Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Classic Private Moment...

I gave my Soldiers a short written test tonight on some basic knowledge that they hadn't covered in a while. I used it as remedial PT and each question they missed out of a 20 question test was 10 pushups.

This was an actual answer given by one PVT... and believe it or not, he was serious. I hope he misunderstood the question.

Question: What action do you take if you are walking alone, in uniform, on post and you hear Retreat being played?

Answer: I would low crawl to cover.

(For those who don't know... Retreat is the music played just prior to the lowering of the flag on post. It signifies the end of the duty day and the proper action is to assume the position of attention and remain there until Retreat ends and they begin to play To the Colors while they lower the flag. That is when the Soldier would render the hand salute.)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Running and cadence...

"When you're running, what do you think about?"

Good question. What you think about while you run has a lot to do with whether you keep going or not for a beginning runner. Ten years ago in OSUT I remember that when I got tired on a run I would consciously start looking around at the scenery to take my mind off of the pain.

Between then and now, after running long distances had become a lot more fun, I used to mainly think about music. Something with a good hard driving beat to keep your feet moving. The actual music changes each year, but some that I remember in particular is White Zombie and Pantera back in Haiti 1995. (Those still work. especially the White Zombie because it has a slower, loping sort of sound than Pantera.)

Nowadays I mostly focus on calling cadence. I rarely have a chance to run on my own any more. When I was a new drill, the problem was that I didn't know a whole lot of cadences, so I was only good for about a mile before I started sounding boring. Now I have plenty of cadence to go for 2 or 3 miles, but the problem isn't boring the Privates, but boring myself. They love it and I can fire them up pretty well, but I get tired of calling the same old things every cycle. I try to "freestyle" more and more and sometimes write my own stuff. Actually some of the ones I always call are either things I made up or ones that I adapted and made better.

Of course, while we run in formation with Privates, you also have to think about maintaining your target pace, policing up fallouts, motivating potential fallouts, keeping your formation squared away, and keeping the whole group fired up so they sound good

Since I'm on the subject, let me get up on my soapbox for a minute.

If you are a senior leader in the Army or any other service, don't neglect the esprit de corps runs. I know that ability groups and intervals are the best bang for the buck when it comes to fitness, but fitness isn't the only thing you want in a good unit. (It's one of the main things, but not the only thing.)

Running an occasional long distance run (5-10 miles, depending on your unit's fitness level) builds esprit de corps, develops teamwork, relieves stress, increases endurance, and gives variety to your PT program. It also builds confidence in Privates who have never ran that far before.

But what got me started here is the fact that we have Drill Sergeants showing up all the time who can't and won't call cadence on PT runs. I can understand if you're not an expert. I wasn't when I arrived, although I did well enough to not embarrass myself, but a lot of soldiers apparently make it all the way to SGT and SSG without ever calling any cadence whatsoever. These cadences are rarely written down, and even if they are, they have to be practiced to sound good. From a historical perspective, they are a valuable piece of military tradition and have to be sung and heard if they are gonna be passed on to the next generation of NCOs. It makes no difference if they are recorded on paper and sitting on a shelf somewhere if nobody calls them anymore.

Certain Drills and NCOs have signature cadences that they call more often than others. There's a marching cadence about Christopher Columbus that I hadn't heard since DS Snyder called it 10 years ago when I was a basic trainee. I call it all the time now, just so the privates will hear it and hopefully remember it 10 years from now when they become Drill Sergeants.

Sometimes the same cadence will have slight differences that will give you clues to where they learned it.
I actually had a guy ask me one time where I went to basic because I called a certain cadence a certain way. I told him and he seemed disappointed because he thought I must have had a Drill Sergeant Hutch, but it was the wrong unit. Turns out, SFC Hutch was my platoon sergeant in Hawaii right after the came off the trail.

I guess what I’m saying is, developing junior leaders includes giving them the opportunity (and forcing them if necessary) to call both marching and running cadences. It’s only hard until they get past the fear of embarrassing themselves, and the best way to do that is to embarrass themselves a few times and realize that it’s not that big a deal. Once it becomes second nature, it becomes fun and you’ll eventually have soldiers fighting for the chance to get out there.