Battlefield Iraq: How War has Changed Army Boot Camp, Part 1

Battlefield Iraq: How War has Changed Army Boot Camp, Part 1

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Randall Jeppesen, KSL NewsradioPush-ups, running, and marching are still a big part of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., but with the Iraq war, life in the barracks is getting more high-tech.

There is a virtual shooting range with video screen walls. It looks like we're in Baghdad with a suspicious van approaching a checkpoint.

At the range, soldiers learn to distinguish friend from foe. It's also a money-saver because every real machine-gun bullet costs 21 cents.

Recruits also learn urban fighting techniques that a few years ago were only for the Special Forces. Sgt. Kerr says, "[There is] smoke going off, people firing around you. We'll also add some civilian aspects to it where they are yelling and throwing stuff to make it more stressful."

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One soldier told KSL Newsradio, "An event happens in Baghdad today, we now have the ability to feed that information into the school house, change our learning environment."

The lessons also deal with war zone civilians. "People over there are what we call fence riders. They are getting told one thing; they see us do another thing," says Kerr. "But if now we come up to them and act rude to them, they are going to believe those guys when we want them to believe us that we are there to help them."

Mechanics in advanced training learn to rip out and quickly replace an engine because keeping a convoy moving could mean life and death. Pvt. Lockhart says, "You're pretty much on the front lines repairing anything that breaks down. Anything that rolls we fix it."

One thing you won't find much anymore is a lot of screaming drill sergeants. A commander told KSL Newsradio, "I really chafe when people say basic training is going soft. It's as challenging as it has ever been. But the challenge is in the task. We do yell less."

So what motivates these young recruits to sign the dotted line during war? Pfc. Taylor says, "You know, getting money for college." Pvt. Josh Medina says, "I was a manager at McDonald's in Caldwell, Idaho. Lazy, I was lazy."

Spc. Austin Stoker recently graduated from BYU. He says, "I had family in the Revolutionary War and also World War II. And I think it's my turn to give back to them for the freedoms we have."

We also found Pfc. Courtney Barton from West Valley City, who when asked about basic training tells it how it is. She says, "It sucks really bad. But it's not really that hard to make it through it if you just put your mind to it and tell yourself you can."

They are the new generation of soldiers for a different type of war.


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