Category Archives: Army Jobs


When a 40 soldier infantry platoon goes to the field, and always when it goes on an actual combat operation, there are two soldiers attached.  One is a sergeant forward observer (FO), although often a specialist is in the job, and the other is his or her radio operator.  Both are MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist.  They are that platoon’s Fire Support Team, called the FIST team.  Often that FO is the most important asset that Platoon Leader has, because that FO knows every big gun capable of reaching his area of operation, including how fast they can fire, what kind of rounds they have and the effects those rounds have on targets.  The FO has at his fingertips, not only mortars and artillery, but also, helicopter gunships, Air Force tactical aircraft, and off shore Navy gun boats.  In the event a unit finds itself outnumbered or surrounded, the FO is the equalizer, who can make it rain fire and steel on the enemy.  The FIST isn’t assigned to that platoon, or that company, or that battalion.  They are assigned to the artillery, but they don’t train and travel with the Artillery, they move with the infantry.  In the field a platoon FO’s boss is the platoon leader.  In light infantry, the FIST team moves with the platoon leader.  In mechanized infantry the FIST team rides in the platoon leader’s vehicle, but during an actual operation, the FIST team will probably be out of the vehicle and in a position to observe terrain and targets.  Platoon FO’s have been known to report valuable intelligence information directly to brigade headquarters.

            When an infantry lieutenant in Afghanistan looks out of his platoon’s night defensive position, at first light, lifts his binoculars and sees about 300 Taliban spread out across the side of the mountain and moving in his direction, he yells “CALL FOR FIRE”!  This is about what he means and to whom he is talking.

Some army jobs are also well paying civilian jobs, especially in the medical and information technology fields.  Most of the jobs, associated with the Army’s primary mission of winning in combat, do not translate to civilian jobs.  Some soldiers will love a particular job while others will hate it, we are all different.  However, in literally every survey conducted in the Army over the past 50 years, soldiers in combat related jobs are happier than those in support jobs.  Overall, combat units have higher morale than support units, and the more elite the unit the higher the morale.  The 82nd Airborne Division is the pinnacle of the United States military preparedness, subject to be called, on a moments’ notice, to run into their unit, draw gear, weapons and ammunition, get on a plane and jump into combat, and because of that mission to always be ready, they train and they train and they train.  They work their butts off.  The 82nd Airborne Division also has the highest morale of any combat division in the Army or the Marines.

An 82nd Airborne Division platoon FO checking assets available to him, before moving out on a patrol in Iraq.

The soldier the lieutenant is yelling for is his Platoon Forward Observer (FO).    This is the first Army job I have researched recently where I found no negative comments.  Absolutely every active and former soldier, who commented, loved the job.  Big guns that rain bombs down on the enemy do not move with the infantry.  They are too big, heavy and cumbersome, and their ammunition is a logistical problem, it is also big.  That is called indirect fire, because it is rarely ever fired within sight of a target.  An infantry company has a few 60mm (millimeter) mortars which have a max range of maybe a mile, are often fired in sight of the target and are slightly larger than a hand grenade.  At battalion level there are 81mm mortars with a range of about three miles, and 120mm mortars with a range of about 6 miles and packs a big punch.  The artillery has the big guns.  It has 105mm Howitzers with a standard range of about 8 miles and can reach out to 10 or 12 miles.  It also has 155mm Howitzers with a range of about 25 miles and a very big punch.  The Army has been building and testing a new artillery piece, called the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA).  On December 19th 2020, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, an ERCA hit a target dead on the nose, from 43 MILES away.  That is far beyond the reach of any other known artillery, in the world.

Artillery sets up in a secure location well to the rear of the combat area where it can be easily resupplied.  Forward observers are assigned to the Artillery but attached to and move with the Infantry and tell the big guns what to shoot and how.  The FO’s can see the target, they are the eyes for the artillery, mortars, helicopter gunships, tactical Air Force fighter planes, and naval gunfire from ships off shore.  In the past FO’s have carried big loads, consisting of radios, binoculars, maps, compasses and range finders.  It took a lot of clandestine foot travel to get in position to see the target, which many times placed them very close to enemy activity.

All grunts learn to call for fire, in case there are no FO’s around, but what the infantryman learns is elementary compared to the knowledge and capabilities of a trained and experienced forward observer.  Any infantryman with a radio can call for indirect fire support.  He gives the mortars or artillery Fire Direction Center (FDC) a map grid coordinate or a known map location, the FDC plots the position and gives the gun crews settings for the guns.  A spotter round is fired, if it is not on target the soldier calling for fire says “Adjust fire” right, left, up, down and how far.  When a round lands on target he commands “Fire for Effect”, at that time each mortar or artillery piece will fire a salvo of a set number of rounds.  If the observer wants more, he commands “Repeat” and another salvo is fired.

Spc. Jesse Lowe, a forward observer with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, marks coordinates on a map during a patrol with Afghan forces June 14, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Lowe is assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod, RC-East PAO)

The current army 13F is now called a Joint Fire Support Specialist because they also communicate with the Air Force and the Navy.  Forward Observers, as well as most dismounted leaders, carry a PFED (Pocket-sized Forward Entry Device).  A PFED is like a super all powerful, encrypted smart phone, which can send and receive text messages, photos, GPS (Global Positioning System) locations, as well as access various mission applications.  Recently added to the PFED is the Mobile Handheld Fires Application (MHFA), which combined with the GPS capability, utilizes both a laser range finder and a precision fire imagery application to generate a grid coordinate that moves digitally up the fire chain to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS).  AFATDS is the Army’s comprehensive fires planning system that acts as the central hub for a commander’s fire support tactical decision making.  This past year, 2019, the Army started the replacing the Lightweight Laser Designated Rangefinder, used by Forward Observers.  It weighs about 35 pounds and is considered a crew served system.  The new system, the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Laser Designation System, weighs less that 17 pounds, and is faster and more accurate, and can be used in all weather.  Artillery people are excited about it, they say it turns the big guns into giant sniper rifles, guaranteeing precise first round hits.

Soldiers from the 8th Field Artillery Regiment, in Alaska, detect, recognize, and identify a target using the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Laser Designation System. US Army

A couple years ago Forward Observers in the 82nd Airborne Division started utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s).  With the real time video from the UAV’s integrated into the MHFA on their PFED, the FO can see and identify precise targets.

When I was in the Army a first round hit from artillery or big mortars was a combination of skill by everyone involved and a considerable amount of luck.  Now first round hits are common and expected.  That has been a goal in Afghanistan, to reduce peripheral civilian casualties, because the enemy is often mixed in with civilians.

FO’s spend a considerable amount of time in the field (in the woods) which is an attraction for many, because for boonie rats life is better in the woods than in garrison.  But the thing that makes this job so enjoyable for many is almost complete autonomy.  When the infantry goes to the field, at Brigade Headquarters there is a Major and a Captain Fire Support Officers (FSO), plus a Sergeant First Class and two Specialists, at Battalion Headquarters there is a Captain FSO and a Sergeant First Class and two Specialists.  On the ground, moving with the Company Commander, is a Lieutenant FSO with a Staff Sergeant, a Specialist, and a Private First Class (PFC) and with each 40 man rifle platoon is a Sergeant (authorized but usually actually a Specialist), and a PFC radio operator.  With all the modern computerized technology, someone still has to carry a paper map, a compass and a radio.  These 13F’s are assigned to the Artillery but they are not with the Artillery, they are with the Infantry which makes them pretty much on their own.  As a Platoon Sergeant and as a First Sergeant I never told my FO team to pull guard duty, help load vehicles or any plain labor jobs, as long as they took care of themselves and were always available I was happy with them.

