Page 62 - Jackson Journal
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                  ThThe Price of Victory:
Dealing with Death in Basic Combat Training
 1LT Ivan Conchas with MAJ Paul Stelzer and LTC (P) Randall Wenner
Since opening in 1917, Fort Jackson has trained over five million soldiers. Every year, nearly 50,000 civilian recruits begin the journey
to become American Soldiers. In this journey,
Drill Sergeants and trainees spend a tremendous amount of time together. They form bonds as friends and some consider one another as close
as family. They experience success, failure, and everything in-between. For many of the trainees, Basic Combat Training (BCT) is the first experience away from home, first time sleeping outside, or
first time sharing a bunk or bathroom. In a high stress environment, full of many ‘firsts’, a death
in the formation can shake both Drill Sergeants and trainees to their core. As leaders in this environment, maintaining a proactive approach in managing information, facilitating grief, and providing closure is imperative to coping with the loss of a trainee.
On 21 September 2019, a trainee died of heart
failure while moving from his company to a
field across the street in preparation for physical training. The tragic loss was sudden and not the result of anything that could have been prevented. In one moment, the trainee was jogging; in the next moment, he collapsed while cadre were calling an ambulance.
When an incident as tragic as this happens, there is a standard process for information flow that the Army follows. In this case, the trainee was pronounced dead at a hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, which initiated a separate notification process that did not prioritize the training unit.
In today’s information age, it is not unheard of for superior officers to have access to information long before anyone else.1 However, when dealing with
a trainee death, it certainly is not ideal to have a conversation that concludes with, “Sir, this is the first I’ve heard of that. Let me find out what’s going on.” This is where managing information overload is essential.2
 1) The ‘Information Age’ is regarded as a time in which information has become a commodity that is quickly and widely disseminated and easily available especially through the use of computer technology. Merriam Webster.
2) Information Overload is the overabundance of information. This is commonly referred to, in the military community, as the new ‘fog of war’ where a flood of data challenges the ability to focus on relevant information.
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