Through the rest of this year, the Department of the Army Inspector General will tour nearly 40 installations as part of a special inspection of the service’s programs and efforts meant to help new soldiers arrive and adjust to their first duty stations, Army officials confirmed.

The “New Soldier Experience” special inspection has been ongoing since March, said Lt. Col. Randee Farrell, who is Army Secretary Christine Wormuth’s public affairs advisor. Wormuth signed off last year on the “all-encompassing” inspection “of the Army’s process to integrate new Soldiers into our ranks” after the IG recommended it, she added.

“Secretary Wormuth will review the final inspection report to find ways to improve how the Army trains, mentors, and integrates new Soldiers into effective and cohesive teams,” said Farrell in an emailed statement.

The service’s senior leaders have been discussing the need to better integrate new soldiers into their first units as part of their People First and This is My Squad initiatives. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced last year that the Army will establish permanent reception companies at major duty stations beginning in October, with a goal of easing PCS transitions for both new and experienced soldiers alike.

Grinston has repeatedly emphasized that more units need to adequately implement the service’s “sponsorship” program, where gaining units are supposed to assign mentors to new troops to help them through their move and integration into their new unit.

What the ‘special inspection’ entails

Special inspections are IG investigations that aim to identify the causes of systemic issues, according to the Army’s IG regulations. They are not intended to measure compliance with existing practices and standards but rather to evaluate the standards themselves.

According to flyers published ahead of a May visit to Fort Hood, Texas, the IG officials explained that they “intend to examine the new soldier’s experience from initial entry training through their arrival at their initial duty assignment.”

The inspection will include interview, surveys and focus groups across 38 installations, said Farrell. The flyer also noted that some installations will have town hall events. When inspectors visited Hood, they had a town hall for all first-term soldiers in the rank of specialist and below.

IG officials also published a link to two anonymous surveys: one for new soldiers and their family members, and one for company grade leaders who ultimately drive the experience of most of the service’s new soldiers.

The survey for the junior troops asks them to offer their thoughts on everything from their initial training experience, to sponsorship and in-processing at their first assignment, to whether their first-line leadership and access to benefits was conducive to their development as soldiers.

According to the flyer, IG officials are also trying to identify the best practices that individual posts implement, so that they can be shared across the force.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.

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