By Olivia Rigby
As Generation Z is getting older, there are more and more Gen Z in the military. Gen Z is the generation that follows Millennials, and they’re generally the ones born between the years 1996-2010. Those in this generation are the first to experience digital technology from a young age. Gen Z also exhibits a lot of positive traits that can be great for military service, such as being risk-averse, self-restrained, and fairly well-behaved. But with all these good traits, Army drill sergeants are still finding it tough to train some of these new Gen Z recruits. Basic training is being remodeled because of the increasing population of Gen Z in the military; keep reading to learn more about what the Army is changing in their basic training.

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Gen Z in the Military: A New Generation of Troops

Gen Z is the next generation to join the U.S. military. But while in basic training in the Army, drill sergeants found that Gen Z did not respond well to the stereotypical drill sergeant yelling. Staff Sergeant Krista Osbourne, the Army’s 2022 Drill Sergeant of the Year, stated, “The aggression, screaming, yelling, the excessive physical punishments... they're not receptive to that at all,” when referring to training new Gen Z recruits. Because of this, the Army is changing their training tactics.

Thunder Run

Getting yelled at in the military, at least in basic training in the Army, is now becoming a thing of the past thanks to Gen Z. In 2020, the Army got rid of their “Shark Attack” training exercise. “Shark Attack” consisted of drill sergeants swarming new recruits, screaming at them, and causing physical and emotional stress for the new recruits. When the Army relied on draftees to fill their barracks, this practice was somewhat useful in weeding out draftees who were unfit for service. But now, that practice is outdated and not necessary, especially as recruitment is hitting an all-time low. Instead, the Army initiated the “Thunder Run,” which consists of recruits transferring a set of equipment from one area to another with their teammates and arranging the equipment in the same configuration. This exercise provides the same effect as the “Shark Attack;” new recruits learn to trust each other as well as their leadership.

So, Why Do Drill Sergeants Yell?

Military screaming is a stereotype of the American Armed Forces, and not necessarily for a good reason. Typically, drill sergeants yell because their drill sergeants yelled at them. But with Gen Z in the barracks, these old, cyclical tactics are changing. Gen Z values leaders who they know can be trusted and won’t make promises they can’t keep. For many Gen Z-ers, the drill sergeant military screaming wasn’t helping build trust between recruits and leaders. So, instead of the Army focusing on yelling to toughen up recruits and build trust, they’re focusing more on physical training. The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) centers more on heavy weightlifting for recruits. Instead of just things like running, push-ups, and sit-ups, the Army is looking at exercises like deadlifting and dragging a heavy sled. This new test also focuses on marksmanship tests and teaching recruits to reload under pressure. Many drill sergeants have had to do a lot of hands-on training with new recruits who have little-to-no previous experience with weightlifting or shooting. These new practices have shown to be incredibly effective with Gen Z in building trust between them and leadership.

Thanks, Gen Z!

To all future military generations, be sure to send a “thank you” to your older Gen Z military leaders. The members of Gen Z in the military are spearheading a much-needed positive change in the way the military works. Instead of drill sergeant yelling, there’s now drill sergeant teaching to build trust between recruits and the leaders. These new efforts have shown to be incredibly successful for Gen Z; hopefully they stick around!

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The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. | Photo by Terrance Bell | U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs



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