Originally created 05/07/00

Recruits get taste of training



Sgt. 1st Class Tony E. Propes shouted out the orders.

"We're going to move to parade rest from the position of attention," he barked to his group of about 50 soldiers standing in a circle. "Don't do anything with your weapon."

The Georgia Army National Guard drill sergeant paused to check to see whether his orders were being followed.

"Now, grasp the barrel with your right hand. Now, as if you are throwing the rifle down, extend your arm and lock your elbow. Now you are at parade rest."

The young recruits followed, but not quickly enough.

"You're moving too doggone slow, too slow!" he shouted.

About 150 new National Guard enlistees got a taste of what basic training would be like during the weekend at Fort Gordon as part of a new program called the Non-Prior Service Training Program.

"The National Guard Bureau (in Washington) mandated this for high attrition for nonprior service members," said Col. Charly Neely, commander of Georgia Army National Guard recruiting and retention.

The soldiers -- about 90 percent are high school seniors -- came from across the state to attend the training. The program has been held on a smaller level at other military bases for the past four months. This weekend was the first weekend recruits from all the training bases came together.

The program is a joint effort between the Georgia Army National Guard and the 108th Army Reserve Unit out of Clemson, S.C. The drill sergeants are part of the 108th.

Officials say the program is good because it allows the young soldiers a chance to find out what they are getting into without a significant culture shock, especially from the men and women in the round hats -- the drill sergeants.

"I remember myself how rough it was," said Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Garcia, a drill sergeant. "There is a lot of information for someone who doesn't know anything about the military."

During the weekend, the soldiers studied the code of conduct, drills and ceremonies and proper care (including the assembling and disassembling) of an M-16A2 rifle.

Westside High School senior Chris Heath went through his basic training last summer at Fort Jackson, S.C., but he's glad he's going through the class now in preparation for his advanced training classes this summer.

"It keeps your memory fresh," he said.

He wishes the new training had been available this time last year.

"Especially this one," he said of the class on the M-16. "I wish I would have had this. I probably would have been a platoon guide if I had."

The National Guard joint training will be held each month at Fort Gordon.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927.