One former forward observer wrote; “It was the best experience I’ve ever had earning money.  You’re the red headed step child of the infantry and the artillery.  But everyone forgets how important you are until you are needed, in that moment you’re the most important thing in everyone’s life, you make the earth spin and the flowers grow.”  Another said, “All good, loved every minute of it.”  A retired Master Sergeant Forward Observer wrote; “There you are, on a hill top, looking at an enemy position that is within range of your artillery battalion (which is behind you) calling for fire on that target.  You are most likely communicating digitally, but there is still some type of energy being used, which creates heat, which is visible to thermal imaging devices.  Once your artillery fires a few rounds, the enemy Counter-Battery fire team will be looking for YOU, so you better be long gone after you say ‘FIRE FOR EFFECT’.”

The ASVAB requirements for 13F are a test score of 93 in the field artillery (FA) aptitude area. The subtests for this area include arithmetic reasoning (AR), coding speed (CS), mathematics knowledge (MK) and mechanical comprehension (MC).   A Secret security clearance will be required.  The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is 10 weeks and 4 days long at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Recent graduates say that it is a lot more laid back than basic, but you’re still a trainee.  The barracks are three or four man rooms.  Some have two double bunks, some have one double and one single.  There are closets instead of wall lockers, and a bath room.  A typical day in 13F AIT goes something like this;  0500 – wake up, 0530 – room inspection, 0545 PT Formation and PT, 0700 – shower, clean up, get in uniform, 0730 breakfast, 0900 Class time, 1200 Lunch, 1300 – back in class, 1630 Dinner,  1900 – final formation, cleaning until 2000, 2200 – lights out.  Weekends;  0600 – wake up, 0630 formation for breakfast, then cleaning until 0900 – sign out for passes (on post),until 2030, lights out at 2200.  There is a PX with a food court, a bowling alley, a gym, and a library close.

With the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), PT will be fairly heavy.  This is a combat job, so the physical demands are significant.  The Fisters are not infantry, but are part of the infantry, in the field.  There are now female FO’s.  There are female infantry. I don’t recommend it, but some women want to do that.  A recent female 13F AIT student said; “We had to drag a 271-pound dummy for 15 meters (about 50 feet) within three minutes.  We broke it down, so the first 10 seconds we drag and the next 20 seconds we rest, so we pretty much had one minute to drag the dummy.”

The first females to graduate from 13F AIT in February 2017.

There will probably be a 12 mile road march, with rucksack, the first week.  The first week and a half is land navigation.  Some say it is just like land nav in basic, you run the course with a paper map and compass, and find your points.  Then you use the DAGR (Defense Advanced GPS Receiver), which, if you enter the coordinates correctly (buddy’s check each other), it will take you directly to your point.  13F’s must be experts at land navigation and locating themselves and targets on various terrains.  The second week starts the Call for Fire procedure.  13F’s must also be expert communicators, and voice call for fire is a very methodical and organized process.  That learning starts in the classroom on a computer simulator, and progresses to the field, where they call actual live artillery rounds.

Soldiers in their third week of 13F AIT working through a lesson plan.

I tracked a young man, who graduated from high school in June 2012.  In October 2012, he shipped to basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, graduating in December.  After Christmas he reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for MOS 13F AIT, graduating in February 2013.  From there he went to Fort Benning, Georgia for Airborne School, graduating in March 2013.  He then reported to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  He was promoted to Specialist after about a year.  Around the end of 2015, with about three years in the Army, he was promoted to Sergeant.  He went home and married his high school sweetheart in March 2016.  From July 2016 to February 28th 2017, he was with his Brigade in Iraq kicking ISIS out of Mosul.  Their son was born February 1st 2017. Which he was able see on a live feed.  In June 2018, with less than six years in the Army, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.  In 2020, he was accepted into the army’s Warrant Officer Flight Training (WOFT) program.  He completed Warrant Officer Candidate School, was commissioned a Warrant Officer, and as of this writing is in Flight School learning how to fly helicopters.


This story replaces “Band”, published a couple years ago.

Enlisting in the military can open many great opportunities, for young people, but this particular endeavor is different from all others.

Seventh and Eighth Graders and High School Freshmen, who are starting in music, starting is the hardest part. It is something new, learning the basic steps of your instrument and basic music reading, but as you gain skill (practice a lot), you start really making music. Then it becomes FUN.

Band (music) is an elective in high school. The National Association for Music in Education list 20 benefits of studying music in school. It is also a skill, that not everyone possesses, and its’ FUN. For some, it could be the most important class they take in high school, because you could make your living, the rest of your life, just playing music. If you are in high school, in the band, you love music and love playing in the band, you could do that for a living, in the military.

If you are in an Army band, that is your primary duty. All you do is play music. You are still a soldier, you do PT (Physical Training) every weekday, you qualify with your rifle at least once a year, you have a PT test at least once a year, and you go through the gas chamber once a year, and you attend the same professional development schools every other soldier attends to get promoted, and you get promotions at about the same speed as other support jobs in the Army, but your duty that you perform every day is playing music. Within each Army band there are various ensembles, woodwind, brass, jazz, rock, etc.

An example of the schedules of the 399th Army Band at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and the 82nd Airborne Division Band at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Some part of them performs about every day. On Friday, the 399th Army Band Bugler might be at Gammon Field for the start of the Engineer Run, and at 6:00PM the jazz combo, fife, drum and bugler would be performing at the Engineer Regimental Ball. On that day, at 11:00 AM the brass quintet of the 82nd Airborne Division band will perform at the “Volunteer of the Quarter Ceremony”, at Hall of Heroes on Fort Bragg, at 6:30 PM, the jazz combo will perform at Movie in the Pines, Town Park, in Southern Pines, North Carolina, and at 7:00 PM, the rock band will perform at the “4th Friday Dogwood Festival”, at Festival Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Army bands travel.

399th Army Band Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
399th Army Band in concert with the Missouri University of Science and Technology Band
82nd Airborne Division Band in concert
82nd Airborne Division Rock Band the Riser Burn

Riser Burn performing in Fayetteville, North Carolina

101st Airborne Division Rock Band The Big Five

US Army Field Band Woodwind Quintet

All branches of the military have bands. The US Army has 15 regional bands in the continental United States, plus one in Alaska, one in Hawaii, one in Korea, one in Germany, and one in Japan. There are also four “Premium Bands”, The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own), The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, The United States Army Field Band, and the West Point Band. Competition to get into one of the premium bands is tough, they are the pros of the pros.

The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own)

The Navy has nine bands in the US, one in Hawaii, one in Italy, and one in Japan. The Marines have eight bands in the US, one in Okinawa, and one in Hawaii. The Air Force has eight bands in the US, one in Germany, and one in Japan. The Air Force is much tougher to get into, because they send their music people directly to a band after basic training, whereas the Army, Navy and Marines send their musicians to music school after basic.

