Who told you to think?


Command Sgt. Maj. John R. Calpena speaks at the 2010 Association of the United States Army convention, held Oct. 25-27 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Sgt. Angelica Golindano)

Who told me to think? My drill sergeant!

That’s a key goal of basic training, according to Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena, the top enlisted soldier at initial military training. Calpena said the post-Vietnam Army sought blind obedience and instilled fear of authority. The problem was soldiers went from a place where drill sergeants had total control to a place where they were expected to take total responsibility.

Now, the focus is to produce soldiers who are trained to think. That means instead of simply shouting “Yes, drill sergeant!” when you have no idea what he means, these trainees will engage with the instructors to gain their knowledge.

In the words of Calpena:

You don’t have to force obedience. You don’t have to force them to be like us. They want to be like us. They want to serve. What can’t you do with that heart?”

Calpena says if done right, this will not diminish discipline, but rather build confidence. What do you think?


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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