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Army PT evolving to fit current wars

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  • Army PT evolving to fit current wars

    I found this while searching around on the Army Times website. What are your .02 on this?

    New PT plan redefines ‘Army Strong’

    By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer

    Fort Jackson, S.C. — An overhauled physical training program that links a soldier’s fitness and exercise to the demands of combat and long deployments is on its way to the operational Army.

    A draft manual that spells out the changes is being reviewed by soldiers on a wide distribution list. But when approved — which could be within months — it will be the first change to the Army PT manual since 1992.

    The 645-page draft manual contains dozens of fitness regimens for a 12-month period, designed to take soldiers through the deployment cycle. The workouts are aimed at conditioning soldiers for the missions and tasks they perform every day, rather than for getting them in shape for the semiannual Army Physical Fitness Test.

    Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general of Army Accessions Command, which oversees the Basic Combat Training Directorate and U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, said the Army was “moving towards warrior tasks and battle drills, expeditionary-Army-centric PT.”

    Full battle rattle, rather than shorts and a T-shirt, is the required PT gear for many of the workout routines.

    Some sets require soldiers to exercise in their Army Combat Uniforms, wearing body armor and helmets with rifles slung across their backs. The exercises are designed to build the strength and flexibility soldiers need for the jobs they do; perhaps to dash 50 yards in full battle gear and jump a low wall, or to endure the twisting and fatigue of manning a gun turret.

    The PT test — which has remained unchanged since it first appeared in 1980 — will stay the same for now, leaders say, because the Army wants soldiers to focus on the new PT regimen and its benefits for helping them in their jobs.

    `Push-ups and sit-ups will continue to be part of PT, but sprinting and walking are recommended over distance running, which was found to have been “overemphasized” in the current manual, according to briefing notes that accompany the draft.

    hundreds of exercises designed to build the strength, motor patterns and endurance soldiers need in the field are included in the new manual, organized into daily workouts linked to the Army’s warrior tasks and battle drills.

    Recognizing that soldiers and units don’t all have regular access to a full gym, the new manual also provides a lengthy section on strength training with dumbbells, which are easy to store and transport.

    In another move to more closely gear physical fitness training to field requirements, there is an entire chapter devoted to water survival training — the first time the subject has been included in the PT manual. another chapter lays out testing procedures for combat water survival.
    Getting in deployment shape

    Many of the individual exercises are not necessarily new to the Army but will be to many soldiers. They were chosen specifically for their value in training soldiers to be strong, fast and agile and are grouped into sets of drills designed to progressively condition, toughen and sustain soldiers in a pattern that mirrors the Army Forces Generation Model, a full lifecycle that includes readiness training, deployment, redeployment, reset and back to readiness.

    Using that model, the manual offers a year’s worth of sample PT schedules that take a unit through that progression, including a couple of sample schedules that can be used during deployment.

    Commanders can select as they see fit from a menu of drills and activities that meet their mission-essential task lists for their type of unit. Each day’s workout is designed to take about 60 minutes.

    “It’s not a routine, it’s a system,” said U.S. Army Physical Fitness School director Frank Palkoska, who co-wrote and developed the manual and curriculum with training development specialist and deputy director Steve VanCamp.

    Palkoska and VanCamp said they kept the idea of a “tactical athlete” in mind as they rewrote the book over the past five years, hoping that leaders will use the information to condition soldiers for peak performance the same way professional athletes train.

    “The drills are crafted for balance and should be done as prescribed. The more you deviate, the more you run the risk of not getting the results you want,” VanCamp said. “Don’t just take all the ones you like and do them. Do all the exercises in the drill and get really good at them, and you’ll see a total change in your body.”

    The draft PT manual is an expanded version of a physical readiness training program that was introduced at basic training posts four years ago, and it’s the first time an Army PT manual has been validated with proven results.

    According to Palkoska, 85 percent of men and 75 percent of women in basic training who were conditioned using the new combat PT regimen scored higher than 60 percent on the APFT’s three events — push-ups, sit-ups and running. Basic trainees are required to score 50-50-50 to pass, but, according to Col. Kevin Shwedo, deputy commander of Fort Jackson, more than half are passing with those higher scores.

