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NEWS | Aug. 24, 2016

‘Shock and awe’ sets the tone for Soldiers in Basic Combat Training

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

‘Rapid dominance’ was a concept adapted as doctrine first authored by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade of the United States’ National Defense University in 1996.

Simply put, it’s a means of affecting the resolve of your adversary by imposing your will in a rapid system of ‘shock and awe.’

Having proven effective in 2003’s combat operations in Iraq, today it is widely used as a means of setting the tone for Soldiers early on in the cycle throughout the U.S. Army’s Basic Combat Training posts.

For drill sergeants from the Army and Army Reserve picking up Soldiers for the first day of basic combat training, Aug. 19, with Company F, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment is the process is simple – let the Soldiers know early and often that they are here to train.

“This is basically citizens who are coming from the streets getting introduced to the Army from day one. It lets them know that ‘Hey, there are certain standards of discipline that we expect from you and you will meet those expectations,’” said Army drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Giovanni Rubio.

“Up to this point they’ve had only a small taste of what the Army is all about in the reception battalion. Here today we are introducing them to that whole new world that is the Army. Shock and awe is probably the best way to describe this experience.”

But more importantly, it’s works.

“The way we pick Soldiers up on that first day sets the standard for how the cycle will be conducted. It gets the Soldier’s attention,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Barnard, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment command sergeant major.  

“When you have drill sergeants getting them immediately off the bus and into formation with high motivation it provides that ‘shock and awe’ that we’re looking for,” he said. “It basically sets the foundation for the rest of the cycle. It instills in them that they will listen or there will be repercussions.”

For drill sergeants from the Army Reserve’s 108th Training Command (IET) performing their annual training mission on Fort Jackson, the excitement of that first day of training gives them a reason to keep coming back.

Army Reserve Drill Sergeant, Staff Sgt. Kevin Knight, 95th Training Division (IET), said, “Being a drill sergeant is addictive. Having done this many times before, this first day is always an adrenaline rush. It lets these young Soldiers know that they are in my world now.”

Knight, who served as a drill sergeant on active duty from 1987 until 1989, has been an Army Reserve drill sergeant since 2006.

Normally, he spends his summers as a drill sergeant in basic combat training units at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. At the request of his sister unit at the 98th Training Division (IET) he made the trek cross country to help out at Fort Jackson.

He says that while he loves what he does with the Army Reserve, it doesn’t come without certain unavoidable draw backs.

“For me the hardest part about being a Reserve drill sergeant as opposed to one on active duty is that you are starting the fight and your starting to develop your Soldier and then about a third of the way through the process, you do a battle hand off with someone else to finish the job,” Knight said.

“You only influence bits and pieces of the product and you never get to see the end result of your hard work. For me that part of it is a bit of a letdown.”

For all involved in the process of transforming ordinary citizens into warriors, the benefit of seeing a disciplined Soldier walk across the stage at the end of a basic training cycle is a rewarding one. But they all agree that it is a process and that process begins with ‘shock and awe.

“Seeing them transition from civilian to Soldier is a great feeling,” Rubio said. “You can tell that by that point discipline is instilled in them and they know why they’re here. That discipline starts here today.”