The process for getting into an Army Band is first see an Army Recruiter. First you must be eligible to join the military, height, weight, physical and medical condition, and ASVAB (Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, and nothing derogatory in your background. If you are 13 or 14, and are not yet too overweight, don’t get that way. Being overweight is one of the biggest military disqualifiers. One of the things that puts a lot of weight on many young people, is soft drinks. Pepsi and Coke, and all related drinks are heavy with sugar. Find a tasty zero calorie water, they make all different tastes, and they don’t put on the weight.

There is serious competition to get into an Army Band. Many new music major college graduates go into the Army, but many high school graduates are also accepted, every year. Depends on how good you are.

The recruiter will contact the closest Army Band Music Audition Coordinator, who will contact you and request that you submit a recording and a performance resume as soon as possible. If the Audition Coordinator believes that you have the musical talent to be in an Army Band, he will tell the recruiter to “qualify you”. Then you take the ASVAB, a physical assessment test, a physical exam, plus have your medical records reviewed to see if you can enlist in the Army. When you are qualified, the recruiter will notify the Audition Coordinator that you can enlist.
The Audition Coordinator will then contact you to schedule an audition. The audition would probably be at your school, or a location convenient for you, they will come to you rather than have you go to them. That is not the case with the other services. The audition will consist of four areas; 1 – Ceremonial Music, the coordinator will send you a packet of ceremonial music to be prepared prior to your audition. 2 – Prepared Music, that is your time to show off, you should prepare at least three selections of contrasting styles to emphasize your technical, musical, and stylistic ability. These selections can be excerpts from classical solo repertoire, concert band or orchestra literature, or jazz/pop standards. You may ask the Coordinator for suggestions. 3 – Music Preparation, this portion of the audition judges how well you can quickly prepare music in the event you were called to sub on a gig with short notice. The evening prior to your audition, your coordinator will send you a packet of various styles. You will be responsible for preparing the music by your scheduled audition time. 4 – Additional Skills, Army Bands value additional skills that musicians bring to their organization. You may receive additional points on your audition if you choose to demonstrate any of the following; doubling, singing, or improvisation. You should ask your coordinator what would be appropriate.

The instruments are; Cornet/Trumpet, Baritone/Euphonium, French Horn, Trombone, Tuba, Flute/Piccolo, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Saxophone, Percussion, Keyboard, Guitar, and Electric Bass. The conductor of the audition will use a US Army School of Music Form to grade your audition. Your audition will be given a numerical score which will be reported to the School of Music, the Human Resource Command, and your recruiter. An audition is good for 45 days. You must either enlist or contract into the Future Soldier Program (it used to be called the Delayed Entry Program), within that time frame. If you elect a delayed program of 90 days or less, the Army Bands Senior Career Advisor will negotiate a unit-of-choice with you, in other words, you can pick your band, if there is a vacancy, if you go over 90 days you will be assigned according to the needs of the Army, in other words, no choice of where you may be assigned.

Because of COVID-19, auditions may now be performed remotely. That process may be started online at Also, after the audition, all who have auditioned, with the same instrument, will compete for positions. Top score getting top slot.

I have seen pictures of high school bands playing with masks lowered, I have also seen some playing with split masks. Hopefully, you are able to keep up your practice, during COVID.

Basic training, is basic training, Infantry, Artillery, Armor, Combat Engineers, and Military Police have their own basic, everyone else goes through basic together at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, or Fort Benning, Georgia. Army Basic Combat Training is as tough now as it has ever been, since World War II. It is not harassment it is just physically and mentally tough training, to convert you from civilian to soldier. You may be a musician, but you’re still a soldier. After 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, band people will attend the 10 week AIT (Advanced Individual Training) US Army School of Music at Virginia Beach, Virginia. That is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 42R, with a skill identifier according to your instrument. The school consists of small groups of 4 or 5 students with an instructor/mentor. There is lot of one on one private instrumental instruction, as well as music theory, sight singing and ear training, and group instrumental techniques. The primary mission of the school is to produce professional musicians.

When the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the band also deployed. They played for the troops. The rock band which was formed from within the 82nd Airborne Division Band, “The Riser Burns”, was the most popular with the troops, and would sometimes fly to three locations a day to perform for the troops. Bands do go to war, but they don’t fight, they play music. The Army has protected its’ music people since the Revolutionary War, because bands are good for morale. About everybody appreciates music, and those who are good at it.

On Tuesday, the 22nd of May, 2007, the 82nd Airborne Division Band’s Woodwind Quintet, “The 5 Knot Winds,” once again traveled to HQ ISAF in Kabul. This time they were accompanied by the band’s show band “Level 82.” The group had five performances throughout the week. The main highlights from the trip included performances for the ANA band, Camp Phoenix, The US Embassy, HQ ISAF Christian Concert and a Memorial Day Ceremony.

Army musicians have a high reenlistment rate. What better job than to play music for a living. What do you make, in the Army? While in basic training and AIT, after deductions, you will have about $1,400 per month deposited in your bank account. Divided in half and paid twice monthly. By the time you get to your band, most soldiers are promoted to PFC (Private First Class) about that time, your take home pay will be about $1,650. Plus, you’re living free. You share a suite with a roommate, each has their own bedroom and share a bath and kitchen, and eat free in the DFAC (Dining Facility). At around 18 months in service, most make Specialist E-4, which makes the take home over $1,800 per month, and that includes contributing 5 percent of your base pay to a Thrift Savings Plan, which the government matches. The TSP can be rolled into an IRA, or 401K, when you leave the service. When you go over Two years, the pay goes to about $1,900 per month. A Sergeant (SGT) with over three years makes about $2,100, after deductions. How about a married Staff Sergeant (SSG), over six years, living off post, that’s about $4,500 per month, take home, plus health care for the family is free. A married Sergeant First Class (SFC) over 10 years, living off post takes home about $5,400 per month. Throw in the free health care, what you and the government are contributing to a Thrift Savings Plan, and all the other benefits of being a soldier, and that SFC is making the civilian equivalent of about $100,000 a year. Plus, most all of the SFC musicians I found had accumulated at least a bachelor’s degree in music, during their time in the Army. Some already had their masters, by that time.
Many musicians, who make a career of the Army, become warrant officers around mid-career, thereby becoming band leaders and directors.

Imagine this, play music for the Army for 20 years, retire at age 38, with a bachelor’s degree (at least) in music, an immediate monthly retirement check of around $2,000, almost free health care (about $550 per family, per year until age 65, then it is completely free), plus a few hundred thousand dollars in the government Thrift Savings Plan. You would have the experience for about any job in the music industry, and you would be highly qualified to teach music in any school.

If this sounds interesting, take high school band seriously.


The Army says it has over 150 different jobs, but some are not real jobs.

How do you choose a job in the Army? The short answer is do a lot of research and talk to a lot of people about what you think you might like. What you choose and are accepted for is what you will be doing, for the duration of your enlistment. There are hundreds of youtube videos about many Army jobs. Some are produced by the Army as advertisement, but there are also many by individuals and units. Search for forums and comments online, read the pro and the con.

