Tag Archives: Physical Readiness Training

Thoughts on the basics of direct leadership at the platoon and squad level

By 1st Sgt. Mark Grover, Sgt. 1st Class David Chadburn, Sgt. 1st Class Mattheu Lee and Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Rogers

While serving as members of Soldier/NCO of the Month and promotion boards, my platoon sergeants and I noticed a knowledge gap regarding what a noncommissioned officer is and does. Questions such as, “How often should a team leader inspect his Soldiers’ rooms?” received a wide range of answers, although most of the answers seemed to be “weekly.” Focused questions regarding Physical Readiness Training, Troop Leading Procedures, Mission Command and even daily duties of the NCO seemed to yield a variety of responses. It was obvious that the answers were either incorrect or memorized. My platoon sergeants and I discussed the results of the board, then began to scrutinize our infantry troop (part of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, “Dragoons”).

While discussing our knowledge gaps and shortfalls with our squad and team leaders, we identified a need to begin a series of Leader Professional Development classes that target basic duties and responsibilities, a series with a strong theme. We decided to focus on, “What are the powers of the NCO and how does the responsibility inherent in those powers impact the NCO?” It is all well and good to give orders and “be in charge,” but what are the consequences of poor performance? Does one NCO’s lack of performance have a real impact on the rest of the corps? Beginning with a discussion of Physical Readiness Training (PRT), this series will address specific duties and then expand on how those responsibilities play out in our daily lives.

We begin with a caveat: Though a deep knowledge and understanding of publications and TTPs — as well as general competence — is the minimum expected from our NCOs, we also acknowledge that training happens at different paces in different places. Any NCO worth his or her stripes can quote the Army’s definition of the purpose of leadership: “The process of providing purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” TC 7-22.7 lists 11 duties of NCOs on page 5-4. There is myriad guidance between the Training Circulars and ADP 6-22. This paper seeks to provide an easy reference for some of the points made. It is not reasonable to expect every staff sergeant to have read and understood every applicable publication, but it is certainly reasonable to expect leaders to provide classes and training on relevant publications.

What is it an NCO should do?

“Lead” is an overly simplistic answer, and so is “train.” We all know that NCOs lead physical training in the morning, but we seldom take the time to analyze that responsibility. Physical Training (PT) requires that NCOs both lead and train. The following is a discussion on what “leading” and “training” mean with regard to PT. We argue that daily PT sessions require both leading and training in strict accordance with ADP and ADRP 7-0, complete with rehearsals, trainer certification and After-Action Reviews (AARs). Anything less is a missed training opportunity and a failed (though not career-ending) leadership moment.

Officers do not lead the conduct of PT. They prioritize it, block off time on the training calendar, provide a direction and a vision, but do not lead PT. NCOs should treat PT like every other training event and apply the eight-step training model or Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs).[1] More importantly, however, is that we seldom observe squad or team leaders conduct regular TLPs for physical training. The conduct of physical training is often taken for granted, although an exceptional unit will have a PT calendar posted and discussed at weekly training meetings. Regardless of published calendars, NCOs who lead PT often do not lead to the training standard, even though they know, or certainly should know, the standards.

In our experience, very few NCOs use TLPs for PT. Why do so few team and squad leaders routinely apply the TLP to a daily training event? In a word, assumptions. We incorrectly make a number of assumptions about both our own and our subordinates’ abilities and knowledge. It is easy to assume that our Soldiers, team leaders and squad leaders are thoroughly proficient on the PRT’s conditioning drill, although a simple test of their knowledge will most likely show they do not even know those drills in sequence, or that they may not be able to name each of the 10 drills at all. Though there is a strong argument to be made that many of our leaders have also failed to embrace FM 7-22’s guidance, the core of the problem remains that leaders make incorrect assumptions regarding their abilities.

Fixing incorrect assumptions is not a simple task. First, leaders must acknowledge they have made incorrect assumptions. Second, they must agree that correcting their assumptions is a valid and meaningful task. Next, there must be a leader with the commitment and knowledge who can provide the training necessary to correct the deficiency. It does not take much to assume that every company-sized element in the Army has quite a few knowledgeable and committed leaders – and it is certain that the vast majority of leaders often correct improper assumptions.

There are four basic assumptions regarding physical training that are all too often incorrect. This list should not be seen to be exclusive, nor should it be seen to be demeaning. We experience these assumptions in an excellent troop; there are no reasons to believe our experiences are unique or display gross incompetence. Solving problems is at the heart of the NCO Corps; identifying problems is our first step. These are common misconceptions regarding the PRT that we have found in our troop.

1. Soldiers are entirely familiar with and capable of performing PRT to standard.

2. PRT is not a good enough program to produce highly fit and ready Soldiers.

3. The individual leader can create a better physical fitness program than PRT.

4. Checking the block is good enough to accomplish the intent of PRT.

Looking at these assumptions individually, we can see a number of embarrassing fallacies. Looking closer and replacing PRT with any other form of training, we may even begin to see a pattern emerging. These assumptions are not necessarily unique to how we look at PRT. As we examine these assumptions, we may find that they apply equally to other training events. We encourage reading this list twice, thinking closely about other training events the second time.

1. “Soldiers are entirely familiar with and capable of performing PRT to standard”

As pointed out earlier, no, they are not. Again, this is an easy metric to test. FM 7-22 is a straight-forward manual, although it seems that we are hard-pressed to find many leaders who have taken the time to read through this important publication. It is unrealistic to expect our Soldiers to be familiar with and capable of performing PRT to standard if our leaders do not have a solid understanding of the PRT manual. It is always the responsibility of the NCO Corps to train Soldiers, and training requires a deep understanding of the subject material. We are comfortable accepting a long learning curve in our own troop as our NCOs begin to master the fundamentals of PRT. Unfamiliarity should not be the defining hindrance to the incorporation of PRT. Rather it should be the goad we use to improve ourselves and our units. For classes and online instruction, www.atn.army.mil offers a complete training program for leaders.

2. “PRT is not a good enough program to produce highly fit and ready Soldiers”                

“Soldiers trained through PRT demonstrate the mobility to apply strength and endurance to the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling, combatives and water survival,” according to FM 7-22. Until a leader is intimately familiar with, and has extensively implemented, the entire manual, that leader does not have a rational argument against using PRT to produce highly fit and ready Soldiers.

Further, PRT is Army law, proscribed in AR 350-1. The doctrine found in FM 7-22 is representative of our profession of arms. Our leaders have a basic expectation that NCOs will comply with both regulations and doctrine. Leading requires the maturity to follow orders and intent beyond what one expects from one’s subordinates. Very few leaders will tolerate Soldiers making excuses for failing to follow orders and guidance; we must avoid being leaders who excuse in ourselves what we refuse to accept in others.

3. “The individual leader can create a better physical fitness program than PRT”

This assumption may or may not be verbalized by the individual leader, but this is also easy to test. A simple observation during PT hours will suffice to inform whether the leader is using FM 7-22 or is using their own version of training. There are two simple points here. First, if a leader can produce a better program than the PRT, where is that program? Second, does the leader have a comprehensive program that accounts for Soldiers’ varying levels of readiness while simultaneously tying into the training calendar? It is highly doubtful that any other physical training program has so thoroughly tied itself to the warrior tasks and battle drills or taken into account the nature of Army training. PRT addresses each of the seven principles of training, and it is unlikely that any training regimen produced by any external source could address Army doctrine so closely. We do not claim that there are no other physical fitness routines that will fit the bill, but referring to our argument’s assumption two, we would be hard pressed to find many subordinate NCOs who are thoroughly familiar with both the PRT and another physical fitness program.

4. “Checking the block is good enough to accomplish the intent of PRT”

Obviously, no training program that does not include involved leaders who follow the Troop Leading Procedure will accomplish that program’s intent. Many NCOs who understand that FM 7-22 is doctrine will begin their morning with the preparation drill and end with the recovery drill, but will not follow PRT during the PT session itself. Lip service to doctrine is a disservice to the Soldiers and the NCO. A second point here is that many times our subordinate leaders assume that their leaders will correct them if they are wrong. Unfortunately, that assumption is all too often incorrect.

Clearly, PRT is a viable and robust program with the capability to produce physically fit Soldiers. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the NCO Corps to lead PRT with intelligence and discipline. However, it is our experience that PRT is not the Army standard that it should be, and we hope to use the insights in this article to energize team and squad leaders to familiarize themselves with FM 7-22 and incorporate those principles and exercises during daily PT, rather than half-stepping their way through working out or using outdated exercises that have been shown to have negative effects. An NCO’s strength comes from his or her knowledge, skills and attributes; leading PT correctly and applying the TLPs appropriately will only strengthen our Soldiers and our NCO Corps.

Discussion points

Bring these questions up with your peers and leaders. Post your insights on the bottom of this article or on the NCO Journal’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Do the four assumptions apply as equally to other training events? For example, do they apply to preliminary marksmanship instruction or any other task an organization does routinely?

  1. Would enforcing the application of the TLP process for PRT have a beneficial impact on other training events? (Is the juice worth the squeeze?)
  2. Should daily PRT events have a priority at company training meetings? Who is the best person to answer this question?
  3. All training involves AARs. Is an AAR necessary or even desirable after every PT session?
  4. Do these assumptions hold true in other training events? i.e.:

a. Soldiers are entirely familiar with and capable of performing *TRAINING EVENT* to standard.
b. *TRAINING EVENT* is not a good enough program to produce highly fit and ready Soldiers.
c. The individual leader can create a better plan than *TRAINING EVENT*.
d. Checking the block is good enough to accomplish the intent of *TRAINING EVENT*.

Easy reference list

ADP and ADRP 6-22, Army Leadership: http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/adrp6_22.pdf

ADP and ADRP 7-0, Training Units and Developing Leaders: http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/adrp7_0.pdf

FM 7-22, Physical Readiness Training: http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm7_22.pdf

TC 7-22.7, Noncommissioned Officer Guide: http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/tc7_22x7.pdf

Online PRT training, planning and other resources available at https://atn.army.mil/

Army PRT app available on Google Play and the iTunes store

Bonus thought

“Old school”: We have all heard this nebulous phrase, typically used in a derogatory comment about how discipline issues are being handled. “My old platoon sergeant was old school and would have smoked that Soldier until he puked.” Soldiers use this phrase regardless of their time in service or knowledge of how issues were resolved in “old school” times. I have heard specialists with less than two years of service use this phrase as often as staff sergeants with eight years in the infantry, none of whom were even born when the Gulf War was ending. “Old school” is a phrase with as little use as “common sense,” which is more of an egotistical statement about one’s limited knowledge than it is a true base of knowledge.

 

[1] It is important to note that ADRP 7-0 points out “Training models, such as the 8-step training model, are only guides and not lock-step processes. They can be useful, but they are effectively just modifications of either the MDMP or TLP” (2012, p. 3-10).

SMA: ‘PRT is not the problem; 6:30 to 9 is the problem’

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

After an Army Times article detailed the seven-day workout plan for Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, he got a lot of comments telling him, “That’s not PRT.”

Dailey has also heard Soldiers using their dislike of Army Physical Readiness Training as an excuse for not exercising. During a recent interview with the NCO Journal, Dailey made it clear that he believes in PRT, but that PRT is just the beginning of staying physically fit. Dailey said he does his workout routine in addition to PRT to maintain his fitness for the things he has needed to do throughout his career as an infantryman.

“I think PRT is actually very good, and it’s proved a success in our training environment,” Dailey said. “We’ve reduced injuries, and we’ve increased physical fitness scores coming out of basic training and AIT. What I need units to understand is PRT is not the end. … We shouldn’t be blaming PRT for our failure to have success in physical fitness. It’s a tool to use in achieving that success. … PRT is not the problem; 6:30 to 9 [a.m.] is the problem. We’ve failed the sacred hour. We need to get that back. It’s something that’s not going to take months; it’s not going to take years. Leaders can change this tomorrow morning. All they have to do is find a flag, wait for the music to go up, salute it and start getting after it.”

Dailey agrees with concerns that there should be stricter consequences for failing the Army Physical Fitness Test, and he said there will be stricter consequences as the Army continues to implement STEP (Select, Train, Educate, Promote).

“When we moved into Select, Train, Educate, Promote about two and a half years ago, we made physical fitness a critical part of succeeding in your institutional training experience,” Dailey said. “So if you go to your institutional training experience now and fail the APFT, you will get a derogatory [DA Form] 1059, which will remain in your records. Previously, that was not true. You could fail your school, and then when you passed, that 1059 would come out. It stays in there now. That’s critically important, because when we look for promotion we need to see the whole Soldier concept. So now with STEP, you have to go to your institutional training experience before you can get promoted. It’s a gate. So we’ve said that noncommissioned officers need to be promoted because they’re certified across all three leadership development domains, and now that’s going to be true with STEP. So until you’ve completed your selection, your training in your organization, your education through self-development, and your institutional experience, then and only then will you be able to be promoted. Physical fitness is a key and critical part of that.”

New NCOER

Recently, Dailey announced that the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report would be delayed until 2016. Dailey expressed complete confidence in noncommissioned officers adapting to the changes in the coming NCOER, but he said it was necessary to slow the process down to make sure the NCOER is implemented correctly.

“We have to get this right,” Dailey said. “We worked really hard on the new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report. It is an excellent product. But how we roll it out and how we make it applicable to our noncommissioned officers is essential to the move forward. It’s OK if we slow down to take the time to make sure we train and educate the force on how to appropriately do it. We need buy-in from all the leaders here and across the Army, because this is intended to fix our Noncommissioned Officers Evaluation Report. So I’m not concerned about the Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report; it’s the right way to go. But I am concerned that we make sure that we get it right as we roll it out to the Army. And we’re going to do just that.”

Talent management

Because the Army as an organization is so large, it has suffered from moving people administratively instead of really managing talent, Dailey said. Though it will be difficult, Dailey hopes leaders can begin to be more involved in some of those decisions.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey speaks to noncommissioned officers during a town hall meeting May 11 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey speaks to noncommissioned officers during a town hall meeting May 11 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“We’re a leadership organization,” Dailey said. “I want leaders involved in that. That doesn’t mean leaders will control every facet about where someone PCSes or where they’re going to stay or extending them. But I do need leadership involvement with regard to managing the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to move an individual to the appropriate position that maximizes the capabilities of the organization and strengthens the mission of the United States Army. That’s complex stuff. As big as we are, that’s very complex and very hard to do. So as we move forward, my senior enlisted counsel will work on doing that. Of course, a lot of that will occur at the senior noncommissioned officer ranks. But internal to the organization, I need talent management from the perspective of, ‘I have to give back to the Army sometimes. I have to invest in the future of the Army by sending our young men and women to school to enhance their performance.’ Sometimes that takes sacrifice from a unit. Maybe they’re going to miss a unit field training problem. But what’s more important? Is it more important to invest in that noncommissioned officer for the future or just that two-week field training exercise?”

Social media

At the NCO Solarium in May at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Dailey expressed concern about how some Soldiers are behaving on social media. “When Soldiers harass, put [damaging] things on the Internet, they are not in keeping with the honor, tradition and the stewardship of the profession,” he said.

Dailey told the NCO Journal he thinks NCOs can solve the problem without needing new rules and regulations in place. He wants NCOs to have an attitude of “Not in My Squad.”

“It sounds very simplistic, and that’s exactly what I want it to be,” Dailey said. “I want noncommissioned officers to know we trust them, because this is about trust. Trust runs both ways, up and down the chain of command. I want them to understand that we do trust you. We trust you with the lives of … the young men and women that we’ve given you. We’ve bestowed the greatest honor the American society can give to one individual and that is to lead those men and women into combat. That same trust applies when we’re back in garrison. More accurately, there’s no such thing as combat leadership. There’s no such thing as garrison leadership. There’s something called military leadership and Army leadership. It exists regardless of where we are and what we do.”

Every Soldier a billboard

Another topic of discussion that began at the NCO Solarium was the effectiveness of Army branding campaigns. Dailey said he wants Soldiers to see that what is more important than the slogans of “Army Strong” or “Army of One” is the everyday effect a Soldier has walking around his or her community. Dailey wants NCOs to know they are walking billboards for the Army.

“My billboard has and will always say Army Strong,” Dailey said. “I encourage leaders to think about how they are going to paint their own billboard for Soldiers. What is it going to say? You have so much influence on what that billboard says. It can affect whether a Soldier stays in the Army or they transition. It’s critically important that our nation clearly understands and knows that we will always be the organization that is most trusted in America. It takes a lot of billboards to maintain that. It takes a lot of hard work as well. But I always ask this: What do you want your billboard to say? What does it say today? What is it going to say tomorrow?”

Working on their personal billboards and striving to be the best will also help Soldiers have a better chance of staying in the Army as it downsizes, Dailey said. He offered his advice to Soldiers and NCOs looking to take charge of their careers.

“I’ll tell you that you can start first and foremost by listening to your noncommissioned officer every day,” Dailey said. “Do good PT and keep yourself physically fit. When you get the opportunity to go to a military school, stay in it and study hard. Strive to be in the top 10 percent of every school you go to. You should want to, if you want to maintain that edge over your peers. Those are the things you have to go after.”

NCOs weigh in on Army issues at Solarium 2015

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

It became very clear to the noncommissioned officers assembled during the first Noncommissioned Officer Solarium 2015 Outbrief session at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., which key Army topic of the seven discussed was the most critical to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. If physical fitness benchmarks continue on the current path where 40 percent of Soldiers are overweight and body fat standards are too lenient, it will pose a severe detriment to Army readiness, and the Army and nation will suffer for it, Dailey said.

The Sergeant Major of the Army urged about 80 participating noncommissioned officers May 1 during the event at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Combined Arms Center to take accountability for their physical fitness and set the example for their Soldiers.

“You don’t get good physical fitness unless you do physical fitness,” Dailey said. “[I say] good for you if you have the guilt for not doing [physical training]. Let that run on your brain all day long. I hope it eats you apart if you did not do physical fitness this morning. Hopefully that in turn will drive you to do it tomorrow.”

Call for excellence

Dailey, Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., TRADOC command sergeant major; Command Sgt. Maj. David O. Turnbull, Combined Arms Center command sergeant major; and Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Eger, Mission Command Center of Excellence sergeant major, heard from a focus group of NCOs who suggested that the Army needs a better tool to assess physical readiness training (PRT) instead of the “outdated” Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).

Noncommissioned officers prepare to present their ideas to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey at the NCO Solarium 2015 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. About 80 NCOs participated in the initiative to address Army concerns.
Noncommissioned officers prepare to present their ideas to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey at the NCO Solarium 2015 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. About 80 NCOs participated in the initiative to address Army concerns. (Photos by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“There are units and posts out there conducting different types of physical training such as CrossFit and P90X. … They have not bought into what the Army standard is,” said 1st Sgt. Jason M. Lambert, combat engineer 1st sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 6th Engineer Battalion.

Lambert was the speaker for the physical fitness group. For the Solarium, NCOs were divided into seven work groups. Each group was asked to present their recommendations to the Sergeant Major of the Army on the seven most problematic issues facing today’s Army. The other key topics were talent management, education, culture, training, vision/branding and practicing mission command.

“Our recommendation is to modify the APFT to be more realistic and have it revolve around PRT concepts,” Lambert said.

TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr. acknowledged that the APFT does not match the doctrine on physical fitness.

“Why is everybody doing P90X and Cross Fit? Because they’re training to max the PT test; it’s not about their unit mission,” Davenport said. “If you talk to [Soldiers] about Afghanistan, they think stamina is important. It’s not about how many push-ups you can do. We have got to figure out how we’re going to assess overall fitness. … Fitness is tied to everything we do in our Army.”

Priorities and the mission

Solarium discussions frequently crossed over into several key topics as the NCOs in focus groups presented their recommendations. First Sgt. Robert V. Craft Jr., mechanical maintenance 1st sergeant with 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, discussed consequences for Soldiers who fail the APFT.

“My group came to a consensus that we have begun to accept substandard performance in order to make numbers for mission,” Craft said. “[If Soldiers are being retained] in order to be able to accomplish our missions, it basically leads the average Soldier to believe that PT isn’t important and shape isn’t important. The only thing that matters is the mission.

“At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility as NCOs, bottom line, but the problem arises when we as NCOs do our part [to begin the separation of a Soldier], [and then a commander says] to retain that Soldier and fix it,” Craft said. “I can’t fix a Soldier if the Soldier has quit. I can do more with less if I didn’t have to worry about that bottom 10 percent.”

Noncommissioned officers in the group that focused on talent management noted that the Army needs to improve how select personnel are identified for broadening assignments, such as recruiters and drill sergeants.

“We’ve recently been embarrassed in the media by recruiters having improper relations with recruits; also a sexual assault response coordinator who embarrassed his organization by his actions in Texas,” said Master Sgt. Danny Ibarra, a secretary of general staff for 21st Theater Sustainment Command Operations and Support. “We need to screen [for those positions] a little bit better. There currently isn’t a standardized selection process, and the command sergeant major’s involvement is key.

“Having the command sergeant major vet and interview these personnel could help stop putting these people in the wrong assignments,” Ibarra and his group said.

Dailey said talent management in the Army is under review and that changes to the process are being considered.

Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, from left, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, Command Sgt. Maj. David O. Turnbull, command sergeant major of the Combined Arms Center, and Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Eger, sergeant major of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, take part in discussions May 1 during the Outbrief session of the Noncommissioned Officer Solarium 2015 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The Solarium is an initiative of the sergeant major of the Army.  (Photos by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
From left, Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey; Command Sgt. Maj. David O. Turnbull, command sergeant major of the Combined Arms Center; and Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Eger, sergeant major of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, take part in discussions May 1 during the Outbrief session of the Noncommissioned Officer Solarium 2015 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The Solarium is an initiative of the sergeant major of the Army.

“I think that we have to put talent management in the hands of every leader throughout every organization,” the sergeant major of the Army said. “It was once described to me as not about managing the top 10 percent [of Soldiers]. That’s real easy. The challenge is what do you do with the bottom 40 [percent of Soldiers].

“Everybody’s fighting for that quality individual, and there’s not enough [of them] to go around,” he said.

Walking billboards

NCOs also discussed the successes and failures of Army branding campaigns and whether or not they identified personally with any of them. NCOs in the focus group on branding said the current campaign, “Army Strong,” does not resonate with them.

“We feel that we need something that speaks more as far as who we are, what we are and why we do it,” said Sgt. 1st Class Cornelius Cowart, operations NCO for 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. “We need something that’s a little more timeless. For instance, a lot of us in here can relate, even 20 years later, to ‘Be All You Can Be.’ It still speaks to our veterans, active-duty Soldiers and even some of our younger Soldiers.”

The sergeant major of the Army agreed with Cowart and his group about the timeless appeal of “Be All You Can Be”. However, Dailey urged NCOs to consider the message they convey to the public as walking “billboards” for the Army.

“Every Soldier is a billboard; we’re all billboards, and there actually are enough of us to make a difference nationally,” he said. “You can control what your own billboard says. It’s a big old billboard, and it’s going to get more attention than the one that’s on the side of the road.”

Dailey spoke of the new transition assistance program called Soldier For Life, which prepares service members for post-Army life by ensuring that he or she has all of the necessary tools, opportunities and counseling.

“Here is our problem as I see it ─ the Marine Corps is very good at what they do,” Dailey said. “You can chapter out of the Marine Corps, and you are a Marine for life. A Soldier can retire out of the Army, get paid benefits for the rest of his life and still talk bad about the Army.”

Dailey thanked the NCOs for their work during the Solarium and said the discussions generated will have a profound impact on what he will advise the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of the Army. Dailey said the Solarium was not just an exercise, but an event that must be done on a regular basis.

“We [in senior leadership] sometimes lose touch; this is our way of getting back in touch with reality,” he said. “You NCOs are the representation of just that. This is a reality of what is going on across our Army … because you are at the heart of where organizational leadership begins.”

PRT, Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills test drill sergeant, AIT platoon sergeant competitors

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

The second day of the 2014 Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions began much like one would expect, with a five-mile run beginning at 3:45 a.m., followed by a lot of Physical Readiness Training.

Staff Sgt. Derek Leonhardt, A Troop, 5-15 Cavalry Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade, Fort Benning, Ga., (right) trains a group of Soldiers on how to clear a room Tuesday. Leonhardt was being tested on Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills as he strives to be the Drill Sergeant of the Year. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester, NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Derek Leonhardt (right) of A Troop, 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade, at Fort Benning, Ga., trains a group of Soldiers on how to clear a room Tuesday. Leonhardt was being tested on Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills as he strives to be the Drill Sergeant of the Year. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester)

At stations circling Darby Field at Fort Jackson, S.C., the 15 competitors were tested on how well they could teach PRT exercises to the young Soldiers waiting for them at each station. Doing the exercises to standard is important for drill sergeants and AIT platoon sergeants, said Staff Sgt. Casey Lowe of A Company, 232nd Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Lowe is competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“PRT is a big part of our job,” he said. “PRT is fairly new to the Army; it’s only been around a few years. A lot of the more veteran and seasoned NCOs, they remember the old-style of PT, and a lot of them have had a hard time implementing PRT into the unit because they don’t get trained to the proper standards. It’s really important to set that standard right at the beginning so all these privates — the trainees that are coming into the force — they know what right looks like. It’s really important not only for us to know what right is, but also be able to correct it so that the Soldiers can go out to the units and affect the rest of the Army as well.”

The competition tests NCOs on how they train PRT because of its importance to the Army, said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Dunham of B Company, 187th Ordnance Battalion, at Fort Jackson. Dunham is also competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“PRT is the most important thing we do as Soldiers,” he said. “It trains our bodies to be able to adapt to any situation. It prevents injuries and it makes us completely physically fit and ready to go into combat. If you are not ready to do that, what’s the point of training on anything else?”

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller (right), 787th MP Battalion, 14th MP Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., instructs Soldiers in Physical Readiness Training on Tuesday. Miller is competing to be Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller (right) of the 787th Military Police Battalion, 14th MP Brigade, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., instructs Soldiers in Physical Readiness Training on Tuesday. Miller is competing to be Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Part of the competition was testing how the drill sergeants and AIT platoon sergeants handled Soldiers falling out of their PRT formations. The competitors were expected to quickly handle the situation in their own way. Soldiers dropping out of PRT is a situation Dunham said he deals with daily as an AIT platoon sergeant.

“It does come up at least once a day,” he said. “It’s a fairly common situation, but it’s actually fairly easy to fix, too. You just have to take that time to be open minded and understand where they are coming from.”

Sgt. 1st Class Alex Montero of the 98th Training Division, U.S. Army Reserve, is one of two competitors from the 108th Training Command  fighting for the title of Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. He agreed that helping Soldiers find a way through their problems so they can train is a common and important duty.

“In a [basic combat training] environment, Soldiers come up with a lot of issues,” Montero said. “They are not used to the long days, not being able to call back home. When they are in BCT or the training environment and they come up with a problem back home, it takes their concentration from their training. We want to take care of that problem so they can focus on the training.

“You have to attack the problem real quick, because if you don’t it starts spreading to other Soldiers,” he said. “So, using your experience as a leader, as an NCO, you come in, try to identify the problem, see if you can find a solution to the problem as soon as possible.”

Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin, 95th Training Division (IET), U.S. Army Reserve, Norman, Okla., instructs Soldiers in team formations Tuesday. Croslin is competing to be Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin of the 95th Training Division, U.S. Army Reserve, Norman, Okla., instructs Soldiers in team formations Tuesday. Croslin is competing to be Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Russell of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery Regiment, at Fort Sill, Okla., said being an Army recruiter in the past helps him influence Soldiers to do the right thing and get back in formation. Russell is competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“The one thing that helps me with that is having been a recruiter,” Russell said. “When I was a recruiter, I learned to not force them to do anything they don’t want to do, but guide them on the right path of making the decision on their own. You empower them with the choices in order to get that positive outcome.”

After a morning of instructing in PRT, the competitors spent the afternoon both performing and instructing Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills. Being able to instruct the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills is critical for drill sergeants, because it is those skills that will keep Soldiers alive in combat, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Croslin of the 95th Training Division, U.S. Army Reserve, at Norman, Okla. Croslin is competing against Montero to be named Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Sgt. 1st Class Alex Montero, 98th Training Division (IET), U.S. Army Reserve, talks to a Soldier who fell out of his PRT formation. Montero is competing to be Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Sgt. 1st Class Alex Montero of the 98th Training Division, U.S. Army Reserve, talks to a Soldier who fell out of his PRT formation. Montero is competing to be Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year.

“I believe that with the change in environment that we’re fighting in overseas, the ever-changing Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills are key to what drill sergeants do,” he said. “We’re taking the information from higher on what’s important to train these Soldiers on so they can successfully operate in their new combat units, or whatever unit they get attached to. The tasks they are being taught here are what will keep them alive when they go overseas. And the tasks are ever-changing based on the situation overseas. So as we’re getting them handed down, it is imperative that we know the standards on what needs to be taught, and that we get that to the Soldiers, because they are the ones who will soon be going overseas and taking our place.”

This the first year that the Drill Sergeant of the Year and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions have been combined. There are six competitors for Drill Sergeant of the Year (with two of them vying for Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the year), and nine competitors for Army AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. Though all 15 competitors go through the events together, they are judged differently, said Sgt. Maj. Thomas Campbell, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Va.

“The drill and ceremony station over there is a great example: I can tell from here that’s a drill sergeant because he’s pitching the module and talking them through it,” he said. “When you see a platoon sergeant come up, the platoon sergeant is going to be graded on his ability to execute it and maintain it.

Staff Sgt. Casey Lowe, A Company, 232nd Medical battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, makes his way through an obstacle course Tuesday. Lowe is competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Casey Lowe of A Company, 232nd Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, makes his way through an obstacle course Tuesday. Lowe is competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“The drill sergeant takes Physical Readiness Training, Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and all the common-core tasks and teaches it for the first time to a new Soldier who hasn’t done any of it,” he said. “When those Soldiers go to AIT, and they learn their skill set, the AIT platoon sergeant has to maintain what they learned in basic training and keep continuity until they get to their first unit assignment.”

Starting in less than a month, the AIT Platoon Sergeant School is expanding from two weeks to match the six weeks drill sergeants go to school. Campbell said the extra weeks were needed to help NCOs make the transition to leading large groups of Soldiers.

“The first three weeks is Phase 1 of both courses, so the drill sergeants and AIT platoon sergeants are going to be learning the exact same things, going through the same training,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Jason Oberle, E Company, 2-13th Infantry Regiment, Fort Jackson, S.C., performs first aid during a test Tuesday. Oberle is competing to be Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt. Jason Oberle of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, at Fort Jackson, S.C., performs first aid during a test Tuesday. Oberle is competing to be Drill Sergeant of the Year.

“Most of the [military occupational specialties] that have AITs are technical MOSs. So you’re taking an NCO out from that skill, and he’s a master of a system,” Campbell said. “For instance, take a night-vision repair guy — he’s been by himself in a shop, repairing equipment in a brigade combat team. He went from private to staff sergeant and may have had another Soldier under his watch … maybe. Now we’re going to pull him out and make him an AIT platoon sergeant. We’re going to put him front of 50 to 100 privates and tell him, “Figure it out, with no training.” Not anymore. We want to try to make that master of systems into a master of formations. So we made the course six weeks to develop that.”

But that’s coming in the weeks ahead. This week, it’s about watching some of the best NCOs in the Army show their stuff.

“This is the best in the Army,” Campbell said. “For these guys, just to be picked to compete, it will impact their careers. The three winners from this competition, just from their exposure over the next year, they will be sergeants major, no doubt about it. In the IMT headquarters, we have a huge board with the drill sergeants of the year and the platoon sergeants of the year since the beginning. Every name on that board, all the way to the beginning — with the exception of the newest ones who haven’t made it yet — every one of them made sergeant major.”

New physical fitness uniforms to debut next year

By DAVID VERGUN
Army News Service

A new Army Physical Fitness Uniform will become available service-wide, beginning in October next year.

Its design is based on Soldier feedback, said Col. Robert Mortlock, program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment at Fort Belvoir, Va. There will be a three-year phase-in program and the cost will be about $3 less than the current IPFU, or Improved Physical Fitness Uniform, he said.

Soldiers testing the new Army Physical Fitness Uniform conduct physical training last winter at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)
Soldiers testing the new Army Physical Fitness Uniform conduct physical training last winter at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

The Army Physical Fitness Uniform, or APFU, revision was actually initiated because of Soldier feedback, Mortlock said. A February 2012 Army Knowledge Online survey of some 76,000 Soldiers found that Soldiers had issues with the IPFU, he said. They liked its durability but believed the IPFU’s textiles had not kept pace with commercially-available workout clothes.

They also had concerns with other things, particularly modesty issues with the shorts, especially in events like sit-ups. Those concerns were expressed by males as well as females. The issue was of such concern that Soldiers were purchasing spandex-like under garments to wear beneath the trunks, Mortlock said. Another issue was that there were not enough female sizes in the IPFU, he said, meaning IPFUs that would fit all shapes and sizes.

Program Executive Office Soldier worked closely with the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center to develop a new PT uniform that met Soldier concerns but did not cost more than the IPFU. The APFU met the goal of controlling costs and improving performance by adopting a lighter high-tech moisture-wicking fabric. The APFU introduces multiple sizes, including female sizing, and has solved the modesty issue, Mortlock said.

The fabric of the trunks will continue to be made with durable nylon fabric, but it is lighter than and not as stiff as the IPFU trunks. Also, there will be a four-way stretch panel inside the trunks, similar to bicycle shorts, which will eliminate the need for Soldiers to purchase their own undergarments. The trunks include a bigger key pocket and a convenient and secure ID card pouch.

In all, some 34 changes were made to the new APFU, which has five parts: the jacket and pants, which resemble warm ups; trunks or shorts; and the short- and long-sleeve T-shirts, he said. The ensemble is modular, meaning parts of the APFU can be mixed and matched. For example, short- or long-sleeve T-shirts can be worn with either the pants or trunks. During PT formations, platoon sergeants will determine the appropriate combo.

Soldier feedback not only determined the form, fit and function of the APFU, it also determined its look. The Army made prototypes of the APFU in a variety of colors and designs and took them to a series of Soldier town halls at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Soldier feedback was solicited about the design features as well as the preferred color scheme. Then, the Army launched a second AKO survey, in which more than 190,000 responded, Mortlock said. Soldiers overwhelmingly favored a black T-shirt with gold lettering and a black jacket with gold chevron and the Army logo.

Then it was on to testing. About 876 Soldiers at Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Join Base Lewis-McChord; Fort Bragg; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Hood and Fort Jackson, S.C., wore the APFU during PT for a three-month period, providing feedback on form, fit and comfort, Mortlock said. The APFU also was tested for things like durability, laundering, fiber strength, colorfastness and color maintenance after laundering.

A key part of testing addressed the concern of some Soldiers that a black shirt may cause overheating. Instrumented tests showed that the lighter weight material and superior moisture-wicking fabric more than compensated for any increased heat from the dark material.

The response to the APFU was “overwhelmingly positive,” Mortlock said, particularly with the trunks. Soldiers who tested the ensemble said they wear the APFU on weekends and off-duty outside the installations, Mortlock said, adding that many said they wouldn’t wear the current IPFU off-duty. That means communities across the country will soon see Army pride as Soldiers do their workouts.

The APFU will come in two types, the “clothing bag” variant, and the optional APFU, which will be visually the same as the APFU issue variant, but uses some different materials. The individual items of the two variants can be mixed together. The optional APFU variant will become available first when it arrives in Army military clothing sales stores sometime between October and December 2014.

The clothing bag variant will be issued to Soldiers from the clothing initial issue points, starting between April to June 2015, and to Reserve, National Guard, and Senior ROTC from July to August 2015. The APFU will be phased in as the IPFUs are used up and worn out. The mandatory wear date will go into effect approximately October 2017, or about three years after the APFU is introduced.

The Army reached out to Soldiers at “multiple touch points to ensure we got this right,” Mortlock said. “The message is we’re listening to Soldiers. We’re continuing to listen to Soldiers, and this is the Soldiers’ selection and Army leaders went along with this.”