By Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Price
The Recruit Sustainment Program is designed to take a non prior-service (NPS) Soldier from the recruiter and produce a fully-qualified Soldier for the units in the Virginia Army National Guard.
The Virginia Guard has been doing some form of NPS Soldier training for at least 25 years. However, in 2006 Virginia radically changed the way its handles and trains NPS Soldiers.
Every month the Army National Guard nation-wide loses an average of 739 NPS Soldiers before they complete Advanced Individual Training (AIT). These losses are known as training pipeline losses because these NPS Soldiers are discharged from the National Guard without ever completing their Initial Entry Training (IET).
If you add it together the Army National Guard averages 8,868 training pipeline losses every year. In one year, the Army National Guard actually loses more NPS Soldiers as training pipeline losses than we have total Soldiers in the Virginia Army National guard. The reality is that one out of every three NPS Soldiers will not complete AIT.
The national average ship rate is 70 percent, which means 30 percent of the NPS Soldiers never even make it to the IET site. These non-shippers automatically become a training pipeline loss if they are not recovered and shipped at a later date.
There is a monetary impact as well. Every lost or non-renegotiated training seat costs NGB $12,500. The Virginia Army National Guard’s ship rate has been in the bottom half of the nation. The Virginia Guard had a brief glimpse of success in 2001 when the new Recruit Holding Company program jumped Virginia’s national ranking into the top 20, but there has been a steady decline since that time.
In August of 2005, Virginia ranked 54th out of 54 states and territories in ship rate with a 59.1 percent ship rate.
In the last half of Training Year 2005, recruiting and retention set in motion a plan to improve the Recruit Sustainment Program. That plan is known as RSP 2006.
RSP 2006 is a radical departure from what Virginia has been doing in the past and it is having an immediate impact on the ship rate. The RSP is now a separate unit under the command and control of the recruiting and retention commander.
The 10 RSP sites have been established under recruiting and retention, and each site has a staff sergeant as the RSP Training NCO.
The pre-ship site is staffed by a sgt. 1st class operations sergeant and three instructors. The RSP is now supervised by a sergeant major RSP NCOIC and an sergeant major RSP Coordinator. All of the NPS Soldiers (now called Young Warriors) and traditional instructors are attached to the RSP site for training, pay and administration purposes. The RSP Training NCOs have all completed training that has prepared them to operate as the readiness NCO and supply sergeant for their RSP site.
The mission of the RSP is to make sure the Young Warriors are physically fit, mentally ready, and administratively correct for the beginning of BCT or AIT.
With this mission the RSP training program has changed as well. The Young Warriors go through a phased-training program called Soldier Empowerment and Readiness (SEAR). During the Red Phase the Young Warriors learn the basics and complete the on-line requirements of: Army Knowledge Online (AKO) enrollment, MyPay enrollment, civilian employer information, and the Defensive Driving Course.
The White Phase prepares the Young Warriors for Basic Combat Taining and teaches them about fitness and nutrition.
The Blue Phase is hands-on, basic Soldier skills and final preparations for BCT.
For the Young Warriors who have completed BCT but are waiting to go to AIT, the Green Phase teaches them how to mentor the other Young Warriors, how to be a leader and how to plan their military career.
The RSP is credited as the main reason that the Virginia Guard has seen dramatic improvement in IET attrition rate. Virginia has had a number of its Young Warriors selected as the honor graduate of their IET class and many more are selected for leadership positions during their training.
At the end of January 2006, the Virginia RSP had 570 Young Warriors attending training and a total of 670 Young Warriors in the training pipeline.