is much harder. One 25B suggested buying 2 PC’s, some networking hardware (cisco) (2 routers and 2 switches) and start learning how they all work. Another said; “Don’t do that, download GNS3. If you’re smart enough to get the OS for the routers, you can set it up. Gives you access to multiple vendors, lets you emulate big hardware to do things like string together MPLS backbones, BGP peering, lets you generate traffic to send across the virtual devices and it has a great community.” Another said that may be true, but there’s nothing like handling the actual equipment. All said, study, study, and study in AIT.
AIT for 25B will probably be more than 20 weeks for civilians reading this. About half of MOS 25L Cable Systems Operator/Maintainer is being consolidated into 25B. Those are the guys sitting next to a terminal placing a thousand little multi-colored wires in their proper place. My guess is that it is going to be 23 or 24 weeks. AIT at Fort Gordon appears to be somewhat more restrictive that AIT’s at other posts. Much more freedom than in basic, but almost no free time during the week. Several said that there are multiple (four to five) accountability formations a day, and to definitely be early to each. Three people to a room, with three bunks and wall lockers, but one desk and chair, and one bathroom. Everything has to be locked up during the day, so don’t bring an old desktop PC. Happy AIT students are those who like sitting in their room playing games or working on their computer. Another wrote about AIT; “I worked with computers before I came here so it was fairly easy for me, but there is a high failure rate here. My class started with 25 and only 12 made it to graduation on time. (Failing a block gets the student recycled back to another class.) It’s basic computer knowledge but if you don’t have experience with computers people have a hard time unless they bust their tail. Simplest advice I can give you is, keep your head down, stay on top of your security clearance and orders so that you will leave on time. I’m going to be a holdover for a while because I thought my staff sergeant would handle things without me bugging him, but they deal with a lot of people, so start reminding them from day one, need security clearance, orders and a sponsor to leave on time.”
In the IT world, certifications and knowledge appear to be valued more that degrees, although for some government jobs, a bachelors degree is required. In the Army, certifications and knowledge are also highly valued in the 25B world, but to get promoted, the Army wants civilian education. Several said that they got 18 to 20 semester hours awarded for 25B AIT, but Purdue Global indicates, on their site, that they award 57 credits (1.5 quarter credits = 1 semester hour) for 25B AIT, which translates to about 38 semester hours. They require 90 quarter credits for an Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology degree.
My personal suggestion for 25B’s or anyone enlisting in the Army is take the airborne option, if you can get it, even if you have to wait a few weeks. Jumping out of airplanes is not only one of the biggest thrills in life, it puts you in an airborne unit, like the 82nd Airborne Division, or the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, or the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Alaska, or in a Special Forces Group, or in other airborne units at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Airborne units are the most elite units to which you can be assigned after just going through regular training, plus the three week airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. Overall, combat units have better leaders, higher morale, and are better organized.
MOS 25B is not always available, you may have to wait several weeks to get it. There are thousands of 25B’s in the Army, but many slots are taken up by high school seniors, who start their processing long before high school graduation. A person enlisting for MOS 25B, spending five years in the Army, and then getting out, should have a stack of IT professional certifications and at least a bachelors degree in computer information systems. If not, they were lazy.
If you are solid with your faith in God, and the military interests you, you haven’t reached your 35th birthday and are qualified to enlist in the military, this may be a job to consider. You can serve God and the military as an Army Chaplain Assistant. Army Religious Affairs Specialist, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 56M, is a Chaplain Assistant.
I’ve written before about Religion in the Army, but this is more in depth, specifically about becoming a Chaplain Assistant.
Every unit in the army, in the size of battalion on up, has a Chaplain and a Chaplain’s Assistant. They are the “Unit Ministry Team”. The official army description of a Chaplain Assistant says that he or she is an assistant to the Chaplain, not an assistant Chaplain, but in reality, the Chaplain Assistant does much more than that.
To become a Chaplain in the Army, a master’s degree in theology is required plus two years as a preacher, and have the recommendation of his dioceses, church, or denomination hierarchy. The Army has Protestant Chaplains of every denomination (Southern Baptist are the most numerous). There are Catholic Chaplains, Jewish Chaplains, and Muslim Chaplains. When ask if there would be humanist/atheist chaplains, an Army Chief of Chaplains replied, never. Humanism/atheism is regarded as a philosophy, not a religion. Same for Wiccans, which is not a recognized religious structure.
