Originally created 10/25/98

Training emphasis on values



COLUMBIA -- Army recruits are learning more than how to shoot a rifle or live on a battlefield -- they're learning right from wrong.

At Fort Jackson and other Army training bases across the country, recruits are attending classes in "ethical decision making" and "spiritual and emotional fitness."

The curriculum is a new part of basic training that comes from the reform after the Army's November 1996 Aberdeen, Md., sex scandal. Since a group of drill sergeants was convicted of sexual misconduct with trainees at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Army has moved to revamp training.

Other reforms are psychological screening of drill sergeant candidates, and giving trainers more discretion in disciplining new soldiers.

Col. Sam Barlotta, director of plans, training and mobilization at Fort Jackson, said the changes were necessary.

"Basic training had become so task oriented, we forgot all about things like values and human relations," Col. Barlotta said.

Army trainees now discuss ethical problems with superiors and learn how to treat other soldiers during the nine-week training program.

The Army's move follows other services placing more emphasis on ethics.

The Marine Corps revamped its boot camp curriculum two years ago to focus heavily on values training.

"More and more, Marines are put into positions where their actions could have national or international implications," said Maj. Rick Long at the Recruit Depot at Parris Island. "You need to have modern weapons, state of the art tactics but you also need to have good decision-making ability."

Military trainers say that today's recruits may or may not have the ethical foundation to help them make wise decisions. Commanders in all services say they find that some teen-agers have a fuzzy sense of right and wrong.

The Marines and the Army had created tests that force trainees to work together and practice traditional military beliefs to make it through the grueling challenge.

Both the 54-hour "Crucible" and the Army's four-day "Victory Forge" are designed to measure how well recruits assimilate the services' "core values."

Lisa Brubaker, a 31-year-old trainee who is joining the South Dakota National Guard, said the new emphasis is welcome.

"It gives the younger generation a sense of direction. There are so many single-parent homes, values don't necessarily get taught or reinforced," Ms. Brubaker said.

Capt. Cathy Rusnak, a training company commander at Fort Jackson, likes that basic training now "incorporates values into everything."

The Army's emphasis on values is seen throughout the base.

Signs about duty, selfless service and loyalty dot the landscape. There are obstacle courses that stress problem-solving and teamwork.

Recruits are challenged every week to respond to questions of ethical dilemmas they might face as future soldiers.

"We have to come to a better balance between tasks and human relations and values," Fort Jackson's Col. Barlotta said. "This is a giant leap."