Here are some thoughts that I hope helps. First, I’ll try to define army “job”. The Army advertises that it has over 150 different jobs. That’s true, but some are real jobs and some are not. When two soldiers, who have never met, and aren’t in uniform, strike up a conversation, one asks, “What do you do?” The other answers, “I’m an eleven bravo.” The other comes back with, “I’m a thirteen fox, work with you guys all the time.” Each now knows exactly what the other does, but neither has a real “job”, as in going to work at it every day. A “job” in the Army is an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). The first answer, eleven bravo, means 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, the second, thirteen fox, is 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist, which is a forward observer for artillery.
Combat Arms, infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineers, and air defense artillery, don’t go to their “job” in the morning, after physical training (PT). They go to training. What ever that may be that day. The combat arms trains for combat. Infantrymen can study reaction to an ambush, but they can’t train for it until they get ambushed, in the field (in training), they can study company in the attack, but they can’t train for it until they are in the field, facing thick under brush, trying to figure how to be quiet and get in position.

Infantry platoon moving to a live fire exercise

Infantry testing for the Expert Infantryman Badge

Artillery and Air Defense Artillery may be doing crew drills, to reduce their set up time, in the field.

Photo Credit: Spc. Ariel Solomon Soldiers serving with Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, shoot a round down range from their M777A2 howitzer on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. The round was part of a shoot to register, or zero, the howitzers, which had just arrived on Kandahar Airfield from Forward Operating Base Pasab. The shoot also provided training for a fire support team from 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Artillery live fire.

Armor (tanks) may be on a tank range, firing tables, and Combat Engineers may be training on breeching (blowing holes in) obstacles.

Sometimes tankers get to play.

Combat Engineers breeching an absticle.

Support soldiers (those not in combat arms) go to their “job”, in the morning, after PT. Mechanics, medics, truck drivers, welders, computer specialists, supply specialist, and the list goes on, all go to their “job”.
So, first think about what you like to do, and what you don’t like. If you love being outside, maybe hunting and fishing, or just camping, hiking, and exploring, maybe you like to play sports, and you don’t like having to stay inside, you may want to take a good look at combat arms. Combat Arms soldiers have consistently polled as happier than support soldiers. If you don’t mind working inside, maybe you like brainy stuff, and maybe you like helping people, there are many different jobs from which to choose.

Here is something else to consider. How fast are promotions, in what jobs. Enlisted advancement, in the Army, is fairly automatic up to Specialist, pay grade E-4. Enlistees with a bachelors’ degree, or a civilian acquired skill, such as a certified welder, may enlist as a Specialist E-4, all other, non-prior service recruits enlist as a Private E-1. There are two pay grades within E-1, one for under four months of service, and the other about $100 more for over four months. Advancement to Private E-2 is automatic at six months, but can happen at four months. That’s a couple hundred dollar raise. Promotion to Private First Class (PFC) E-3, which is another $100 raise, officially comes at a year, but can happen at six months. A young woman, just out of high school, from our town, enlisted to be a Parachute Rigger, MOS 92R. In basic training, she found her calling, ended basic as the platoon guide of her 50 soldier platoon. In the thirteen week 92R AIT (Advanced Individual Training), she was promoted to PFC, as soon as she made the six month mark, and ended as the top graduate of her AIT class. Because she was the Distinguished Honor Graduate, she was assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command. Smart, hard working people move faster.
Promotion to Specialist E-4 comes, officially at two years, but can be waived back to 18 months. Most good soldiers make it at around 18 months. The next step is promotion to Sergeant. Promotion to Sergeant is a big deal, in the Army. The difference in prestige, courtesy, responsibility, and ego between Specialist E-4, and Sergeant E-5 is large, plus a pay raise.

Sergeant US Army

Promotion to Sergeant E-5 and Staff Sergeant E-6 is in a primary zone or a secondary zone. The primary zone for Sergeant E-5 is 36 months time in service and 8 months time in grade, but the secondary zone, for exceptional soldiers, starts at 18 months service and 4 months in grade. Yes, you are eligible to be recommended for promotion to sergeant, shortly after making specialist. There are other requirements, such as a correspondence course and a leadership course. Weapons qualification scores, physical training scores, and civilian education are big items that are considered in promotion to sergeant.

Here is where the job comes into play. Some Army MOS’s have a much larger requirement for sergeants than others. The most numerous MOS in the Army is 11B, the infantry. An infantry squad, led by a Staff Sergeant, consists of two four soldier teams, each led by a sergeant. Hard chargers, in the infantry, are making sergeant at around two years in service. Want to know more about the infantry, see my story, “I AM THE INFANTRY – FOLLOW ME”.

Armor– Tank crewman, MOS 19K, is in that same category. Every four man M-1 Abrams Tank crew is commanded by a sergeant. See my story, “US ARMY ARMOR – BE A TANKER”. Combat Engineers, are also in this group, MOS 12B. I have two stories, “ARMY COMBAT ENGINEERS”, and “COMBAT ENGINEERS”, about those soldiers. Another in this category is MOS 13F Joint Fire Support Specialist, see my story “CALL FOR FIRE”.

13F Forward Observers. The red headed step child of the Artillery and the Infantry. They are assigned to the Artillery, but move with the Infantry.

Another MOS in which exceptional soldiers are being promoted fast is MOS 74D CBRN Specialist (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear). See my story, “CBRN – ENLIST AND BE A SERGEANT IN TWO YEARS”. Every company both combat and support has a 74D sergeant.

CBRN training.

Here are some support jobs, that are also fast promoters. MOS 12Y Geospatial Engineer, see my story “GEOSPATIAL ENGINEER”. MOS 17C

Army Geospatial Engineer at work.

Cyber Operations Specialist, this is a Top Secret job for real computer guru’s, see my story “COMPUTER HACKER”.

Another support job, currently making sergeant in around two years is MOS 35F Army Military Intelligence Analyst, see my story “ARMY MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST”.

If you’re set on being a mechanic, a truck driver, a medic, a human resource specialist, or a whatever, by all means hold out for that job. But, I caution you to thoroughly research the job you think you want, to see what those soldiers actually do, in the Army.


Paralegal at work.

I encourage anyone considering enlisting in the Army to consider the “Airborne Option”, jumping out of airplanes. Those units have higher morale than non-airborne units. What?? You’re afraid of heights?? So are hundreds of paratroopers. Don’t look down.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle, Missouri, February 20th 2019.

Military Intelligence – what image does that phrase create in your mind? Really smart people? Soldiers studying maps of enemy movements? James Bond or a Tom Clancy character? The Army has an enlisted MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) called Military Intelligence Analyst, MOS 35F. It requires a Top Secret security clearance, and in the words of some soldiers in that job, they get to see and do some really cool stuff.
So what does an Army Military Intelligence Analyst do? He or she collects information from all sources, aerial photos, satellite images, reports from human intelligence collectors, reports from the field. Intercepted radio transmissions or cell phone conversations, prisoner of war interrogations, and news reports and many other sources, and puts it together to try to determine what an enemy or a terrorist cell is doing and what it is planning to do. For a commander to make a decision to commit soldiers to combat, he has to have information about the enemy. What is the enemy doing, where is the enemy and what is he planning? That is the job of the intelligence analyst.

