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                   My father always said a first impression was important when meeting someone for the first time because you only get one
chance to do it. He said to “shake the other person’s hand firmly, look them square in the eye, and
greet them with professionalism and enthusiasm.” Doing this gives them the initial assurance they have met someone they can trust and work towards a common goal. The essential elements of what
he described to me – professional, firm, direct – are the same elements that should be practiced no matter what the engagement is, regardless of scope or magnitude. Given that, the same should hold true when meeting America’s sons and daughters for the first time at their Basic Combat Training (BCT) unit. They should encounter
a direct, firm, and professional reception and integration. It should demonstrate the trust, faith, and confidence that they should have in the Army as an institution, embodied by the Drill Sergeants and Cadre members they encounter. Quite simply put, the Shark Attack has outlived its life-span, and when one pauses to analyze it, is it really the first impression our future Soldiers should have been receiving all along?
The Shark Attack was first established during the Vietnam War draft era when Drill Sergeants needed to establish dominance and a level of intimidation over unwilling draftees. Although the Army
transitioned from the draft to the all-volunteer force we have today, the Shark Attack endured.
It was never codified in doctrine or formalized
as a requirement, but it remained, becoming
an unofficial rite of passage. The Shark Attack
still maintained its dominance and intimidation criteria. Still, it was also justified as an event to establish a chaotic environment that was physically and mentally stressful for individuals. Suppose specific individuals reacted poorly or incorrectly
to direction while in the stressful environment. In that case, that is where Drill Sergeants would smell blood in the water and descend upon the individual by focusing on them until they conformed to the commands being given. This is where and how authority and discipline were to be established.
Again, looking back on it, is this the approach that should be taken when indoctrinating a new group of prospective Soldiers to the Army? This first impression to meeting the Army probably had them asking questions like “why am I being singled out as an individual?” or “why are we lifting bags over our heads and running in there a purpose to this?” or “is this the team I joined?” These are not the questions we would want our future Soldiers asking themselves as we meet them for the first time.
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