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Army Ends ‘Shark Attacks’ in Basic Training

Washington Report

The Army has decided to end one of the more aggressive tactics drill sergeants use on recruits in basic combat training. 

Under new rules, drill sergeants are no longer allowed to perform the “shark attack” — a training tool used to induce stress in new recruits. 

A shark attack occurs when a group of drill sergeants surround a single recruit and yell in their face, often demanding push-ups or other exercises.

The practice is a holdover from the days when many new soldiers were draftees. 

"This activity, however, does not instill the spirit of the infantry; it betrays the innate trust between teammates and, worse, betrays the crucial bond of trust with our leaders,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Fortenberry, the top enlisted soldier at the School of Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia. “That's not how we want soldiers to view our NCOs.”

To replace the shark attack, drill instructors will now be guiding recruits through a series of training and evaluation exercises known collectively as The First 100 Yards. During this training period, recruits will be broken down into platoons and made to complete a series of tasks such as moving equipment, all while being quizzed on Army information.

The purpose of the new training event is to build a sense of cohesion between the recruits in each platoon and instill the required mindset to be successful in basic combat training.

The First 100 Yards also encompasses weapons demonstrations and physical training events to help the recruits become familiar with the Army Combat Fitness Test, which becomes the physical fitness test of record on Oct. 1.

"It's completely changed the dynamic of how we have done Basic Combat Training for the past 50-60 years,” Fortenberry said. “This is an all-volunteer Army, and we need to focus on building trust, teaching values, and connecting to them.”

The First 100 Yards has already become part of the curriculum for new drill sergeants at the Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. 

The decision to drop the shark attack was made earlier this year, when COVID-19 precautions forced senior Army leaders to reevaluate many of their training techniques.