To become a Chaplain Assistant in the Army, you must meet the enlistment requirements, plus have two courses or one year in computer keyboard or pass a typing test at 25 words per minute, have a valid state drivers license, and be able to get a secret security clearance. Some other traits and qualities you should have; First, you should have a strong desire to help other people. In fact, that is almost a must, because that is what you will be doing. You should be firm in your belief in God, I never met a Chaplains Assistant who wasn’t, but I read a comment from one who wasn’t religious and didn’t like the job. You should be an outgoing people person who enjoys being around any and all people, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic background, a soldier is a soldier is a soldier. You should be a self-starter, comfortable working on your own, with little guidance from higher.
The Chaplains’ job is to administer to the spiritual and emotional needs of soldiers and their families. At battalion level, the Chaplain is a captain and the assistant a sergeant, at brigade level, the Chaplain is a major and the assistant a staff sergeant. The Unit Ministry Team is part of the command group, the commander, deputy commander and command sergeant major, which means the Chaplain answers only to the commander. The Chaplain and the assistant set their own schedule. There is no job in the Army with more autonomy than a Chaplain Assistant.
Chaplains are non-combatants, they don’t carry weapons. Chaplain’s Assistants are combatants and do carry weapons, because one of their jobs is to protect the Chaplain in combat areas.
The job of a Chaplain Assistant in simple terms is to take care of his or her Chaplain. They take care of the Chaplains correspondence, maintain the office, and sign for all equipment, which in many units includes a vehicle which they must maintain. They control the budget for the Unit Ministry Team, schedule and coordinate the Chaplains activities and travel. They don’t always accompany the Chaplain. Chaplain Assistants do their own mingling with the troops. Every soldier in the battalion eventually knows who the Chaplain’s Assistant is, and most consider him or her someone to whom they can talk about personal matters, because when someone goes to see the Chaplain, they see the assistant first, so the assistant becomes a de facto counselor. Most Chaplain Assistants try to fit in anywhere in their unit. They do everything from participating in various training events to just hanging out with the buys. In most units, not only the Chaplain, but also the Commander and Command Sergeant Major rely on the Chaplain Assistant for input about unit morale or problems.
Chaplain Assistants are the only soldiers authorized to receive and account for Chapel offerings. One Chaplain Assistant said that in his unit, he had church duty one weekend a month. One of his jobs is to set up religious services, which includes running weekend chapel services. Chaplain Assistants are not required to lead Bible study groups or prayer groups, but some do.
Any soldier can go see the Chaplain anytime. They don’t have to give a reason, just say, “I want to see the Chaplain”, and they are released to do so. Whatever a soldier or family member tells a Chaplain Assistant is in strict confidence, and the assistant may tell only his Chaplain. If a soldier tells a Chaplain Assistant, “I’m going to shoot the First Sergeant at the range tomorrow.”, he or she may only tell the Chaplain, or at the most, tell the First Sergeant that he better not go to the range tomorrow. The Chaplain makes his or her own judgement call on what to do with information they receive, and all I ever knew were pretty common sense individuals. When I was the Senior Drill of a coed basic training company, I was in the process of commanding right face, forward march to move to a range, when a Drill Sergeant walked up to me and said; “I’ve done fell in love with female trainee. I’m going to see the Chaplain”. No time to do anything but march the company to the range, but fortunately the Chaplain immediately notified the battalion commander, who relieved the Sergeant from drill duty, and got him away from the trainees.
