Gimlets take PT to the next level

By Sheryl Nix (Fort Wainwright Public Affairs)

gimletsFORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – For leaders and Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, gone are the days of old-fashioned Army physical training. Instead, 3-21st Soldiers have brought several mobile training teams to Fort Wainwright recently to help them adapt to more combat-focused PT to take their fitness to the next level.

New Army PT regulations are leading the way for units to make these changes, said Maj. Zac Vann, 3-21st operations officer. “If you look at the (proposed) change in the (PT manual), one of the things it says is that units should design their physical fitness training program for wartime proficiency in accordance with their unit mission,” Vann said. “So we’re looking at how we can shape our PT program to make it more fit the for purpose of for our next deployment.”

To form their own more combat-focused PT program, the battalion hosted trainers from Cross Fit at the PFC last month and an MTT from the Military Athlete March 17-18 at Melaven Gym.

The goal now is to merge the top aspects of both training plans to find the best overall strategy for their battalion, Vann said.

Citing PT benefits for Soldiers like increased strength, becoming faster, increasing stamina and work capacity, Capt. Bill Hennessy, 3-21st assistant operations officer, explained that the knowledge and expertise taught by professional trainers and coaches has shown them how to train properly leading to physically fit Soldiers prepared for the rigors of combat.

Gimlet Soldiers will start seeing the new focus right away, Hennessy said. “The purpose of the Military Athlete Small Unit Training Seminar was to create subject matter experts within each company from our battalion and leverage these SMEs to create a physical fitness program that is strength focused and fit for purpose as we prepare physically and mentally for (our next deployment),” he explained. “Company commanders will begin utilizing knowledge gained from the Military Athlete MTT and implement it into their company PT programs immediately.”

Participants were surprised at how challenging the Military Athlete two-day event was. “It was definitely something outside the normal box and the way the traditional Army does PT,” said Staff Sgt. Giles Hawthorn, A Company, 3-21st. “It’s more combat- focused which is something the Army needs to focus on now. We’ve been locked in the traditional PT method for years now so it’s a good way for (Soldiers) to step out and see how the traditional Army method compares to this method.”

Rob Shaul, Military Athlete owner and strength and conditioning coach, took the sixteen 16 participants through two days of rigorous, demanding training with events like sandbag get- ups which involved a ten10-minute session of Soldiers falling down on a mat with an 80-pound duffel bag and then standing back up with it. Soldiers also participated in a fitness assessment, named “Operator Ugly,” and other exercises like leg- blasters, step- ups and even range fitness training. But even more than teaching specific exercises, Shaul said the key is in changing Soldiers’ mindsets toward fitness.

“The one thing I want to get across to them is to start considering and treating themselves like professional athletes,” he said. “If you are making your living through your body, you’re a professional athlete. That means (you should) stop working out and start training. Make sure your training makes you better at your work. Clean up your diet. Take care of yourself.”

His goal is to give them the legs and lungs for their next deployment. “The first thing I tell them is to take responsibility for your own fitness. With these guys here, a lot of them just needed some basic exercise instruction and then we introduced them to our program and how they can program their own training, how to identify what’s important and to focus on that,” Shaul said.

Despite the grueling events and soreness, participants would recommend this MTT to other battalions and units looking to step up their PT plans.

“It’s a good program,” Hawthorn said. “It works you out even when you think you’re in good shape. I go to the gym but this put me through the wringer.”

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Pruett, B Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1-25th SBCT, participated with 3-21st Soldiers since his squadron is hoping to integrate the training concepts into their PT program and host the same training event in the future.

“It was excellent,” he said. “I learned a lot and think this is going to be something that will benefit Soldiers in general.”