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                   Farewell “Shark Attack”
1SG Ernesto Velez
 The shark attack is a well-known method of instruction that began in the Army’s draft days. The attacks were considered a right- of-passage for Drill Sergeants to evaluate the basic trainee’s ability to handle stress from the second they step off the bus. The Drill Sergeants would single out the undesirables by emulating the concept of sharks attacking, circling recruits, instilling fear through excessive yelling, physical demands, and organized chaos. This method of training has outlived its lifespan, allowing a more disciplined and structured pick-up method.
I believe the shark attack method has lasted for so long because it has “always been.” The method that has been used since the start of the draft, with no doctrine supporting it and no desire for change. There is no end objective to shark attacks, no purpose other than to instill fear. Another problem with a shark attack is they are contrary to the Army’s core values. Basic trainees need not perform out of useless fear but perform out of loyalty and trust to the leaders and teammates. There needs to be a level of respect, honor, and integrity between the trainees and the leaders. Shark attacks fail at setting the foundation of the Army’s core values.
In 2007 I was a Drill Sergeant at Fort Benning during the surge in Iraq. I already had two combat tours. Our focus was to prepare trainees for combat. On pick-up day, they would load the bus; we had them close their eyes and place their heads down. The buses would take the longest route back to our company to confuse them. Once on the ground, the shark attack began. We
would break them down and put stress on them right away. At a point in the cycle, we would start to build them back up. During my time as a Drill Sergeant, we had trainees who wanted to serve and deploy. As a First Sergeant of a BCT Company 14 years after being a Drill Sergeant, I see the need for change. We must evolve with the times to meet today’s objectives and needs. A new pick-up style doesn’t mean we are getting softer as many veterans and Soldiers may suggest, but we are getting smarter with a substantial experience from the beginning.
With the new pick-up style, more discipline
and structure are involved and an objective that desires to be met. The overall goal to begin the pick-up process in basic combat training is to
instill belief from the start. Belief is having trust, faith, and confidence in someone or something.
To initiate proper team building, the trainees
will endure a new pick-up method with physical and mental approaches that will allow them to believe in themselves, their teammates, and the leaders in front of them. This will enable trust
to be established from the start, allowing basic trainees to perform and grow with the mentality of teamwork and mission success. The objectives of building trust, establishing values, and connecting as a team are essential to the start of Army basic training.
1SG Valez is the First Sergeant of Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, 193rd Infantry Brigade.
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