By the time Missouri National Guard recruits arrive to their basic training site, they have already received an introduction to several aspects of the military culture that places them ahead of many of their peers.
Through the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP), newly-enlisted soldiers go through a six-phase training regimen designed to help them seamlessly integrate into the military.
"The recruits don't arrive at their units until they complete their basic and their AIT (Advanced Individual Training)," said Sgt. 1st Class Tony Shoop, a trainer who has been with the program for six years.
"When they finally do arrive at their units, they'll be fully trained and ready to hit the ground running," he added.
During the various phases of the program, recruits receive instruction in such areas as rank identification, first aid, drill and ceremony, proper wear of the military uniform, navigation techniques and the chain of command.
"In the past," Shoop said, "we've received word from the basic training drill instructors that the Guard soldiers tend to be much better prepared than their active Army and Reserve component counterparts because of this program."
Missouri Guard recruit Matthew Hopkins, a junior at Blair Oaks High School, notes the program not only helps prepare him for the active duty training he'll soon receive, but is an outlet by which to accomplish his personal goals.
"I've always wanted to serve my country as it runs in my family (Hopkins father is also a member of the Missouri National Guard), but completing the program will also help me pay for college," he said.
Courtney Oppermann, a 2011 graduate of School of the Osage, said that although she attended her basic training last summer, the program helps her maintain a military mindset and ensures she is ready to successfully complete her advanced training this June.
"I like the military structure and lifestyle, and this program helps us (recruits) maintain our motivation and commitment," she said.
For more information on the National Guard's RSP program, please visit www.nationalguard.com/careers/recruit-sustainment-program-rsp.
Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.