Training and Indoctrination

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Training and Indoctrination. The military has always recognized the importance of training in accomplishing its missions; indeed, training is often seen as decisive in combat. Considerable attention has therefore been paid to both collective and individual training. For most of the past 350 years, military leaders in, first, the American colonies and then the United States gave thought only sporadically to what constituted military training, defined as the inculcation of skills aimed at achieving maximum efficiency on the battlefield. When doing so, military and political leaders assumed that the task was straightforward. Training was drill, and drill embodied everything that soldiers needed in order to function in battle. However much the intricacies of drill might be enshrouded in arcane language and symbols, for the individual soldier and the unit of which he was a part, training was the mechanics of marching and firing.

At one level, this approach remains true today. Basic training, the preparation of individuals from civilian life for the demands of military life, provides physical conditioning and military fundamentals and imbues recruits with their particular service's point of view. Since military service requires fitness, discipline, and the ability to live and work in a highly structured organization, recruit training emphasizes military rules, discipline, social conduct, physical conditioning, self‐confidence, and pride in being a member of the military.

Subsequently, individuals also go through a progression of skills training, depending on their roles and military occupational specialties. (This entry deals primarily with enlisted personnel; education and leadership training for officers is examined mainly in the entries on Service Academies and ROTC.) Collective training, from unit field training exercises to complex, joint, or even multi national maneuvers, is designed to prepare cohesive groups to accomplish their missions.

In the colonial period, militia training days were a regular part of the calendar, particularly when the danger of war seemed imminent. Training of farmer militiamen involved mainly military drill and volley fire, often on the village green or nearby field. In the Revolutionary War, the national Continental army of longer service soldiers had little systematic training and discipline until Gen. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, formerly of the Prussian army, instituted regular training in marching, firing, and tactical maneuvers during the Valley Forge encampment in the winter of 1777. Steuben's Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (1778–79) remained the army's basic training manual for three decades. Smaller and less centralized, the Continental navy drew upon experienced seamen and where necessary relied on training on shipboard.

Under the Constitution of 1787, military training was divided, as were the nation's military institutions, between the state militias and the regular army. The Constitution and the Uniform Militia Act (1792) prescribed standardized organization and training procedures for the state militias, but these were not enforced until the twentieth century. Uniform procedures were enforced, however, in the regular army and navy and Marines, where training was patterned largely along European lines. In the northern states, universal militia training was gradually abolished and the common militia was replaced by volunteer units of the militia and National Guard; however, compulsory militia training continued in the white South until the Civil War.

Primary reliance upon the ad hoc U.S. Volunteers during the wars of the nineteenth century meant that the locally raised temporary wartime units of citizen‐soldiers of the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish‐American War were trained by their junior officers and noncommissioned officers from the same locale, many of whom had little more military knowledge than the enlisted men. Consequently, training and discipline were often haphazard. Regular forces, however, continued strict training and discipline by veteran NCOs, usually following European models. In the Mexican War, training took place at camps of instruction operated under the General Recruiting Service using Gen. Winfield Scott's Instructions for Field Artillery, Horse and Foot, which became the standard training manual in 1845. The War Department never developed a comprehensive training program in the Civil War; instead, training depended upon the initiative of individual officers or division commanders.

Traditionally, the U.S. Navy relied on an apprentice system of shipboard training to produce able‐bodied seamen; given the pattern of long‐term shipboard assignments, that approach proved adequate. But in the late nineteenth century, creation of the steel‐hulled, big‐gun navy led to specialized training on shore for enlisted men, beginning with gunnery school in 1883 and electricity schools in 1899. In the 1890s, nativist fears caused by mass immigration and concerns of potential disloyalty by aliens in wartime led the military services to establish special training and “Americanization” schools for recruits who had not yet become naturalized U.S. citizens. An enlarged modern fleet led the navy to create a series of specialized schools. Between 1901 and 1916, training programs for forty different trades, from bakers to woodworkers, were established at Norfolk or Newport. Collectively, the navy conducted squadron and fleet exercises in conformity to new naval doctrines.

The U.S. Army began systematic training as part of its modernization programs in the early twentieth century. Abandoning the little posts in the West, the army held its first division‐sized maneuver in peacetime in 1911. However, training of recruits in peacetime remained a responsibility of the unit to which the fledgling soldier was assigned. The norm was customarily a nine‐month apprenticeship. With U.S. entry into World War I and the rapid creation of a mass army, the War Department reduced the training of recruits to four months before new infantrymen were sent overseas. This “basic” training occurred in large, hastily erected training cantonments, drawing initially on French and British training and technical manuals; audiovisual aids (such as the motion picture series The Training of a Soldier) also were employed. (Because the army was racially segregated, training of blacks and whites took place in different locations.)

As a result, American troops and units reached France poorly prepared, and special schools were established to give infantrymen further training in military demeanor, marksmanship, and Gen. John J. Pershing's offensively oriented tactics before being committed to combat. The army also established additional programs to train enlisted men in the use of new technology: artillery, machine guns, field telephones, trucks, tanks, and airplanes. Similarly, the wartime navy expanded its training stations at Newport, Norfolk, the Great Lakes, and San Francisco, and compressed the normal training period so that “boot” camp became merely a brief introduction to navy life and discipline, with the majority of training occurring afterwards.

In the interwar period, the navy's training system included boot camp for new recruits, followed by shore schools for advanced instruction in specialties for nonrated enlisted personnel, advanced training for petty officers, and schools for such special duty assignments as submarines and aviation. Marine Corps drill instructors imbued recruits with discipline, traditions, and basic skills, while advanced units engaged in practice landings for the Marines' new mission: amphibious assaults. In World War II, both the navy and the Marine Corps greatly expanded their training facilities and programs.

