The Army and Physical Fitness
Let me begin by saying “What Happened?” Physical fitness among Army soldiers has gone way downhill, especially when compared to what it was several years ago. Is it because we live in a technology-driven world today? Is it because the newer generation doesn’t care? I have it—it’s because we have accepted mediocrity due to laziness and don’t care that the soldiers are overweight, or even worse, obese.
Decline in Physical Fitness Standards
I have watched physical fitness go down, weight go up, and PT failures rise over the last several years. There isn’t one specific reason other than, as leaders, we have accepted the failures, and the lack of dedication, discipline, desire and determination. Perhaps this went away when we changed the army motto from “Be All You Can Be” to “Army Strong.” Let’s face it, the Army is weaker today regarding physical fitness than it was 5, 10, 15, and 20 years ago. The military even spent millions of dollars on new and better equipment. The equipment we have today is far better and more accessible than what we had when I came in. I have deployed on several occasions and must say the gyms and equipment overseas are better than most gyms and equipment you will find in a civilian gym in the States that would cost you upwards of $50 a month for a membership. It also doesn’t help that nutrition has gone downhill, starting with fast food lines in the DFAC and the fast food restaurants and pizza places on base. The Army could do a much better job of keeping their soldiers fit if we went back to better discipline, fewer cell phones, less internet, and more dedication to the overall welfare of our soldiers.
A fit soldier is a motivated, positive soldier that has high self-esteem and is ready to complete any mission without hesitation or negativity. We, as leaders, are responsible for the overall health and welfare of our troops. We owe it to them, especially as NCOs starting at the lowest level, to teach, train, and educate our soldiers to make them better every day. The physical fitness so-called Conditioning Drills 1, 2, and 3 are jokes unless you just started working out today. These would maybe be acceptable for drill instructors in boot camp to instruct new recruits. However, these are being used for soldiers who have been in the Army for over a year. The drills should be as easy to do as walking to the chow line.
The physical fitness test is a joke because to pass it, you really only need to work out for 20 minutes a day. Does being able to run two miles in 16 mins or less make you physically fit? I don’t think so and not even close! What the Army needs to do is either create an MOS for physical trainers and then send them to all the schools for strength training, nutrition, and yes, as much as I hate to say it, implement CrossFit gyms and programs as well. This way they can set not only unit programs but also individual workout programs.
Pumping Discipline Back into Army Fitness Routines
In the days I went to Ranger School, the rangers were not as muscular and were built more for running. However, a few years ago the ranger regiment changed its philosophy and hired a civilian strength adviser who was a world-record power lifter. If anybody knows or has heard of a gym in Columbus Ohio called Westside Barbell, that’s where he was from. Now, I am not saying we need dead lift champions or world-class sprinters. But how about we change the run back to a 1.5 mile and add a quarter mile sprint or at least a 100-yard dash? I urge leaders to do this. It takes 21 days for the human body to create a habit, so change the way your team, squad, etc. workout, and for the next 21 days, use a gym and a track with a true workout. At the end, throw in 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 15 pull-ups, and a simple run/walk mile. As you continue this routine, watch your PT scores, motivation, and discipline go up. The soldier today needs motivation in PT more than ever to make it a positive experience and something they really want to do. Once the soreness has worn off, they will begin to enjoy it more.
The most important thing to do during this time is be creative, get advice, and create a need. If done correctly, soldiers will want to do PT at least 5 to 6 times a week and on their own. It is time for us to be truly ARMY STRONG!