U.S. Army National Soldiers from across the nation spent three weeks training as infantryman during an 11B Infantry Transition Course, taught by cadre assigned to the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. The course, held July 9-23, 2022, at Fort Pickett, Virginia, started with 29 students and graduated with 20.
“The students come here and have to pass high physical demand tests,” explained Staff Sgt. Logan McGinnis, lead instructor for the course. Among the required assessments students must pass in order to graduate, is a timed five-mile run and a twelve-mile weight ruck march, along with extensive weapons training and fieldwork.
“A lot of us struggle with the demands of the physical aspects of training. It can be a real challenge,” said Sgt. Brodie Andrews, a student in the course.
Based on rank, students are split into two groups, noncommissioned officers and junior Soldiers. NCOs focus more on what it takes to lead infantry Soldiers than their junior counterparts.
“The groups have a lot of tasks that overlap each other, which is why we do combined training. The higher enlisted are stepping into infantry units in leadership positions, so they’re going to have a lot more leadership training materials,” explained Master Sgt. Ben Lehmer, chief instructor for the course. “The less experienced Soldiers tend to struggle with discipline and general Army principles, [while] the more experienced Soldiers can be difficult to teach because of their level of experience. We have to take what they know and teach them to a certain level.”
Just as every Soldier comes from a different level of experience, each has their own reason for attending the course. For some, a career change was their motivator, while others looking to the infantry as way to progress their careers.
“I’m taking this course for more career opportunities […] so I can promote, move around, and progress in my career [and have] just more opportunities in general,” Andrews explained.
Staff Sgt. Clint Vervoven, assigned to the Wisconsin National Guard, attended the course for similar reasons.
“It gives me more opportunities for different billets and promotions,” Vervoven said. “The second reason is to become a better Soldier and leader. I want to learn more.”
Vervoven said the course rejuvenated his knowledge of the basics.
“When I first joined the military, we shifted away from these tactics after 9/11. Our focus changed,” he said. “This reminds me of when I was first coming in as a private. We are relearning the basics for being a good NCO and an effective leader.”
Lehmer said his main goal for the students in the course is a solid foundation on which they can build their skills as they move forward as infantrymen.
“I want students to take away that once they’re out of this course they’re not done. This is the bare minimum,” he said. “They’re jumping into the deep end of the pool, and we are just teaching them to tread water. When they go back to their home units, that will get them to the point that they can swim.”