Army proposals for short‐term universal military training were rejected by Congress in the National Defense Act of 1920; instead, while reducing the regular army, Washington put primary military reliance on the organized reserve and National Guard, which took their training on weekends and in the summer. The army retained its specialized schools. In particular, the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Army War College gave attention to training issues.

During the period of prewar expansion (1940–41), the army conducted recruit training in Replacement Training Centers (RTCs) modeled on an improved version of World War I training and often using reactivated cantonments that featured precisely scripted instruction (typically thirteen weeks) in drill, military courtesy, hygiene, use and care of weapons, and small unit tactics. However, after U.S. entry into World War II in December 1941, this approach was abandoned. For the remainder of the war, almost all draftees and volunteers underwent a battery of vocational and psychological tests in RTCs, then were assigned directly to a division or other large unit for eight weeks of basic training and participation in battalion, regimental, and divisional exercises. The aim was to match precisely individual capabilities with the rapidly proliferating requirements of modern warfare.

Following detailed training manuals and instructions, army drill sergeants taught the new recruits the rudiments of military discipline, familiarized them with their weapons and equipment, and sought to forge them into soldiers. Thereafter, individual training occurred in a specialized skill or branch or by happenstance for the bulk of infantry and artillery soldiers. The acute shortage of weapons and equipment for training in 1940–41 was eventually overcome; early neglect of tactical proficiency was to some degree corrected through intensive small unit training. Training manuals and films were revised throughout the war. Because the World War II U.S. Army was a mass citizen force raised primarily through conscription, the War Department also sponsored educational programs to maintain health and troop morale and to inform soldiers about why the United States had gone to war (most prominently in the Why We Fight film series). How best to motivate (indoctrinate) individual soldiers remained unresolved, with many asserting that combat performance was a function of leadership, others arguing that ideology was preeminent, and still others (including most veterans) insisting that loyalty to one's buddies was pivotal. Again in World War II, the army enforced rigid racial segregation, with black soldiers being trained separately and mostly commanded by white officers.

Rapid increase of the number of pilots and planes in the Army Air Corps led to the creation in 1941 of a formal training program for technicians and ground and air crews to support them. To teach more than 300 skills, the Army Air Forces Training Command offered 80 courses, ranging from 4 to 44 weeks, and including airplane repair and maintenance, aviation engineering, armaments and equipment, weather, and photography.

Belated changes in training accompanied technological and structural developments in the U.S. armed forces during the Cold War period and afterward. Evidence of inadequate training during the first weeks and months of the Korean War led to important reforms affecting individual training, assignment, and motivation, and unit rotation policies. Racial desegregation, ordered by President Harry S. Truman in 1948 and implemented during the Korean War, meant that blacks and whites now trained together. Creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meant that by the late 1950s U.S. air, land, and naval forces engaged in joint training maneuvers and exercises with those of other NATO countries. In addition, increasingly sophisticated weaponry demanded that all the services develop expanded technical specialization training. Yet the U.S. armed forces also sought in the 1960s and 1970s to emphasize traditional military values and the sense that military service was more than simply an occupation. The army established the Non‐Commissioned Officers Academy in 1966, created the position of sergeant major of the army, and in 1973 created a Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, to provide advanced leadership training. In the 1980s, the air force created Project Warrior to emphasize the fighting spirit in an organization dominated numerically by support personnel.

After the military's problems in the Vietnam War and the creation of the All‐Volunteer Force, the army in 1973 established the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Monroe, Hampton, Virginia, to improve the preparation of soldiers from basic training to such special centers for combat training and advanced courses as the First Special Operations Command (SOCOM), created at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1982. TRADOC established prerequisites for all NCO and commissioned officer courses. Subsequently, the army set up a number of technologically sophisticated advanced training facilities, such as its National Training Center, established in 1982 at Fort Irwin in California's Mojave Desert. There on 1,000 square miles, battalion‐sized combat units of armor and mechanized infantry rotated in up to a month of fighting scenarios, including force‐on‐force maneuvers and live fire missions. In the 1990s, faced with force reductions, the army emphasized training designed to be realistic, difficult, and performance‐oriented, and it developed a program to enhance the combined training of active army and reserves.

Difficult issues remained unresolved. Efforts to confront the complex question of combat performance continued. Racial tensions were not entirely eradicated from promotion hearings and shipboard relationships. The integration into basic training of women, who by 1998 comprised 14 percent of the armed forces, remained as controversial as the assignment of women to combat roles. Integration of the sexes had varied by service since women had entered the regular military in large numbers in the 1970s. The air force integrated men and women in basic training in 1976; but the army, after conducting a short‐lived trial in the late 1970s and early 1980s, did not do so until 1993, and the navy not until 1994. (The Marine Corps continued to retain sexually segregated basic training.) Debate persisted over basic training and the importance of male bonding and directed aggression for unit cohesion in ground combat. Following a series of highly publicized rape and assault charges at an army training facility in Maryland, a special panel recommended that men and women be separated in basic training. Although Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen rejected the recommendation in 1998, the issue of sexually integrated basic training remained controversial.
[See also African Americans in the Military; Bases, Military: Development of; Citizen‐Soldier; Combat Effectiveness; Education, Military; Ethnicity and Race in the Military; Gender; Ideals, Military; Justice, Military; Language, Military; Recruitment; Women in the Military.]


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