Army Military Intelligence Analyst – MOS 35F

America’s military secrets are classified and compartmentalized into sections that are only available to people who have a need to know that particular information. Potential enemies, and some supposed friends, have vast complex organizations whose missions are to find our secrets, just as we have the CIA. The security classifications are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret, and then there are probably 20 categories and special compartmentalization’s above Top Secret. I had a Top Secret clearance when I was assigned to the Communications Center of US Army Europe Headquarters, but I had to be processed for Special Category (SPECAT) clearance before I could go into the center and go to work. We were all being processed for SI (Special Intelligence) clearances when I left that job. Having the security clearance doesn’t get access to everything. You have to have a “need to know”. Officially there is no “Above Top Secret” clearance, however there a couple of categories that really are above a Top Secret clearance. There is SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) and SAP (Special Access Programs). Engineers may have a critical need to know certain technical components of a project, but have no need to know the purpose or scope of the entire project, and the fewer people who know the whole scope the less chance for leaks to foreign agents.

Intel analyst at work.

Army Military Intelligence Analysts can’t talk much about their job, because most of what they do is classified.
Bradley Manning was an Army Military Intelligence Analyst MOS 35F. After his training he was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. That Brigade deployed to Iraq in late 2009. Manning worked as an analyst in the S2 (Intelligence) Shop of Brigade Headquarters at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Hammer, near the Iranian Border. He was promoted to Specialist and after a few months his immediate supervisor, the S2 NCOIC (Non-commissioned Officer in charge) recommended him for an Army Achievement Medal. That recommendation is now public information. It reads; “Achievement #1 – SPC Manning worked as the night shift Violent Extremist Analytical Team lead. In this capacity, he assisted in the Brigade Commander’s better understanding the Promise Day Brigade in Zafraniyah. His research and efforts led to the identification of the structure in which this particular group conducted operations and how they targeted United States Forces. His research greatly assisted the subordinate unit with accurate information that led to the disruption of the organization. Achievement #2 – SPC Manning’s persistence led to the disruption of Former Special Groups (FSG) in the New Baghdad area. SPC Manning’s tracking of targets led to the identification of enemy support zones that were previously unknown. His analysis led to heavy targeting of insurgent leaders in the area. This effort consistently disrupted their operations. SPC Manning’s dedication led to the detention of a Tier-2 level FSG individual within the Command OE. Achievement #3 – SPC Manning labored to unravel the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures of the enemy smuggling lines from Iran into Command OE. SPC Manning identified key routes that were being utilized as well as support zones that aided in the transportation of explosively-formed penetrators (EFP’s), Katyusha rockets and various small arms. His analysis aided subordinate units in their plans to disrupt these operations and minimize the flow of these systems in to Baghdad. Achievement #4 – SPC Manning was instrumental in assisting the Brigade S2 and S3 plans sections in regards to mission analysis. SPC Manning produced 20 products for three briefings on topics including enemy situation, future enemy operations and current threat assessments. SPC Manning’s in-depth analysis of the areas he covered provided the Brigade S2 and S2 Planner vital information required to lead ground forces to successful mission accomplishment.”
That is the job of an Army Military Intelligence Analyst MOS 35F. That is now public information because Bradley Manning was personally a little off center. He was openly gay, which caused some inter office friction. He punched another soldier and was reduced to Private First Class (PFC), fined 7 day’s pay, restricted to the company area and given 14 days extra duty. In the course of his duties, he saw a film of an aerial attack on civilians. It was a mistake, a telescopic camera lens was mistaken for a weapon, but it flipped a switch in Manning, he started gathering everything he could find that could be damaging to the United States in Iraq. As an analyst in Iraq he had access to a tremendous amount of information. He had combat videos and photos and after action reports and literally hundreds of thousands of classified communications between headquarters’ and Embassies. He contacted WikiLeaks and dumped it. A hacker found his transmissions and reported him. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but President Obama commuted his sentenced to seven years. He is now goes as she Chelsea Manning.

It is normally desk work, but it is much more that pushing papers. In Intell shops the enlisted people do the analyst work and many of the briefings. The officers are more involved in scheduling, meetings, and advising the commander. I once heard the Division G2 tell the Chief of Staff that he wanted to brief him on some real world work they were doing. The Colonel said: “Great, who do you have working on that?” The answer – Smith and Jones. Colonel – “Good bring them along.”

Intel analyst briefing his commander.

For someone who enjoys mysteries, puzzles that require complex construction, and has a logical deductive thought process, this could be a really neat job. You can be assigned to about any Army post or overseas area. There are analysts’ in the headquarters of combat battalions, brigades, divisions, corps and armies. There are also separate Military Intelligence companies, battalions and brigades.

Intel analyst briefing on his findings.

The AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 35F is 16 weeks long at the US Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. That is at Sierra Vista, AZ southeast of Tucson, and southwest of Tombstone, about 20 miles from the Mexican border. All Army intelligence courses are taught there. The city population of Sierra Vista is about 45,000, but the metro population of the area is about 135,000. Army Intelligence people like the post and rave about the beauty of the area. The AIT is very relaxed compared to basic training. Students are marched to and from class, chow, and PT, but they are off when the day is over and off on weekends. Hiking in the mountains overlooking the school is apparently popular with AIT students. It is apparently so relaxed that many cautioned others about getting in trouble. Some said your homework is classified so you have go to study hall, but emphasized “do go to study hall”, and always ask questions.

The requirements to enlist for MOS 35F are an ASVAB score of 105 in the ST (skilled technical) area. The following tests comprise the ST area; Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, General Science, Mechanical Comprehension and Mathematics Knowledge. I would strive for a score in the 120’s in ST and GT (General Technical) (English and math). Must never have been a member of the Peace Corps, no criminal record except minor traffic violations, and be able to be cleared for a Top Secret clearance, i.e., squeaky clean.

And what are the jobs outside the military that are available to a person with this training and experience? Actually many, FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, Border Patrol, Homeland Security and others, plus state and large city police use intelligence analysts. This is a very unique skill.

As a November 2020 update to the original story, it has also been a fast promotion job for the past several months, with soldiers making sergeant in two to three years.


This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri, on October 23rd 2019
If you are familiar with the terms, HTML, Javascript, SQL, PHP, Perl, C, C++, Python, Ruby, Java, Lisp, and Assembly Language, or maybe you are not familiar with those terms, but would like to get into computer science, engineering, or technology at a fairly high level, and you don’t want to spend four years in college just to get a beginner job, this is something you may want to consider. Basic computer operation is the electronic storing of information by the presence of ones and zeros, something is there or it is not, but the technology has and is still advancing on a level almost incomprehensible to most of us. The Army needs computer hackers, and it is creating them.

From the end of World War II until a couple years ago, the military was turtle slow in making any change or in obtaining new things. The Army is filled with really smart, good people, and its leadership the past few years has turned around that slow process mentality. Cyber war is here – now. The United States started creating cyber operations units 10 years ago, and has since been cyber attacked by foreign countries and we have conducted our own offensive operations. Two years ago, the Department of Defense created the United States Cyber Command. It is an independent four star unified command collocated with the National Security Agency (NSA). Its’ commander is also the Director of the NSA. Its official mission statement is; To direct, synchronize, and coordinate cyberspace planning and operations to defend and advance national interests in collaboration with domestic and international partners. In other words, not only stop hacking attempts, but go on the offensive in cyberspace. The US Army Cyber Command, the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, the Navy Fleet Cyber Command, the Naval Network Warfare Command, the Air Force Cyber Command, and the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command all fall under the US Cyber Command.

