Infantry: July 25, 2004

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The U.S. Army is contacting U.S. Navy sailors, or those who have been discharged  in the past 90 days, offering them jobs in the army. Its always been possible for enlisted personnel to switch to another service, after you have finished an enlistment. Many have taken advantage of this over the years, and thousands of men and women retire from a military career that included time spent in two, and sometimes three, different services. The navy plans to shed 18,000 sailors in the next eight years. Most of those going are in job categories that are overstaffed, or are the lowest performing people in their skill group. In addition, there are thousands of sailors getting discharged every year who are still interested in a military career, but were unhappy with the navy for one reason or another. 

The army has finally realized just how valuable these people are, and is going after them. Their prior service, even if in a quite different part of the military, still leaves the potential soldiers with proven and essential qualities. These include discipline, a lot of basic military skills (even sailors know how to march, and deal with all the administrative detail found in any military organization) and that most valuable of skills, years of experience performing in a military environment. Moreover, anyone in uniform has a service record, which is a collection of documents detailing their performance while in uniform. The army will have a good idea of what they are getting just by looking at the sailors service record. And they are getting people with something that cannot be bought with money, but only with time; experience. 

The army is willing to offer attractive deals, like keeping their navy rank, for sailors possessing skills the army needs, like cryptology, fire control, air traffic control and mechanical repair. The army is also looking to recruit sailors for combat jobs, and thinks it can get some from those who are young and only served one enlistment (four years), to sign up for the infantry. The navy recruits it SEAL commandos from among its own sailors, and only a few of those who apply, make it all the way through to graduation. So the army knows there are a lot of sailors who are up for something a little more physical and dangerous. The army combat forces are also benefiting from a lot of good media exposure lately. Despite the number of casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, potential recruits can do the math and know that the risks of getting hurt are a lot lower now than they were in past wars. This is why the army has been able to keep the ranks of its combat units full of new recruits. But getting the ex-sailors means you have new recruits who already have four years of military experience. That means you have someone who, once they have completed a few months infantry training, are much more ready to take leadership positions in their units. To encourage sailors to sign on for combat jobs, the army is offering bonuses of up to $10,000. Sailors who were Gunners Mates already know how to handle artillery, and are easy to convert to army artillerymen. 

All sailors will have to go through a four week Warrior Training Course to give them the combat and field living (camping out) stuff they never got in navy boot camp. In addition, they will have a chance to get used to army uniforms, rank insignia and customs in general. The atmosphere of the Warrior Training will be les frantic than the usual boot camp, since all the students already have several years of military experience and know what to do and when to do it. After Warrior Training, the ex-sailors who are taking on jobs very similar, or identical, to their old navy ones, will go on to their first assignment. The rest, who require training for new jobs, will go straight to the appropriate army school. 

The army is working to cut out a lot of administrative hassles that have, until now, been required for a sailor to join the army. Its already the case that a navy officer can, after signing a few documents, move right over into the army. But some rules and regulations have to be changed for the enlisted transferees. The army is particularly looking at sailors who have achieved the ranks of E-4 to E-6 (on the E-1 to E-9 scale). Most sailors, who are on the ball, will make at least E-4 in a four year enlistment, and outstanding people will make E-5 or, rarely, E-6. The army will arrange for the sailors to keep their rank, although not their time in grade (the amount time they have held that rank, which is important in getting the next promotion.)

The army has already gotten a lot of interest from sailors interested in making the switch. In a year, after the first few hundred sailors have gone through the program, the Internet will see to it that every sailor in the navy will be able to find out how it all worked out. If the sailors converted to soldiers are happy with their experience, the army will have an easier time bringing in even more people from the navy. If not, well, at least they tried.


 


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