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NEWS | Jan. 19, 2016

A partnership forged

By Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton 108th Training Command- Initial Entry Training

NEW YORK - True success can only be achieved through teamwork and collaboration. That has been the fundamental driving force behind business and organizations for centuries and it is no different for the Army today.

So when former Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno and New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro engaged in a brief conversation about training challenges while riding in an elevator, an alliance was formed and a lasting partnership forged. 

“They were discussing some of the training dilemmas  they had, which went from that elevator conversation to TRADOC; from TRADOC to IMT; and from IMT to the Drill Sgt. Academy,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian, United States Army Drill Sergeant Academy commandant.

For close to a year now, the New York City Fire Academy at Randall’s Island and the Drill Sergeant Academy on Fort Jackson, South Carolina, comprised of Drill Sergeant Leaders from the Active and Reserve components, have engaged in exchanging best practices and lessons learned on a wide range of topics including physical fitness, to drill instruction and instructor development.

Christian, along with two of his Drill Sgt. Leaders, Sgt. 1st Class Tanya Green and Staff Sgt. Autumn Beaty, traveled to the Fire Academy in January for a closer look at training in the Probationary Firefighter School.

FDNY maintains a uniform force equal roughly to the Indiana Army National Guard, all compressed in about 468 square miles. Training challenges can be enormous and liken to those of the United States Army. 

Employee attrition through retirement or other means in addition to challenges unique to firefighting in America’s most populace city add an extra burden to maintaining a well-trained and ready force. 

At the Fire Academy, or “The Rock” as it’s known, initial recruit training begins at Probationary Firefighter School. When the schoolhouse began to refine and perfect their drill instruction and initial training practices, who better to turn to than the Army’s Drill Sergeant Academy to help? After all, the Army’s been doing the job for more than 50 years and doing it well.

“We develop a good product but we were looking to make it better without re-inventing the wheel,” said Lt. JonPaul Augier, Executive Officer to the Chief of Training.” The Army has been doing this for a lot longer than us and so by having this exchange it has helped save us some growing pains. 
From my experience the product that the Probationary Firefighter School turns out is second to none, but that’s not to say we can’t get better, and the Drill Sergeant Academy is here helping us do that.”

While neither organization expected a major overhaul in how business is conducted on a day-to-day basis, small minor changes and adjustments have taken place and the improvements are noticeable; like the addition of the concurrent training model.

“You saw one group that was talking about how to don their self-contained breathing apparatus, while another group was off to the side in a rope corral, tying knots. In the past, historically what would have happened is that group would have been standing off to the side waiting for their opportunity to don masks,” said Christian. “Little things like that are what the Firefighter Academy here are able to bring into their methodology now.”

But as in every partnership, collaboration is a two-way street and the Army and FDNY seem to be thriving on it.

“We’ve adjusted some things in our Drill Instructor program here at the Rock. At the same time I think some of our practices would work well for the Army. They’re now trying to take tidbits of that back to their schoolhouse to use. It’s been a nice healthy exchange,” Augier said.

Only time will tell if this partnership forged from casual conversation in an elevator leads to other efforts by the military and their public partners, but Augier for one, has hopeful expectations. 

“This concept feels very unique to me. We’re only about a year in but thus far I will say that our experience with the Army has been more than successful and we have hit well beyond the mark that we were looking for,” he said. “I don’t know if other agencies plan on collaborating like this, but it has certainly benefitted us and the United States Army.