NEWS | April 24, 2016

Recruit Sustainment Program prepares Soldiers

By Spc. Avery Cunningham 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

For many Soldiers, basic training is a pivotal starting point in their military career. In basic training, recruits are taught how to be a Soldier in the U.S. Army and are prepared mentally and physically for their careers. Not everyone makes it through basic training; those who don't are called "training pipeline losses."

To prevent these losses, the Army National Guard designed the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP) to prepare and educate Soldiers for the realities of basic training. Since instituting the program the number of guardsmen discharged during training has reduced.

"What we've done in RSP is we have a controlled environment where the instructors and cadre members are well trained to educate recruits on what they need to focus on for Basic Training," said Capt. John Lescure, Recruit Sustainment Company commander, Vermont National Guard. "They learn how to wear a uniform, they learn the rank, they learn how they're supposed to get paid, and they learn the programs the military has initiated."

"A lot of the skills I learned here I used right off the bat and it helped set me apart," said Pfc. Zebulon Benoit, a Soldier with the Recruit Sustainment Company who has completed his training. Because of the program, Benoit was a step ahead of his peers.

The program is focused on all aspects of the basic training experience. "We try to manage that expectation and make sure they're prepared for the emotional stress that they're going to feel at basic training, and the physical stress that they're going to encounter," said Lescure.

The exercises at the RSP help to further skills that make a Soldier successful. "We do a lot of team building exercises," said Pvt. Hunter Brouillette, a soldier with the Recruit Sustainment Company. "Since I started coming here I learned to work in teams."

Though the program focuses on teaching Soldiers the necessary skills and attitude for excelling in basic, it is also the Soldiers' first introduction to life in the National Guard. "All they've done up to that point is work with a recruiter, go to MEPS (Medical Entrance Processing Station) and that may be all they know of the military," said Lescure.

So the RSP is structured to introduce Soldiers to what is available to them and what jobs there are in the National Guard. "No matter what their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) is we're going to tell them a little bit about that, so they can remain excited while at basic training about coming back to the unit they're going to be assigned to," said Lescure.

Despite the effectiveness of the program, there is still a way for Soldiers to improve. "The more questions you ask, the more you're going to learn. The more you learn, the better prepared you are for when you get there," said Benoit.

Giving Soldiers the opportunity to see outside of the Recruit Sustainment Program helps give them the motivation to finish training. "We've seen a lot of unit commanders, unit first sergeants, platoon sergeants, platoon leaders, come and visit RSP, and we really encourage that because we want these recruits to understand what they're coming back to after they go to basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training)," says Lescure. "What really keeps them going is knowing the unit they're going to go to when they get back."