35th Engineers answer questions from future Soldiers virtually

Brian Hill FORT LEONARD WOOD
Six Company A, 35th Engineer Battalion trainees and one of their drill sergeants spent two hours on a virtual teleconference Dec. 9 answering questions and giving advice to recruits from across Missouri, Kansas and Illinois as part of a future Soldier program.

Six trainees assigned to Company A, 35th Engineer Battalion, and one of their drill sergeants met virtually with more than 20 recruits from across Missouri, Kansas and Illinois Dec. 9 to provide insights into the Initial Entry Training experience.

Being just two days shy of graduating from One Station Unit Training, the trainees were able to give advice on everything from how the recruits can physically and mentally prepare to what they should and shouldn’t bring with them to Fort Leonard Wood.

According to Staff Sgt. Mohamed Fouad, the Alpha Company drill sergeant who participated in the video conference, the recruits were “super eager to ask questions” — the event lasted more than two hours.

“A lot of the questions were mostly about what can they do to prepare, what can they do to be successful, what can they do to stand out,” he said. “So, all good questions to help make themselves successful. We just pretty much gave them the answers to the test.”

Fouad said he felt like most of the recruits were trying to get “the hottest news” on what they should expect from training while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“The trainees were great about telling them how you just have to be flexible,” he said. “Everything’s changing every day.”

Many of the recruits had questions for the trainees about how they should be physically preparing for training, and Spc. Samuel Diaz — one of the older trainees in the company — remembered offering some advice on how best to avoid injury.

“I told them to really focus on different types of running — long distance and sprints,” he said. “I said to do a lot of rucking to get your back and your legs prepared, but also that recovery is a big thing. I know a lot of people don’t do enough stretching.”

When one of the recruits asked the trainees to comment on the biggest challenges they’ve overcome, Pfc. Lisha Fairbairn spoke about breaking her leg.

“That was a huge challenge for me because I had to overcome that setback and I had to learn how to be resilient,” she said. “That’s one of the big things they teach us here is how to bounce back from challenges — not giving up was a really important lesson I learned.”

While physical hardships are a reality during Army IET, Pvt. Regime Brinley said she reminded the recruits that mental hardships are another hurdle many trainees have to cope with, and building short-term goals is important.

“It’s very tiring; you’re exhausted 24/7,” she said. “You have to look at the 5-meter target, I was explaining to them, instead of the 300-meter target. If you have a really good battle buddy, they’ve got your back. And if you need anything, you have your drill sergeant. They’re here to help you mentally and physically.”

All of the participants said they enjoyed helping future Soldiers prepare for what’s ahead of them.

“I wish I’d had something like this where I could’ve asked Soldiers who were just graduating,” Fairbairn said. “As a new recruit, it is really beneficial to be able to ask questions from someone who’s just gone through it.”

One of the organizers of the event, Lt. Col. Keith Baranow, Kansas City Recruiting Battalion commander, called it a “win-win” for everyone involved.

“It’s extremely valuable,” he said. “We’d like to continue the partnership and someday expand it to include events beyond the virtual space.”