Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hornet's Nest...Go Back

My former weightlifting partner here at work is an Oregon NG 1/Lt. Aside from being a yeti in size, and complete freak when it comes to pushing weights around, there is no doubt he is a fine and dedicated officer. He worked for me briefly when I first arrived here on campus, but he has since advanced through other opportunities, and has moved on. He spent a year in Saudi, and Iraq, and while being a “combat engineer,” he was been picked up by a grunt unit, and it appears they will be keeping him for some time…good call on their part. Oh, did I mention All-American tight end in NCAA Div III? Obviously, no slouch.

My buddy just gets back from Air Assault training; the class (02-05) went from 6 Apr to 17 Apr. He had a good time, and he followed that up with the Rappel Master course. Great time, great pictures. In telling his story, however something caught my ear, and that is what this post is about…turn back now…dangerous posting ahead.

Of the 339 people who started that course, only 77 graduated. Of the 190 who were left on the last day, only the 77 who completed the 12-mile road march, graduated. I don’t know how else to put this…this is a monumental waste of assets.

Assuming an average travel expense of $500 per person, that was roughly $130,000 in wasted plane tickets…including $57,000 flushed down the toilet on the last day alone. I am not one to encourage lightweight training, but a hundred thousand dollars for eleven days of the harassment package, and no jelly doughnut at the end, is a waste. I understand that the students who washed out of the road march have the opportunity to meet a follow-on class and complete the course, but this would be at additional travel dollars…another $50,000 roughly? This only compounds the expense of the class.

Did I mention the per diem costs? If you figure those who washed out are pretty evenly divided on their washout dates, that’s about $27,000 in lost per diem. For those who missed the road march, on the last day, that would be another, roughly, $44,000. How about the cost of the active duty pay…with benefits? $100 per day per student? My abacus is melting.

Did I mention the wasted assets? Let’s let the pre-road march numbers stand on their own, as typical, but what about all the extra training assets that were consumed getting an extra 114 to that road march, then flunking them out. Instructor salaries, building costs (fair market rental, depreciation, etc), helo sorties (a couple thousand an hour per helo, crew salaries, airframe hours consumption, capital replacement costs on the wasted hours) add up to thousands dollars above what has already been mentioned.

Did I mention this amounts to a stunning 23% graduation rate? For a follow on school…are you kidding me? I am sorry, was this SF training? Seal training? Force Recon? Flight School?

Did I mention the ridiculous irony of it? We spent, sorry …wasted, hundreds of thousands of dollars to train soldiers in Air Assault, only to wash them out, after all the skill specific training, on a road march. Clever.

Here are the problems as I see them.

Units need to do a better job of screening candidates before shipping them of to school, and 109 of the washouts here occurred on day zero…an incredible waste of assets for pointy-end-of-the-spear guys who often bemoan lack of funding and training dollars. Unit commanders need to be held responsible for the performance of their candidates. My buddy admits his commander just signed of the physical requirements certification for him, but I can understand why. What about the CO’s who obviously waved at the paperwork as it was going by their desk, and resulted in the 109 washouts on day zero? Do the words dereliction, gross negligence, and incompetence mean anything? If your candidates aren’t qualified, don’t send them.

Follow-on training is skill enhancement training, not an incremental increase in one’s road to a black belt of some kind. Each follow-on school does not have to carve its niche to be “tougher” or “badder” than the next. This may be true for some very specific skill sets, but highly unlikely that it is necessary to become familiar and proficient in air assault techniques. Maybe a 43% washout rate, going into the road march, is acceptable for this course, but it still seems a little high. I understand the target class size was 220…I can see accepting 230, maybe 240, but accepting 50% (339/220) more applicants than boat spaces almost ensures a minimum washout rate of 33% (119/339), and another gross figure as far as waste is concerned. Don’t program this waste into your course!!!

This school specifically, needs to get over itself and provide a training service to the Army that has value. No general skills, follow-on school can call itself a success with a washout rate of 77%. Only 39 students failed on the technical aspects of the course…this could have been a completion rate of over 88%. OK, wash out the zero day guys, and the completion rate still would have been over 82%. The curriculum, the program of instruction, the screening processes, the staff, the focus, the mission…all need to be re-examined in order to determine how this kind of waste is possible. I may want to provide realistic and challenging training, but I am failing the Army if I can only graduate 23% from an Air Assault course.

I realize that a patch/badge is involved here, and I’ve been in the rod and gun club, but there is no way I can view this as anything other than waste and mismanagement. Does this course stand-alone in this regard? I doubt it.

This post is about value…if I were a unit commander, I would not send another soul to this course. I would stand a 77% chance of wasting my money. Shame. This kind of waste is what sends congressmen clamoring for General’s heads, and in some ways…I can’t blame them. You can’t belly-ache for more money, then pour it down the drain. This needs fixin.


Air Force Voices said...

Great got me started and I had to post something on Air Force Voices.

I linked your post...

You are right...this is a real Hornet's Nest.

Papa Ray said...


Your right on, its a waste, but according to other milbloggers I am reading daily, the PT requirement is not something everyone is excited about.

Well, I don't think I know of but a handful of guys that were in my [second] unit [LLRP] that running, humping, climbing and living off the land came naturally to.

There was no course to qualify [incountry transfers] so on the first day I reported (after being shuffled around by air, truck and foot, for two days)the butter bar I reported to told me to drop my duffle and come with him.

He then proceeded to run me with full field gear (minus hard hat) until I dropped about three hours later.

He said, find a bunk.

Army life is a bitch, but for a reason.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Pdr3Abn said...

I may have to eat this later but I'm gonna post it anyway. I attended and completed AAS in Apr 1998 (31-98) at Fort Campbell, KY.

99% of the Class was students from the 101st ABN Division, it was a Division requirement at the time for 101st personnel to complete the course. As far as I am aware there were 5 AF guys including me that were TDY for the course, all the rest were permanent party.

In my case there wasn't alot of funding lost to travel, but there could have been if we had failed.

I don't have any solid numbers from my class because it has been a few years. But I would speculate that 40% of the troops that washed out on 0 day were 101st troops who had been there several times and had no desire to attend or complete the course.

What was more shocking to me was the numbers that were dropped on day 1, after completing the grueling task on 0 day about half the class was dropped for demerits during equipment shake down. Simple items(sock with holes, waterproof bag with pin holes, trouser pocket not buttoned in ruck etc) that could have been quickly corrected during lunch or after training ceased for the day. This caused the most dismissals during my class.

My cousin who was a SC/CC advised me that they kept pushing the troops out to the class until they complete it or ??(Don't recall if there were any repercussions)

I loved the course and think I got more discipline (Attention to Detail) out of that class than any other military course I've ever attended. But me and my AF contemporaries also went there to complete the course, failure was not an option.

Now if you want to talk about fraud, waste and abuse you need to look into the 3P071 Seven Level School. Now that was a waste of funds. But that's a whole other ballgame.

FinnCanuck said...

Some years ago, I was attending an Army class at a local RTI (regional training institute) where upon arrival, a soldier was sent home for failing the hgt / wgt standards.
Shame on the home unit.

I was at the First Sgt.Course when a soldier upon arrival, failed the APFT (army physical fitness test.)Sent home.
Shame on the home unit.

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