Cyber warriors on the attack.

In May 2018 I wrote about new Army MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialties) 17C Cyber Operations Specialist and 17E Electronic Warfare Specialist, and in April 2019 I posted it on Things are changing – fast.
Around four years ago, the Army created MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 17C – Cyber Operations Specialist, and up until a couple years ago only active duty soldiers in the ranks of Specialist through Master Sergeant, could apply for that MOS. They had to have a Top Secret security clearance and be very computer savvy. For the past couple years, the Army has been recruiting enlistees for MOS 17C.
If you are in high school or already out and a computer junky, and not yet reached the age of 34, but college is not in your immediate future, consider enlisting for this MOS. It requires a five year enlistment, it also requires a Top Secret security clearance, which means your background must be squeaky clean, minus a minor traffic ticket.
First, for any job in the Army, is basic combat training (BCT). BCT is the most radical environmental change many young people will experience. No telephone, no access to telephones until after a few weeks. Communication with family and friends is by letter. It is 10 weeks long, it is physically hard, stressful, and in the words of many graduates, a lot of fun and a great experience.
17C candidates attend Phase I, which is the six month long Navy Joint Cyber Analysis Course (JCAC) at Corry Station (Pensacola), Florida. After JCAC the 17C candidate then attends Phase II, a 20 week Army Cyber Operations Specialist Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia. JCAC is attended by all services, then like the Army, the Air Force and the Marines teach their own courses. The Army Digital Defense Service hired an outside firm, General Assembly, which is a worldwide high tech education company that, much like the Army, teaches basic, corps technology – no electives or ‘nice to have’ classes, to set up and conduct the Army’s own Phase I 17C course. The pilot course, with 10 students, ran from January to April 2019, twelve weeks, not six months. Those 10 were placed alongside JCAC graduates for Phase II, with no noticeable difference in knowledge or performance. The plan was for 17C AIT to be about six months long and all at Fort Gordon. Apparently that didn’t work, or COVID-19 interfered, because Phase I is still listed as JCAC at Pensacola.

In October 2019, there was a ground breaking ceremony on Fort Gordon to construct a new ultra-modern cyber training facility. Some buildings will be demolished, four new constructed and seven renovated. The first facility will be a classified building, that is scheduled to open in fiscal year 2022. The Commanding General of the Cyber Center at Fort Gordon said; “The networks that go into it will allow us to do training at a level that is just far and above what we do today, and in a domain that is so dynamic like cyber, being able to train in that environment is absolutely critical.”
As far as security is concerned, this job is on a level above that of special operations. There is no enlistment bonus for this MOS. Everything about it is Top Secret. Who enlists for 17C, who is in training, and who is in the operational units is classified. So, the Specialist or Sergeant 17C does not get to come home and tell what he or she does in the Army. These are cyberspace shadow warriors. Some 17C assignments qualify for up to $300 per month special pay. Promotion to Sergeant is very fast. Very good operators are making Sergeant in 24 to 30 months.

University of West Florida grants 30 semester hours toward a bachelor’s degree in computer science to graduates of JCAC. Universities and colleges represented at Fort Gordon have not yet advertised the credit they give for the 17C AIT course, because it is new, but I would expect about the same credits. Enlist for five years for 17C, and by the time you are finished with training, you have a year of college. Anyone, in this job, should be able to complete their bachelors by the end of a five year enlistment.
At the end of that five years, the Army has been offering an $81,000 reenlistment bonus to Staff Sergeants who will reenlist for six more years, because the Army is competing with the civilian world that pays these people big salaries.
So, how does someone become an Army Cyberoperations Specialist? See an Army Recruiter. The Army Recruiters office in Rolla, Missouri has as professional a staff of Sergeants as you will find. The first question from a recruiter is, do you have a high school diploma, the second is, have you ever been in trouble with the law. When you tell the recruiter that you want to be a cyberoperations specialist, his normal process changes a little, he or she will want to know a lot about your background. The job requires a Top Secret clearance, be absolutely honest about everything. You will be given a practice ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test there in the recruiting office, if you score high enough then the conservation will turn to your background and high school. How much algebra did you take and how were your grades? Computer programming requires a logical thought process, like IF – THEN – ELSE, if this is present then that is the result, else another is the result, much like X + Y = Z. The ASVAB test requirements for MOS 17C are the highest for any MOS. The requirement is a score of 110 in General Technical (GT), which is comprised of tests in word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, and arithmetic reasoning, and a score of 112 in Skilled Technical (ST), which is comprised of also word knowledge and paragraph comprehension, plus general science, mechanical comprehension, and mathematics knowledge. To be competitive for this job, those scores should be in 120’s.
After an OPAT (Occupational Physical Assessment Test), background checks, and medical clearances to determine that you are qualified to enlist in the military, you go to MEPS (Military Enlistment Processing Station) in St Louis, where you take the ASVAB for record, contract for MOS 17C, and be sworn in to the Army. At that point, you sit down with a counselor and fill out SF Form 86, Application for (a Top Secret) Security Clearance. Print that form out back at home and fill it out by hand and take it with you to MEPS. It asks for a lot of information that you may not know. Whatever anyone tells you, do not fail to list everything and do not lie on that form – that is a felony. A Top Secret clearance usually takes about six months to complete, it helps if you haven’t moved around much. An investigator will interview you. You will be given a polygraph (lie detector) test. Investigators will interview your school teachers, your neighbors, your preacher, your co-workers, and the local Marshall and Sheriff. Once the investigation has started and the application looks OK, an Interim Top Secret may be awarded so the 17C candidate can start the course, but he or she cannot graduate until the final clearance has been awarded.
Soldiers in this job can obtain literally dozens of certifications from national and world wide computer technology and security organizations, including Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from the International Council of Commerce Consultants.
If this really interests you, this is could be a great opportunity.


This is an update of previously published stories about the infantry.

If you’ve ever heard the saying “He’s just a lowly grunt”, discard it, there is no such thing. The infantry soldier is at the top of the heap – the pinnacle of soldiering. The infantry moto is “Follow Me”. Every element of the military supports the infantry. Infantrymen are the combat soldiers’, whose job is to close with and kill or capture the enemy. They are the warriors. The infantry works harder, the infantry goes to combat, there is more pride in the infantry, and the infantry gets promoted faster.
Regardless of far advanced military technology becomes, there must be soldiers on the ground to hold territory. It is the hardest, most demanding, most frustrating, most challenging, greatest badass job in the world.

Here are some recent comments from real grunts;

“It is the worst, most terrible, difficult, strenuous, testing job there is. It is also the best. Hands down. Bar none. I absolutely love it, and many others do as well. So, stop smoking weed and wasting your life, and learn it for yourself.”

