Feb. 3, 2011

Virginia recruits prepared for basic training

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard waiting to ship to Basic Combat Training and their Advanced Individual Training attended their drill weekend Jan. 22-23 in Sandston where they went on a four-mile road march and conducted classes on basic military skills and procedures as part of the Virginia Guard’s Recruit Sustainment Program. The RSP is a program developed to prepare the Soldiers for BCT and AIT, where they learn military courtesies and customs, physical training and conditioning, rank structure of noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers, and other basic Soldier skills.


Soldiers in the Recruit Sustainment Program conduct a road march with "dummy" weapons and attend classes in Sandston Jan. 23. The Soldiers, some who have attended Basic Combat Training, and others still awaiting their ship dates are taught military courtesies, rank structure and are given training on physical fitness prior to basic training and Advanced Individual Training to better prepare the Soldiers for the training ahead. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The RSP was introduced five years ago by the National Guard Bureau to better prepare Soldiers for the challenges they will face when they reach their initial entry training by incorporating instruction in academics, physical readiness, and common task training. According to the National Guard RSP website, each Warrior will be screened for administration problems as well as height/weight and physical fitness.

“We are taking these troops that haven’t been to basic training or AIT yet, and we’re putting all the focus on them so they can be ready when they go to basic,” said Sgt. Jim Tyler, an instructor at the Sandston RSP. “They tend to do very, very well when they get to basic training thanks to training they pick up in the RSP.”

One of the major intents of the program is to reduce training pipeline losses by introducing newly enlisted Soldiers to the military environment. According to Tyler, before the RSP Soldiers would enlist in the National Guard and report to their units to drill before shipping to basic training unprepared and untrained. He noted that often the units would not have the manpower or the capabilities to train the Soldiers.

“The unit pretty much had an untrained Soldier who wasn’t able to do much, so [the recruits] ended up pushing a broom all weekend long, or just sitting in the corner,” Tyler said. “In the pipeline, you started losing Soldiers…people became bored, drifted off and so on. With the RSP the drill is completely focused on them. It’s focused on all the very basics that they need to know, from the structure of their military, how to speak to NCOs and officers, how to do basic drills.”

In the commonwealth of Virginia the numbers from the program are speaking for themselves. Training Pipeline losses have gone down from about 48% to 22% nationwide, Virginia trained and shipped 937 young warriors during the 2010 training year, ending  with a 90% ship rate and ranked 4th in the nation for ship rate mission percentage, according to Master Sgt. David Patteson, supervisor of the Virginia RSP.  

“The units get a military occupational specialty qualified Soldier when they return from AIT. We have a better process of finding out the Soldiers with issues (Law and Medical not disclosed at enlistment) prior to them leaving for basic training so we save "training seat" money by canceling their ship date and discharging before they attend BCT or AIT,” said Patteson.

Not only are the Soldiers shipping to basic training more frequently, they are better prepared when they arrive. The Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard are excelling and outshining their peers throughout the training, and some believe this is because of the training they are receiving from the RSP.


Soldiers in the Recruit Sustainment Program conduct "in-ranks" inspections
during their drill weekend Jan. 23. The Soldiers focus on uniform deficiencies during the inspection. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“If you look at the statistics, it will tell you that the Soldiers that we have coming through in the National Guard are excelling at training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Talley, supervisor of the Sandston RSP. “We have them coming back as honor graduates all the time. When they get down there (BCT) a lot of times they are made the squad leaders and the platoon leaders of the company because the other reservists and regular Army don’t have this program.”

The 10 Virginia RSP sites across the commonwealth will most likely continue to see success in the troops they train for years to come. The state’s program was accredited by the National Guard Bureau Dec. 9 and will remain accredited for the next three years, according to Patteson.  “We are meeting all requirements that NGB puts before us on running a successful RSP program,” he said.

According to the RSP website, the new warriors will progress through different phases of Soldier Training Readiness Modules, or STRM training while attending the RSP Course:

Red Phase is the trainees' first drill weekend with the Recruit Sustainment Program. Because they are completely new to the Guard at this point, Red Phase weekends are spent mostly in the classroom, covering basic subjects new recruits need to know right away.

White Phase varies in length but covers the period between their first drill weekend and the drill weekend before they ship.

Blue Phase is the final drill before shipping and covers what the shipper should expect, both at Reception Battalion and BCT.

Green Phase is for warriors in the Split Training Option (STO). These warriors will return from BCT and drill with the RSP until they go to AIT. Since they have already experienced Basic Training, these warriors are groomed as junior cadre and given additional physical readiness training and leadership training.

Once the Soldiers have completed the program, the RSP instructors hand-deliver the Soldiers and their appropriate paperwork to their new units, ensuring that the Soldiers are “administratively, mentally and physically prepared” to become functioning warriors within the Virginia Army National Guard.

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