WASHINGTON — The Army is putting into place sweeping changes in its basic training program to prepare recruits for immediate missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times reported in its Wednesday editions.

In what officers describe as the biggest changes to basic training since Vietnam, soldiers whose specialties traditionally kept them far from the front — clerks, cooks, truck drivers and communications technicians — will undergo far more stressful training.

The new training includes additional time dodging real bullets, more opportunities to fire weapons, including heavy machine guns, more time practicing urban combat and sleeping in the field, the Times reported.

Before Iraq, freshly minted soldiers could expect months of additional training in their unit.

But with the Army stretched by long-term deployments, soldiers often are in combat zones within 30 days of being assigned to a unit, and the traditional distinction between hazardous front lines and secure rear areas has vanished, Army officials told the Times.

“There is no front, there is no rear,” Col. Bill Gallagher, commander of the basic combat training brigade at Fort Benning, Ga., told the Times. “Soldiers of all specialties will face direct contact with an adversary. They all have to have a common set of combat skills.”

Senior Army leadership must approve the plan and additional financing must be secured for the changes to become permanent.

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