    Freakley said that beyond test scores, the most important benefit of the overhauled PT is that, `”Clearly, a large part of an Army being able to fight is our physical condition.”

    Freakley praised the manual’s focus on preparing soldiers for missions of all intensity levels, not the least of which are the long-term missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “If you look at us before the start of this war, we did not wear 70 pounds of equipment,” he said, predicting that leaders across the Army would embrace the new regimen once they got a chance to work with it, understanding that it conditions soldiers for hard work.

    “What compels the leader to want to do this is that this manual is warrior task- and battle drill-centric. It’s about mobility, it’s about strength and it’s about endurance, and it’s putting those all together in and out of your kit.”
    ‘Toughened and sustained’

    Staff Sgt. Michael Norton, 27, was recently assigned to work at the physical fitness schooland has been familiarizing himself with the new manual.

    The section on gym workouts, he said, “is exactly the kind of stuff soldiers buy Men’s Health magazine for.”

    But he also gave high praise to the manual’s focus on what regular Joes need to be strong enough for their missions.

    He said infantrymen need to be able to move in full battle rattle as though they were not weighed down by all that they carry.

    His unit’s forward operating base, he said, “was at 3,800 feet and it was like 80 degrees in the morning and snowing in the afternoon.”

    He and his squad carried up to 85 pounds on their bodies.

    “I’ve been pretty winded climbing up some of those inclines. Our perimeter security was always up,” he said.

    This new PT, he said, “has more emphasis on the speed and resistance you need to be strong for operations in this environment for a year.”

    Another fan of the new manual is Lt. Col. Dave Snodgrass, commander of 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, a basic training unit at Fort Jackson that’s been doing the overhauled basic training PT since 2004.

    “We’re going to export this to the rest of the Army. I’m a believer, it works,” said Snodgrass, who has seen marked changes in his trainees.

    “I’m a big runner, but the reality is you’re never going to run four miles in combat,” he said. “But I still believe in having soldiers run four miles as a way of pushing them to push themselves.”

    And with the new PT manual, that’s not a bad thing, Palkoska and VanCamp said, it’s just not the only thing soldiers should be doing.

    The merits of the new process for creating soldiers who are well-rounded athletes, Freakley said, will benefit every leader.

    “My view is as a senior leader, I don’t want a marathoner who can’t wear his or her combat load. But I also don’t want a Mr. or Mrs. America weightlifter who doesn’t have the endurance to walk up some of the hills we did in Afghanistan,” Freakley said of his tenure as commander of 10th Mountain Division. “So I want that toughened and sustained soldier who is balanced. You’ve got some weightlifters out there who can’t touch their toes because they’re so muscled up.”

    The draft manual is still in the review stage and, once approved, will go into production and distribution. Palkoska estimated it could be another six months before it’s out into the operational Army.

    “Within three to five years,” he said, “the Army will be saying, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.”’

  • #2
    Re: Army PT evolving to fit current wars

    Good read.


    • #3
      Re: Army PT evolving to fit current wars

      I also from the same issue:


      Get ready to do some walking — a lot of walking.

      For many deployed soldiers, Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain and lack of serviceable roads will mean lots of dismounted patrols in high altitudes.

      A soldier who’s been there offers this advice: “The best thing you can do is PT every day,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan Pike, who served as a specialist in A Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

      “We thought we were in as good a shape as anybody, but you get over there and it’s a whole different kind of shape,” Pike said.

      Some soldiers don’t a see a vehicle during their deployment, he said, and they carry an average of more than 100 pounds of gear.

      “I don’t know if there’s anywhere that really compares to the mountains over there, just with the elevation and the amount of weight you carry,” he said. “It’d be really hard to get the guys in the right kind of shape.”

      To prepare for Afghanistan, “running and rucking has got to be the biggest focus. If you’re lucky enough to be in a place like [Fort] Carson [Colo.] that has mountains, any chance you can get to find some kind of elevation, it helps,” Pike said.

      SFC L