One Thousand and One
This week marks the nine-hundredth recorded training platoon the 29th Infantry Division has trained and graduated. For years, nine hundred times and more, the Lighthouse Corps staff have ensured the possibility of recruitment, guiding and dealing with each applicant so that they too were able to become members and know what to do and when to do it. They have hired, trained, provided, and time and time again, made soldiers out of those wanting to enlist in the 29th: five days a week, every week.
Our very own Lt. Col. Wheatley had the following to say about BCT:
"When I think about Lighthouse, the first thing that comes to my mind is just how crazy it is that every member of the 29th has gone through our Basic Combat Training program. Our BCT is one factor that makes our unit what it has been in the past, what it is today, and helps instill the core principles of the 29th Infantry Division. Battalion Headquarters is proud of the entire staff, past and pcresent, and the work they have put in over the last 900 Training Platoons and how well they have overcome the challenges of designing and operating BCT throughout six different games during the history of the 29th Infantry Division. Here's to 900 more, gentlemen, keep up the great work!"
Former Chief of Lighthouse, CW2 Lauritsen, concurs:
"The number of people that have to work behind the scenes so that just a single recruit can enter the unit is incredible. From the enlistment liaisons who make background checks and make sure that our recruits are ready for training and feel at home to the tough love provided by our training staff once training has begun, in order to mold the recruits into model soldiers. All to make sure that we only let in those individuals suited to join our unit. It's truly great."
The Lighthouse Corps today is an impenetrable and efficient one, with CW2 Lauritsen recently passing the torch to T/5 C. Garrett. Over the years, the office has seen many developments providing the corps with the opportunity to get better and more efficient as days go by. It has not always been this way though; while all our training platoons are now nicely numbered in our systems and the term 'Lighthouse Corps' is more than familiar to us today, it was a whole different world back in the days when training platoons first took place.
During its inception, the 29th was not yet familiar with the term 'training platoon'. The Lighthouse Corps itself wasn't even a thing. There were no specific training platoons, recruits were simply known as "trainees" (with a fitting [29th T] tag, 'T' standing for 'Training') and all training was done by one man: TSgt. Glackin. Basic training was only conducted every time there were enough trainees to hold training. Everyone that was in the unit already was assigned to be a graduate of the 'Phantom TP', the 100th Training Platoon. This training platoon included members like the now honorably discharged Lt. Col. Wilson.
The 1st October 2005 marked the creation of the first actual training platoon with set members and schedules: the 101st Training Platoon. While it wasn't originally called a training platoon, simply going by the name of 'October I', it was a step closer to the training platoons that we have today. The reason for that name was that the 29th aimed to host two of these a month, splitting the month in half and having two two-week training platoons each month. Every recruit and member of the training staff were required to show up every single day for two entire weeks. After our leadership at the time realized the immense stress that this put on the training staff, they shortened the length from two weeks to one and formed what is known to us as the 102nd training platoon. They found that this was still too much and, for the 103rd TP, tried out five days. This was deemed the perfect number and so this system became the new standard, with hundreds of training platoons following in the same format.
Weeks and training platoons went by. Originally conducted by the then SSgt. Glackin, SSgt. Otradovec, and SSgt. Pirog, over time our training platoons became more structured and, gradually with each TP, eventually became more uniform. Lighthouse leadership still wasn't a thing at the time, and it solely consisted of the aforementioned instructors who all went to school together. They discussed their plans for BCT over lunch during school hours: the humble beginnings of the Lighthouse Corps.
Not only was the system different but so was the entire atmosphere and the way things were done. Maj. Cooke, who a few years ago was chief of Lighthouse himself, had the following to say about BCT back in the day.
"In the beginning, the 29th was almost unrecognizable from the 29th we know and love today. That started with Lighthouse. It was not uncommon to be yelled at, cursed at, and berated by Senior NCOs that wanted to drill in both respect and fear into prospective members. While many of the activities during BCT would be recognizable to even the most recent Training Platoons, the atmosphere during the sessions was far different from what we see today.
I remember being berated and shortly after session banned by a senior Lighthouse instructor during pub play because I did not follow what I was taught the night before. This was public for all to hear and was humiliating, but I can certainly say I never made that mistake again."
The Battalion executive officer also went on to tell us about the transition period from the way it used to be to something more like what we do today.
"This was par for the course for Lighthouse through the first half of 2007. Sometime during this period, I became an ADI and later a DI, and vowed to remember how it felt for me; how easy it would be to just quit. As more and more of the founding members of Lighthouse retired, a clear directive was issued by the leadership of both Lighthouse and the entire unit to reform and become welcoming and supportive during BCT.
I was proud to participate in this transition, but it was far more complicated than anyone had anticipated. Apart from being difficult to break old habits, the 29th learned that the old-school way of public humiliation kept a lot of the less savory public players out of the unit. As we became more welcoming and supportive, more and more trolls and people who only wanted to hurt the 29th passed BCT."
And so, around 2010, the expectations of BCT and the Lighthouse Training Staff morphed into what we see today, Maj. Cooke tells me.