There have been circumstances where there was just a Chaplains Assistant, and no Chaplain. I don’t think that situation is ever purposely created, but Chaplains go on leave, they go to schools, and they may get reassigned before a replacement arrives. One Chaplain Assistant, who was in that situation, was asked if he ever overheard any “Oh NO’s” during a confession. First, Chaplain Assistants don’t hear confessions. His answer was;
“Not overheard, this was directly to me. PFC, infantry type comes in and starts spilling his guts about his wife’s manic depression and princess complex, how she was going kill herself and their unborn child if he didn’t start coming home sooner (poor guy was just a private on the line, his time was out of his control). Wife refused to go to behavioral health, chaplain, or anybody because “there’s nothing wrong with me, you just don’t love me enough to be home”. At the time it was just me, no chaplain, so I just kind of handled it as best I could, and got him set up to go with her to her next OB/GYN checkup so he could drop subtle hints to the doc about her mental health issues. It was touch and go, but eventually she got onto some anti-psychotic drug once the baby was born. He came and found me later, once things calmed down, and was the most grateful guy I’ve ever seen. Thankful that his family was going to be alright.”
A private in the infantry has a sergeant fire team leader, a staff sergeant squad leader, a sergeant first class platoon sergeant, a platoon leader, a first sergeant, and a company commander, all of whom have attended classes on how to spot soldiers with problems, and how to deal with different soldier personal problems, and several have probably had to deal with similar circumstances in the past, but sometimes young soldiers won’t tell their chain of command that they have problems. That’s when they go to see the Chaplain.
Chaplain Assistants don’t get to pick the religion or denomination of their Chaplain. They may be assigned to a Southern Baptist, a Catholic, or a Jew, and there are a few Muslim Chaplains. The Chaplain could be a man or a woman. There are now many female Chaplains. There are also two types of Chaplains to which an Assistant may be assigned. One with no military experience, prior to becoming a Chaplain, and attending the three month Chaplain Basic Officer Course, and the other is one who has had prior military experience. If assigned to a Chaplain with no prior military experience, the assistant has an even bigger job in teaching the Chaplain “army stuff”, and making sure that the Chaplain has the proper army equipment and material to participate in whatever activity occurs.
There are many Chaplains with prior military experience. I ran into a couple who were ex infantry officers, who served their initial commitment, left the Army, and came back as Chaplains. Some served as a Chaplain’s Assistants, left the Army, became qualified and came back in as Chaplains. One assistant said; “You can’t pull the wool over their eyes, because they know your job”.
Chaplain Assistants may attend most army schools that other soldiers attend. Airborne, Jump Master, Air Assault, and some have completed Ranger School. Chaplains also may attend those schools. There have been several Chaplains who completed Ranger School. To combat soldiers, on the line, a Chaplain with a Ranger Tab is “one of us”. There have been several Chaplains who have gone through the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course and the Special Forces Qualification Course, earning a Green Beret, so they would be more readily accepted by the Green Berets to whom they would minister.
Someone wanting to become an Army Chaplain Assistant would first attend the 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training. A few years ago, army basic training was as easy as it had ever been, it is now as hard as it has ever been. I’ve written a few stories about army basic training. Be prepared before you jump in. The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for Religious Affairs Specialist MOS 56M is seven weeks long at the Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It is one of the easiest AITs, no overnight field exercises. That doesn’t mean no PT. Everybody in the Army does PT (physical training). In AIT they study English grammar, spelling and punctuation, typing and clerical skills, preparing forms and correspondence in Army style, roles and responsibilities of Army Chaplains, and religious history and background. They learn how to set up religious services, coordinate the Chaplains travels with the ongoing operation, how to safeguard privileged communications, and how to perform in crisis management. They learn how to use advanced digital equipment, maintain reports, files, and administrative data for religious operations, also how to receive and safeguard Chapel Tithes and Offering Funds.
You may have to wait for this MOS to become available. Not only is it a small field, but current soldiers can reclassify into 56M. People discover God in many different ways. As previously mentioned, I’ve met Chaplains who were former infantry officers, and a couple who were former enlisted men. Then there is the story of Jeff Struecker. If you haven’t heard of Jeff Struecker, google him, there’s lots of info. The book and movie “Black Hawk Down”, is about the battle of Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993. Jeff was a sergeant, squad leader in the 150 man Ranger Company that went into the city, 140 were wounded with 18 killed, the fire was so intense, from so many directions, Jeff said that he thought he was going to die. He started talking to God. God answered. Jeff and a ranger buddy went on to win Best Ranger competition in 1996. He left the Army, completed divinity school, and returned as a Chaplin.