“I freaking love it. Because one day when I have to work till six at some dumb civilian job and I’m all butthurt, I can think to myself well at least it’s not the middle of a brigade exercise, day three of straight rain, and I just got done digging a foxhole with overhead protection with proper camouflage, and oh what’s that? Roger sergeant I’ll be ready to move out in ten so bravo company can move into my just built home and I can stay up all night digging another foxhole 2 kilometers to the east. Then I’ll smile and wonder why I chose a job that the only transferable skill is landscaping. But it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Some of the smartest and greatest people I’ve ever met have been infantry. The bond you make with the guy to the left and right of you is something most people will never know, and when you cement those bonds with the amount of bs and hardship you make something near unbreakable. It’ll also teach you a lot about yourself. Plus, it’s freaking badass.”

“I couldn’t imagine being any other MOS, I get paid to hang out with my best friends and shoot stuff all the time.”

“Honestly, if you enjoy pushing yourself (on sleep, physically, mentally) it’s an amazing job. It’s really hard work, but you get through it with your boys and you all form a cohesive bond. The camaraderie of infantrymen is something I’ve never seen anywhere else; true ‘ride or die’ dudes that will go over the edge for you, no questions asked. I will never experience anything as scary, intense, frustrating, or rewarding as my time in the infantry ever again, and it genuinely makes me sad. When you get out you realize how remarkably tame life is back home.”

There are requirements to enlist in the military. You must meet those requirements, for some medical and discipline issues, waivers are granted. Here are my ideas of other aptitudes you should have before enlisting for the infantry. First you have to have that desire, that inner hunger for something more. More exciting, more challenging, more rewarding, and more pride. A desire to be the best at what you do. You have to be fairly smart – of average intelligence. That old tale that all the dumb guys get sent to the infantry, is not true. Some of the smartest soldiers I served with were in the infantry. Infantrymen have to think on their feet, fast. When the shooting starts, there is chaos and the infantrymen have to very quickly figure out either how to put the bad guy out of business, or how to get out of Dodge, if there are way more of them than you. You have to have a good body. Not a muscle builder body, just a good body, with no weak areas. I have had infantrymen in my platoons who were 5’ 5” and weighed 140 pounds, but they could hump a 65 or 70 pound rucksack all day, every day, and they could run 7 to 8 minute miles all day. You have to have endurance, and you never quit. There is also another issue, you have to be honest with yourself and everyone else. If you’re not, you will be soon. An infantry platoon of 40 soldiers, will spend days, sometimes weeks, and during deployment, months sharing foxholes, MRE’s, water, canteens. razors, socks, ammo, and stories. They support they guy who feeling down, razz the guy who screws up, and pull pranks on the guy who is too proud of himself. And will put their life on the line to cover your back. Any BS a new platoon member brings with him soon dissolves. Everybody is just who they are. Maybe that’s why I and thousands of other former grunts and current grunts love the infantry, you learn things about yourself and each other that no one else knows, including family. You share the worst of times and the best of times.

The infantry has fun when it can.

All Army infantry training is on Sand Hill at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Infantry and Armor Center and School. Infantry training is conducted in OSUT (One Station Unit Training) companies, meaning both basic combat training and advanced infantry training is in one company – straight through.

The Army is trying to increase its size, but the current Army leadership has seen, in the past, the bad results of lowering standards to get more recruits. Standards are not being lowered and training is being increased. Infantry OSUT has been expanded from 14 to 22 weeks. There are not many new tasks, but they are spending more time on the basics and producing better trained soldiers. They spend more time in live fire and produce more expert riflemen, more time on land navigation, producing better infantrymen who can navigate in the field with a paper map and compass, they complete the combat lifesaver course, they spend much more time in hand to hand combat training, and the extra two months produces graduates in better physical condition. At the beginning of the transition from 14 to 22 weeks, the Infantry Training Brigade commander said, “If we do our job right these troops will be able to out PT their team leader and out shoot their squad leader, and be as good or better than their combat life savers.”

There are two MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty) in the infantry, MOS 11B Light Weapons Infantryman, and MOS 11C Heavy Weapons Infantryman (mortars). A person enlisting for the infantry, enlists for MOS 11X, then whether the soldier becomes a 11B or a 11C is determined, by the Army, while that soldier is in training. There are way more 11B’s than 11C’s.

Infantry OSUT is no walk in the park. It does not have a 100 percent graduation rate. The Basic Combat Training part of infantry OSUT is the first 8 weeks. Normal basic is 10 weeks, but the OSUT companies don’t have to clean and turn in gear and weapons and practice for graduation, At the completion of basic, they have a simple ceremony signifying their becoming soldiers. Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) is tougher and more demanding now than it has been since World War II. It is not tough in the form of harassment. It is just intense and demanding physical and mental training. In fact the “shark attack” of screaming drill sergeants on the first day has been replaced with a five phase event called “The First 100 Yards”. BCT culminates with a 96 hour field exercise, called “The Forge”, covering over 40 miles, where everything learned in BCT is practiced and graded.

The remainder of the 22 weeks of infantry training is the most physically demanding MOS training in the Army. So, my advice to anyone considering this, man or woman, is to get in shape, pushups, pullups, situps, running, and a lot of walking in boots (army boots if you can get them) carrying a rucksack. There are road marches carrying up to a 60 pound rucksack. People who enlist for Rangers or Special Forces go to infantry OSUT first. I do not recommend that anyone who is not already very familiar with the Army enlist for Rangers or Special Forces. Enlist for Airborne Infantry, then when you’ve been in the Army long enough to know what those units actually do and their requirements, make your decision. The first three weeks are “Total Control”, trainees don’t make a move that is not guided by a Drill Sergeant. That is when they learn how to march, stand, turn, salute, and act like a soldier. After that, the control is a little different, but the intensity isn’t. An infantry OSUT company commander recently posted on facebook for families not to expect many phone calls, communicate by mail. There is an infantry OSUT company with an outstanding facebook page, covering most of what the trainees do, that is “Delta Company 2nd Battalion 58th Infantry Regiment”.

The Squad is the basic maneuverable unit in the infantry. There are nine soldiers in a squad, led by a Staff Sergeant. It takes between five and seven years to make Staff Sergeant in the infantry. The Squad is composed of two four-man teams, each led by a Sergeant. It is currently taking, between two and a half to four years to make Sergeant, depends on how good you are and how hard you work. There are three rifle squads and a weapons squad in a Platoon. The weapons squad has two machine guns and two anti-tank weapons. Those are all MOS 11B. There are three platoons in a company, plus a mortar section. The mortar section is MOS 11C. The platoon is led by a 2nd Lieutenant, and the Platoon Sergeant is a Sergeant First Class (SFC). Infantry officers first job is Platoon Leader, so he or she is also in training, which is understood to be an added responsibility of the Platoon Sergeant. Eight to twelve years is normal for making SFC. There are three Rifle Platoons and a Mortar Section in an infantry company. The company is commanded by a Captain and run by a First Sergeant. Soldiers who make it to First Sergeant are usually in the 12 to 15 year range. Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank, usually comes, for those who make it, at close to the 20 year mark. So, those Command Sergeants Major (enlisted advisors to commanders), who appear to young privates as walking around with no real job, have all been riflemen, team leaders, squad leaders, platoon sergeants, and first sergeants, to get where they are.