"BCT is a place for teaching/learning and camaraderie. On a more subtle note, BCT is the primary screening to see if potential members will fit into the mold of the 29th. The training staff have an immense responsibility of learning about these cadets and getting a feel for their intentions and potential disciplinary problems that they may cause.
The 29th ID would not have existed for this long if it wasn't for the incredible work done by the Lighthouse staff during BCT. While the style and personality of BCT has drastically changed, the underlying lessons have only evolved with the change in games. The foundation laid after many years is still what the 29th is built on. Over the next 900 TPs, many more modifications will be made, but the foundation will always remain the same."
While all our current training staff use custom maps for training purposes, this was completely unheard of back in the days of our first training platoons. When we switched to Day of Defeat, we first started off using dod_lighthouse as the map for BCT (hence the 'Lighthouse' Corps). The map proved insufficient and our training staff had to switch maps several times during their training. Can you imagine? Working closely with the training staff and unit headquarters, the Engineer Corps was tasked with the creation of the Fort Meade training map, the map that we still base our current maps off to this day.
A new era was born for the 29th when, on August 4th 2008, the adoption of Darkest Hour was announced after months and months of evaluation and pubbing on the Darkest Hour server set up a few months before the announcement. Lighthouse worked tirelessly to create a new training program for this new, higher-end game and on the Sunday of August 24th, the 236th Training Platoon would set the foundation for many more training platoons to come in this new game on our very own Fort Meade that had been recreated in the Red Orchestra mod by the then T/5 Cranston in conjunction with the Engineer Corps. This training platoon was led by the then Sgt. Thompson and two recruits joined the ranks of the 29th.
In March 2009, shortly after the transition to Darkest Hour, the first GMT training platoon was conducted at the same time we have them now: 7PM GMT. These platoons, commonly referred to as 'Euro' platoons, were created to suit players from Europe who before this date would have to attend training sessions at the regular EST times, somewhere in the middle of the night for them. FSgt. Egerton was one of the drill instructors in charge of these 'Euro' training platoons and had the following to say: "There is a greater mix of cultures and races now in the 29th, which I feel is a great bonus [...] it shows what can be achieved by the 29th, that everyone is everyone else's brother-in-arms, not Joe Blogs from such and such country." Not only had the 29th conducted 250 training platoons, but they had also processed over 1150 enlistments. Great achievements for sure.
On December 6th 2009, the 300th Training Platoon commenced, led by the then SSgt. Conrad. At the time, Cpl. Brewer said "With such an accomplishment, I truly believe that this unit will be around for many more years, enough to celebrate a TP 400, 500, maybe even 600." And nothing but right he was, only now we're four hundred training platoons ahead of the highest number he mentioned. Little over a year later, the 350th TP was celebrated meaning we had now conducted 'official' BCT a quarter of a thousand times! T/5 Pandy, the Chief of Lighthouse at the time, was in charge of this one.
A hundred weeks after the 300th, on December 4th 2011, the 400th Training Platoon started at Fort Meade - the map that had housed BCT since early 2008. This training platoon was led by Cpl. Ramos and graduated two new Privates.
It's September 13th 2013: an announcement popped up saying the 29th would be expanding to the Arma 2 mod Invasion '44 and Red Orchestra 2/Rising Storm after months of play-testing the aforementioned two games, meaning BCT was now conducted in those two games as well. Darkest Hour remained beside the new games. On February 1st 2014, however, development of Invasion '44 was canceled due to the release of Arma 3, making it increasingly harder to pursue what we do in the 29th, player versus player. From February 2nd 2014, the 29th included Arma 3 in its games as a replacement.
Moving on to October of 2015, the Lighthouse Corps marked its ten-year anniversary under the command of the then 2Lt. Jacobsson, an important milestone. Two years later, we're here, facing another important milestone.
Over the past twelve years, Lighthouse has found itself pushed down, devitalized, and broken, but today it is standing strong and flourishing more than ever.
"Lighthouse is not just the oldest office in the unit; it's been the historically best indicator for future leadership. All the qualities that we look for in our training staff (confidence, control, dedication, fairness, and adaptability just to name a few) are the same qualities that make exceptional leaders. Once upon a time, you had to act as Chief of Lighthouse during the completion of your OCS, if that says anything about your expectations for leadership," said MSgt. Conrad.
"We've come a long way since then, but Lighthouse still grows leaders, both in new cadets and in staff."
Recently appointed Chief of Lighthouse, T/5 C. Garrett, had the following to say: "I am sure many of you are aware, but for those that aren't, Lighthouse, as well as the 29th as a whole, is about to hit a huge milestone: the quadruple digits. This is by no means a small feat; it has only been achieved by the countless hours of hard work by many, many people. Everyone in the unit has helped in one way or another to reach this goal. This accomplishment only belongs to one group: the 29th."
We thank anyone in Lighthouse Corps, past and present, for taking part in building the solid foundation of the 29th Infantry Division and providing us with quality training and education for twelve years now. On November 26th 2007 we celebrated a hundred; now, it is our honor to celebrate nine hundred. Here's to many more training platoons to come!
Written by T/5 Vonk
Edited by Cpl. Laird & Sgt. Svenson