US Army drill sergeants, among the most feared officers in the military, tone down their training methods as the demands of war and recruitment change.
Fort Jackson, S.C.
Three tours in Iraq, as well as growing up on the streets of the Bronx, N.Y., has prepared Eddie Carabello well for his current task: In essence, whipping a bunch of no-good, Xbox-playing, iPod-listening, TV-generation-types into steely warriors. Fast.
"Whatever you do, do not embarrass me!" bellows the US Army drill sergeant at a cohort of freshly shorn recruits on the first day of basic training. Sergeant Carabello's trademark raspy voice booms through the Carolina pitch pine. His Smokey-the-bear "campaign" hat is tilted low over a scowling brow. "Don't ever leave your battle buddy behind, comrade!" he shouts at a soldier who has returned from the latrine alone.
Carabello, believe it or not, represents a softer, more sensitive drill sergeant. Back in the old days, he probably wanted to tattoo your behind. Now he just wants you not to embarrass him. Carabello is part of a significant but subtle change in one of the most feared and caricatured roles in the US military – the burr-headed officers who train young Army recruits for combat.
Let's be clear right up front: The "new" drill sergeants are not white-glove types. They still play the full thespian range – deprecator in chief, obstacle course bully, mess hall heckler, and all-around merry antagonist.
But new battlefield challenges, coupled with the realities of recruiting, are forcing Carabello and his fellow drill sergeants to dial down their methods. Gone are the days of instructors "getting physical" with recruits. Hazing rituals are out. Even the name-calling has changed: Instructors are supposed to use "warrior" or "private" or the recruit's last name when addressing individual soldiers rather than any abusive language.
"We used to be much meaner," says former Army drill Sgt. Veran Hill, now a civilian community affairs officer at Fort Jackson.
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