Infantry Squad
Infantry Platoon
Infantry Company

There are three basic types of infantry units. Light Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, and Stryker Infantry. Stryker is the newest, built around the Stryker vehicle, which is a heavily armored, eight wheeled, fast moving, (62 MPH) vehicle carrying a nine-man infantry squad. It comes with various weapons systems from machine guns to 105mm tank guns, to hellfire missiles. Mechanized Infantry rides in Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The Bradley is a lightly armored, tracked vehicle, with a 25mm cannon, designed to transport an infantry squad, and keep up with Abrams tanks. A plain infantryman can end up in any of these types of units, however if the soldier has the airborne option, he will be in an airborne unit, which are all light infantry. There are five airborne Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), three in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Vicenza, Italy, and the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson (Anchorage), Alaska. The 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York is light infantry, with two BCT’s, and the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky is light infantry, with three BCT’s. The 101st is called an Air Assault Division, because they ride in helicopters, but they are basically light infantry. The Mechanized and Stryker grunts get to ride some, but they also have to maintain that steel monster in the motor pool, and they still walk about as much as light infantry.

US Army’s 123 Infantry “Alpha Company” Stryker Unit team members deploy out of the back of the Stryker to provide suppressive fire on the enemy during a simulated convoy attack during Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration/Foal Eagle exercises (RSO&I/Foal Eagle). RSO&I is a complex multi-phase exercise conducted annually, tailored to train, test, and demonstrate United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) Force projection and deployment capabilities. Foal Eagle exercise runs simultaneously and trains in all aspects of Combined Forces Command’s mission. U.S. Navy photo by JO2 John J. Pistone

U.S. Soldiers of Alpha Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division exit a M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle to mark a cleared road while conducting movement to contact training during exercise Combined Resolve IV at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, May 25, 2015. Combined Resolve IV is an Army Europe directed exercise training a multinational brigade and enhancing interoperability with allies and partner nations. Combined Resolve trains on unified land operations against a complex threat while improving the combat readiness of all participants. The Combined Resolve series of exercises incorporates the U.S. Army’s Regionally Aligned Force with the European Activity Set to train with European Allies and partners. The 7th Army JMTC is the only training command outside the continental United States, providing realistic and relevant training to U.S. Army, Joint Service, NATO, allied and multinational units, and is a regular venue for some of the largest training exercises for U.S. and European Forces. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Cress Jr./Not Reviewed)
Airborne infantry loading their transportation.
Airborne infantry arriving on the battlefield.

The infantry unit with the highest morale (happiest) in the military is the 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd also works the hardest, because one the 82nd’s three brigades is always on alert to get the entire 5,000 man brigade with all vehicles and equipment, rigged for a parachute drop somewhere in the world, in the air within 18 hour of notification. The 82nd is America’s Fire Brigade, it is always fully funded, conducts realistic and exciting training, and has the best leadership the Army has to offer. That also means that they train the hardest, and as much as the paratroops bitch and complain, they love it. There is a saying around Fort Bragg, that paratroops have that airborne “swagger”, because that maroon beret looks better on their heads than a black beret on a leg’s, because they have a sense that they earned it. In paratrooper language, a “leg” is a sub-human soldier, who is not Airborne. There is a saying that when the President calls 911 the phone is answered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

A Brigade Soldier of the Quarter in the 82nd Airborne Division

Airborne infantry is light infantry, but their method of delivery to the battlefield causes them to train differently than non-airborne. Non-airborne infantry gets to the battlefield on a vehicle or a helicopter, airborne jumps from an airplane onto the battlefield. Adverse weather or enemy anti-aircraft fire can cause airplanes to drop paratroops not at their planned location. Individual paratroops can become widely scattered during a jump. I can tell you what happens when paratroops are dropped in 35 mile an hour winds. Made national news that time. Because of that possible scenario airborne troops are briefed down to the last Private on the entire mission and objectives. That started in World War II and continues today. When time permits the entire platoon gets to see aerial photographs and mock-ups. The airborne has a term LGOPS (Little Groups of Paratroopers). If a paratrooper can’t find his leaders, he just finds other paratroopers and goes on with the mission. The first combat parachute jump was in Sicily in July 1943. Due to winds and enemy fire the paratroops were scattered over many miles in places they didn’t plan to be. Little groups got together and cut every telephone line they found, they ambushed vehicles and attacked troops causing the German commanders to think they were facing a much larger force than was actually there.

Combat soldiers do not have a “job”, like supply, signal, computer, mechanic, cook, etc. Their “job” is training for combat, “soldiering”. You can study, but you can’t train for “reaction to an ambush”, until you get ambushed (in training). You can study, but you can’t train for a “company in the attack”, until you are on the ground in thick brush, trying to figure out how to be quiet and get in position.

Infantry Platoon in a field training exercise
Infantry urban combat

There is probably not a typical day in the army for an infantry soldier, but a day, when not in the field, goes something like this. Get up around 5:30, be in PT (Physical Training) formation at 6:00. PT until 7:00 to 7:30. Back to your room clean up, get in uniform, and get some breakfast. You can cook in the kitchen in your room, or go eat for free, since you live in the barracks, in the DFAC (Dining Facility). Between 8:30 and 9:00 is a company work formation, then on to whatever training is on for the day. Lunch at noon, and off at 5:00 PM. Training could be classroom or hands on in the local area, or if airborne, a parachute jump, which usually starts early and goes all day.

The infantry is my favorite. I kept getting “good jobs”, in the old army, but I kept going back to the infantry. I would rather have the muscle aches in the infantry, than the stress level in some of those “good jobs”.

An infantry battalion awards formation in the 82nd Airborne Division

CBRN – Enlist and be a SERGEANT in two years.

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.

CBRN (Dragon) soldiers of the 21st Chemical Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina conduct PPE training to the 248th Medical Detachment, prior to the 248th’s deployment.

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.

Chemical Corps Regimental Crest

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.

74D AIT students under going an ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test)
74D AIT students in hazmat classroom training.
74D AIT students in “hands on” hazmat training.
74D AIT student in Radiation Detection training.
74D AIT Graduation

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.

A Soldier from the 56th Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), enter a shipping container during a portion of the 1st SFC Validation Exercise on February 03, 2020, at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin, 5th SFG(A) Public Affairs)

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.

SFC Jeffrey Escott teaching an Advanced Leaders Class.
SFC Escott with an ALC class.
More ALC class instruction.

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.

SFC Escott with the little Escott’s.
Army Recruiter SFC Jeff Escott at a local high school.

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.

Sergeant First Class Jeffrey E. Escott, US Army Recruiter, Rolla, Missouri.


     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 Equipped 

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division leverage Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), the Army’s tactical communications network backbone, to enable mission command and advanced network communications in the brigade main command post on September 23, 2015, during Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1, at Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

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.


     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.

                                             25B Installing a motherboard.

     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.

                                                 25B Troubleshooting.

                    25B setting up a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal)

                              25B Quick set up training in the field on a VSAT.

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.

                                  Sample 25B resume from a few years ago.

     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.

                             25B AIT student learning to set up a main router.



     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.

Enlisted collar insignia for Army Chaplain Assistants.  They and the Chaplains are their own ‘Corps’.

     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.

Sergeant William J. Jones, Chaplain Assistant for Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, gives invocation at a Non-commissioned officer induction ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in 2012.

     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.”

                          Chaplain Assistants setting up church services.

     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.

                                 Ranger Sergeant First Class Jeff Struecker

                                 Ranger Chaplain (Captain) Jeff Struecker

US Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina