Tag Archives: PT

NCO forges valuable partnerships with veterans at Natick

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

When he first arrived at Natick Soldier Systems Center for duty as 1st sergeant of the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, 1st Sgt. Miguel A. Martinez Jr. had heard the assignment in Massachusetts wouldn’t be a typical one.

“My response was the first sergeant position is the same regardless of where you are and what you’re doing because your first and foremost priority is the health and welfare of the Soldier and then to try to advance the organization,” Martinez said.

He made sure all Soldiers were taken care of and that they were meeting all standard Army requirements. Then, Martinez set out to meet every director or team leader at the small military installation.

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade test female body armor. In a collaborative effort, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center worked with Program Executive Office Soldier on an improved outer tactical vest designed specifically for women. The innovation was named one of Time Magazine’s “Best Inventions” in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade test female body armor. In a collaborative effort, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center worked with Program Executive Office Soldier on an improved outer tactical vest designed specifically for women. The innovation was named one of Time Magazine’s “Best Inventions” in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)

“I told each one, ‘My intent is to have an NCO from this organization help every single team here at some point,’” Martinez said. “Before, [what I was suggesting] was pretty much nonexistent. We didn’t have any of our NCOs help any of our directorates. I wanted to change that because I was previously at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center [at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey], and I saw how those Soldiers interacted. That’s what I wanted to bring here.

“A lot of people think the NCO’s main job here is to manage the human research volunteer program,” he said. “That’s only partly true. We are here to make sure HRVs are being trained properly and also to help all of the studies. I asked the HRDD commander, Capt. Enrique Curiel, about my recommendations and told him what I wanted to do. Together, we started making little changes.”

‘Different animal’

Located in Massachusetts, the birthplace of the U.S. Army, the Soldier Systems Center employs about 160 active-duty Soldiers and 1,800 civilians. Roughly a platoon of the Soldiers at Natick serve as human research volunteers for scientific studies at NSRDEC, while NCOs fill roles that run the gamut from parachute riggers in the parachute shop or noncommissioned officers in charge at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

“I started teaming up my NCOs to work with other teams [at Natick],” Martinez said. “I told my guys we need to start getting embedded [in projects]. The more the scientists see us, the more they are going to remember the NCOs and the more relevant we are. We want to be seen. We want to be in the front of their minds, so when they have a new project or are starting a new job, I want them to think about talking to NCOs.”

Martinez views working with the scientists, engineers and other civilian employees at Natick as a mutual partnership.

A scientist from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center tests uniforms for burn injury protection at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Mass. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)
A scientist from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center tests uniforms for burn injury protection at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Mass. (Photo courtesy of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center / U.S. Army)

“One of the biggest things I noticed that was shocking to me is that when I met with some people, they told me they were under the impression that the NCO chain of command here switched out every 90 days like the HRVs,” he said. “That only solidified my desire to meet everybody here because I need to change that way of thinking. I told them we are here for three years. We don’t switch out every 90 days; those are the HRVs. The NCOs and officers are here for three years, and we want to be able to work with you guys.

“I can open those doors for them [in the military], and they will not have to be slowed down by trying to get the right people in the right place to talk to them,” he said.

Work often brings Sarah Ross, human research volunteer test coordinator, and Martinez together at Natick’s Doriot Climatic Chambers. As a veteran noncommissioned officer, Ross has a history there. Her last duty assignment was as NCO in charge of the facility, and she was also a medic assigned to USARIEM when she a Soldier.

The chambers are a unique facility that can mimic environmental conditions from any location around the globe. Temperature, humidity, wind, rain and solar radiation can be simulated for testing on HRVs or military equipment.

Ross’s military experience often comes in handy when trying to bridge communication between scientists, engineers and Soldiers.

1st Sgt. Miguel A. Martinez Jr., 1st sergeant of the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, works with Sarah Ross, human research volunteer test coordinator, at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Massachusetts. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
1st Sgt. Miguel A. Martinez Jr., 1st sergeant of the Headquarters Research and Development Detachment at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, works with Sarah Ross, human research volunteer test coordinator, at the Doriot Climatic Chambers in Natick, Massachusetts. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“1st Sgt. Martinez is the Soldier component that HRVs have 24 hours a day, because although they are human subjects they are Soldiers 24 hours a day,” Ross said. “It’s important that we work really well together. [Natick] is a different animal, and as a veteran, I understand that. I know from my own experiences, it is a completely different ballgame.

“1st Sgt. Martinez and I work together really well to make sure that the Soldiers get opportunities to participate in things, and that they are always ready as Soldiers because that’s the number one priority ─ making sure that HRVs are always safe when they are volunteering in these studies,” she said.

Teamwork

One of the projects Martinez and Ross worked on together was to revise the physical restrictions document, concerning the participation of HRVs in studies.

“Some of the things I wanted to change were due to risk aversion,” Martinez said. “Principal investigators don’t want to get in trouble or do anything wrong. They don’t want to hurt the HRVs, or tarnish the name of the detachment, program or installation.”

Principal investigators were limiting the activity of some HRVs to an extreme, sometimes resulting in Soldiers who were going back to the Army after their 90-day HRV stint at Natick unable to fulfill the physical requirements of being Soldiers.

“We want to make sure these Soldiers are healthy,” Ross said. “We want to make sure they have appropriate recovery time, and sometimes these principal investigators err on the side of caution. … The principle investigator is thinking, ‘I want to make sure my subject is protected, and that they are not doing something outside the realm of the study.’ And HRDD is thinking, ‘I want to make sure my Soldiers are ready to be able to do the PT necessary and additionally anything physical they have to do as Soldiers.’”

Because Soldiers’ careers were being affected, Martinez saw he needed to get involved.

“The PIs actually started explaining, ‘This is what I will be doing, this is what I want,’ and Capt. Curiel, and I will make sense of it,” Martinez said. “We will agree, or we will debate. Eventually, we come to a good middle ground, and everybody is happy.

“We told the civilians, ‘We can help you; we can do all these things to help your project and not be in conflict with your study,’” he said.

For Martinez, it helps to have someone such as Ross, with her military experience, serving in her position.

“If there are any questions I might have that are study-related, she is my go-to person,” Martinez said.

Ross couldn’t be happier that she ended up in a job she loves. Despite separating from the Army, she still works with Soldiers every day.

“Although I have been here eight years, I am still learning,” Ross said. “I have to make sure I am aware and updated, and that I am familiar with [federal regulations on human subjects and how Soldiers should be treated] so I can be the best facilitator with the program. At the same time, I love these Soldiers. I have the best job in the Army. I still get to serve without wearing the uniform … and I get to meet 30 new selfless Soldiers every 90 days. I meet 120 new Soldiers every year, which is so cool.”

Ross is part of a growing population of veterans who found work at Natick after leaving the military.

“The veteran population is pretty strong,” Ross said. “It’s close to 300 veterans who work at this installation. I think in this environment [being a veteran] is instrumental to [Natick’s] success.”

Despite its size, the work done at Natick extends far beyond its small confines. Valuable Soldiers’ feedback goes a long way toward building projects and contributing to the readiness of the big Army.

“Here, it doesn’t matter what your rank is,” Ross said. “It doesn’t matter how long you have been in the Army. What matters is that you give us your opinion and that we are going to take that under consideration. That is one thing that I love. I don’t know where else that happens.”

The experience has proven invaluable to NCOs such as Martinez, who says there are still many tasks he wants to work on to better the detachment.

“When I leave here and I continue my service, I will always keep Natick on the phone,” Martinez said. “Now that I have worked here, I want to continue to work and would like to tell Natick they have an open door with me.

As a veteran, Ross is particularly grateful for the opportunity to work with Soldiers. It’s not unusual for Natick to have about 20 studies running at the same time.

“This place is incredible,” Ross said. “The things that we do for the Soldier in this small installation blow my mind. At the same time I am talking to you, there is a Soldier down at the biomechanics lab doing a VO2 max ride test, at the same time they are blistering Soldiers in this front room, at the same time another scientist is doing a thermal test and burning a uniform, at the same time there’s a change of command over here, at the same time there is a glove dexterity test happening and at the same there are Soldiers at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, testing a uniform in an obstacle course.”

The Soldiers, scientists, engineers and civilians form a powerful team at Natick, with a common goal, she said.

“We have all of these facilities, and we are all just working toward giving the best equipment and making sure Soldiers can function to the best of their abilities,” Ross said. “You could argue that Soldiers/warfighters are the best athletes in the world, and we have to make sure a team of 100 people goes out with every Soldier [on the field]. They might not be present with Soldiers, but they are there.

“They are there in the uniform that Soldiers are wearing,” she said. “They are there in the boots Soldiers are wearing. They are there in that Kevlar. They are there in that weapon. They are there with Soldiers without actually being physically present, and that’s incredible to me.”

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.”

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.”

The new MFTC: What about APFT scores?

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By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

The members of the Physical Readiness Division are familiar with the criticism that the exercises outlined in FM 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training, look “soft” and that average Army Physical Fitness Test scores have fallen in some places where PRT has been implemented.

Medial_Leg_Raise(hip_stability)
MFTC students conduct the Medial Leg Raise exercise, part of the Hip Stability Drill.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well our average APFT scores have gone down since we’ve been doing PRT.’ I say, ‘Well, how are you scoring it?’” said Maj. David Feltwell, PRD’s physical therapist and medical liaison.

In one of the classes he teaches for the Master Fitness Trainer Course, he outlines a scenario in which 100 Soldiers arrive at a unit and 100 Soldiers take the APFT and score an average of 180.

“Now, let’s suppose you start out with 100, and at the end of the same period of time using [another] physical training program, 50 Soldiers take it, and they all score 300. What’s the average score for your unit? That (second) unit gets the APFT banner, but what you did was something called survivor bias — you lied,” he said. “You have to account for everyone who didn’t make it, and we don’t do that very well. A lot of people PCS or ETS or retire. It’s very hard to track and give an honest APFT average. Whereas in Basic Combat Training, you’re here for 10 weeks, so we know the averages. It’s really a true representation of that unit’s ability to get people to be able to complete the mission. In the Army setting, to me, it’s getting people into combat.”

In an earlier iteration, the new physical readiness system was known as Victory Fitness. It was tested on basic trainees because the environment could be controlled better and the results would be more valid. One battalion that had been trained on that precursor to PRT was taught the program for six months and then took on a group of trainees. Another battalion that hadn’t received that training used the Army’s legacy physical fitness program on another group of trainees.

“After 10 weeks, a statistic was looked at called cumulative survival, which measures how many people survived — not were alive but made it through to graduation,” Feltwell said. “Because the battalions had been matched up, to the extent that that’s possible, for everything except the physical training — gender, socioeconomic background, injury history, whatever you can to the extent that you can match them up — then the difference in cumulative survival at the end can be attributed to a very high degree to the physical training program. In the battalion that received the Victory Fitness Program — which became Standardized Physical Training, which became Physical Readiness Training — about 78 percent of the Soldiers made it through. You might think, ‘Wow, that’s not very good.’ But in the [other] nonstandardized group it was 68 percent.”

And the APFT data were similarly impressive, he said.

“With the APFT, if you look at the scores, for instance, 75 percent of the males who were in that Victory Fitness study scored over 60 points, when the standard was 50 points in Basic Combat Training. The APFT is taken care of; it’s no longer a significant emotional event.”

Feltwell himself conducted an informal study with Soldiers from a headquarters company at Fort Jackson.

SoldierCarry-PE
MFTC students conduct a practical exercise in which they “instruct” their fellow students on how to conduct the Soldier Carry exercise.

Some worked night shifts or were injured, so they weren’t able to participate in the program and became a control group. Feltwell and his team examined the Soldiers’ scores in the fall, and in January of that cycle they conducted PRT, with the book, but without input from PRD. When they took their APFT in the spring, average scores for those who used PRT increased 38 points, Feltwell said. The average situp score was 91. Only one person failed, and she had just come off a pregnancy profile, Feltwell said. The group that couldn’t participate in the PRT program saw their average score rise, too, but only 17 points.

“You can’t get injury data out of [that study], but the performance data is amazing,” Feltwell said. “If you look at it statistically, we call that a very, very significant difference. And we’re careful how we use the ‘verys.’ We had very few people, but the increase in scores was so large that it gave us a large amount of power to say that there was a difference caused by that intervention. And that’s what, I think, the Army wants: to have something that increases your physical fitness and your readiness for combat. Well, that’s what PRT does.”

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Kane, a team leader for the MFTC’s mobile training teams, says if PRT seems easy, it’s probably because you’re not doing it properly.

“I’m very hard on the precision aspect of it, because all that precision, it builds discipline,” he said. “So when people are standing at the position of attention improperly, it bothers me, because if they’re going to do it improperly here, they’re going to do it improperly at their unit, and they’re going to teach people improperly. So if we can’t get the smaller bits of discipline down here, and they teach it every morning, then it just bleeds over to the Army. It’s a bad thing.

“Precision is key because it reduces injuries as well. People know the exercises because they’ve probably seen them on YouTube or whatever. But to do them precisely as prescribed makes a big difference. You’ll have people say, ‘Whoa, I never did it like that before and now, I can feel it in a different manner,’ because targeting muscles at a different angle is a world apart.”

Stephen Van Camp, the PRD’s deputy director, agreed — actually doing the exercises is believing.

“At face value, you look at the PRT book, you look at the exercises, you think, ‘Well, that doesn’t look very hard. You’re only doing five repetitions of each exercise to start out with. You’re only doing this. You’re only doing that,’” he said. “Well, if you do it precisely and you progress the way the program says to the harder things and you have that integration of Soldier skills into what you’re doing, it’s a very difficult program. But people say, ‘Well how does this help me for the PT test?’ Well, if you’re getting stronger and you’re doing a lot of speed work, that’s going to transfer over very well and the PT test takes care of itself.

“Everybody looks at: ‘What am I accountable for? I’m accountable for pushups, situps and running twice a year,’” Van Camp said. “OK, our studies show that we’re going to have fewer injuries and those test scores are going to be as good or go up with this kind of training.

“We still have timed sets of pushups. When I did the total count in the [Initial Entry Training] environment of what PRT offers in pushup-type activities — trunk-flexion-type activities — and for the situp and speed running, it far outweighed what we had done in traditional PT in the past,” he said. “So the PT scores are not going to suffer. … When we have a student for four weeks, who actually lives the PRT, they become somewhat of a converted zealot.”

Kane said, “I think the biggest thing for NCOs to remember is to just follow the principles of precision, progression and integration, and just to take the slow ramp — that moderate ramp — to success. Everything’s in the manual; it’s so user-friendly. And don’t try to get crazy. My theory has always been since I worked here that until I can do 10 repetitions of Climbing Drill 2 to standard without a spot, then I don’t have any business doing anything else.”

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The new MFTC: How do I get in?

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By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

To enroll in the Master Fitness Trainer Course, NCOs must score an 80 on each event of the Army Physical Fitness Test, which is 20 points higher than passing on each event, and they can’t be injured.

Stephen Van Camp, the Physical Readiness Division’s deputy director, acknowledges that the requirements may prevent some capable NCOs from becoming MFTs, but said the PRD must ensure these standards are met to keep the program valid.

HtWt1
MFTC students learn how to measure height and weight accurately.

“We want you to be the above-average Soldier physically and have the mental ability to do this,” he said.

Citing the NCO mantra of “Be. Know. Do,” Van Camp said, “Our fitness standards are there for a reason. If they’re trying to be mentors, they should be well in accordance with the body fat standard, they should have no problem with the physical test, and they should be able to do all the exercises and be unhurt. If they’re not, that’s going to limit their capability out there as a fitness leader and instructor. The course standards to get in are pretty fair.”

Once Soldiers are in the course, the mental challenges can be significant, as well.

“We have a mix of military regulation and policy classes, so they know what rules and regulations they have to operate under,” Van Camp said. “A lot of people come in with a lot of assumptions based on what they have done in their unit or what they’ve been told.

“As far as exercise, we have college-freshman-level anatomy and physiology,” he said. “We don’t really get into the microscopic bone structure, but we do talk about the skeleton as a lever system for movement and also about stress injuries and what improper training can do as opposed to proper training. We talk about musculature. … Even though we have this kind of crammed course in anatomy, if you relate it to exercise it makes it much more simple.

“The physiology’s a little different, because you have these conceptual things that happen cellularly in the body,” he said. “What they come away with is, ‘I have a basic understanding of how the body works, and now I know why I train this way: because that’s what makes this better; this is the optimal way to train.’”

During the course, two written quizzes are administered, testing the students’ knowledge on some of the specifics of the regulations and the science. The course’s final exam is a scenario-based, open-book test that checks “how much they can assimilate, where to go to look for [answers], and how to be a resource with the resources we’ve given them,” Van Camp said.

“The final, which is a cumulative, 50-question test over all four weeks, will talk about why we do a certain type of training: Why is speed training so important to improving our overall run time and cardiovascular fitness? It’s because it gives benefits to all the energy systems that supply energy to the body; it helps you both aerobically and anaerobically. You wouldn’t even understand that if you hadn’t had the class on it, but it’s an overall question about an implementation on a PT scheme.”

The examinations aren’t restricted to the classroom, though.

“Out on the field, we introduce, we practice, and then they teach themselves,” Van Camp said. “Then they get up on the platform and start leading. By the fourth week of the course, they’re leading their own PT sessions.”

Frank Palkoska, the PRD’s director, called these pass-fail “teach back” methods critical to the success of the MFTC.

“They get taught how to conduct and set up the strength-training circuit (for instance), and then we assess their ability to teach that,” he said. “That way we understand and have a good feeling that when they get back to their unit, they can teach it like we teach it.”

 

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