Staying fit to fight
May 15, 2013
- This story and more in the May online edition of Knowledge Magazine - the Official Safety Magazine of the U.S. Army.
FORT RUCKER, Ala. - One mile, no sweat, two miles, better yet! I bet that cadence echoes around installations every day as Soldiers conduct physical training. For Soldiers in the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 6:30 a.m. marks the beginning of our duty day, and PT is how we get it started.
All units need their Soldiers to be physically fit and ready to go at a moment's notice. When conducted properly, PT is an integral part of training that allows us to accomplish missions in the most demanding environments.
As the brigade safety noncommissioned officer, I manage all of the battalions' Army ground accident reports. I also have a direct link to the brigade's medical station that handles unit sick call. They send me a report of what's ailing Soldiers. When I started receiving the reports, I was surprised to learn that more than 50 percent of Soldier injuries and accidents were exercise related, not only on duty, but off duty as well. Don't get me wrong; Soldiers doing PT on their own is a good thing. The trend that concerned me is Soldiers aren't taking the proper precautions - both on and off duty - to protect themselves from injuries.
Organized PT requires us to run, jump, push, pull and lift. In most cases, even if a Soldier is on a profile and exempt from certain exercises, they are still required to participate. More often than not, they are pushed to their limits. Unfortunately, I've witnessed cases where there's been no forethought into the type of exercises executed and inadequate supervision to ensure they were conducted correctly. The instructors of these exercises are usually fit and healthy Soldiers, and there's no limit to the type of exercise they may require us to do. They come up with exercises they believe will get us in better shape and help us pass a PT test.
But here's a fact that's often overlooked - not all Soldiers are built the same or have the same strength or stamina. Heavy Soldiers cannot run those longer distances and are subject to injuries while attempting to complete the run. How many times have you seen someone fall out of a run and get left behind to finish alone? Those Soldiers are subject to injury. They are tired and not focusing on the road or what's ahead of them, but they know they have to finish.
We lift water cans, tires, logs and even our own buddies for PT. Soldiers sometimes lack the ability to lift heavy objects; they strain and hurt themselves when attempting to these exercises. Do we NCOs, leaders, take into account that some Soldiers aren't as strong as us and may need extra supervision to get to the point of being able to lift heavy objects? We need to understand that a PT program tailored to our Soldiers' abilities is the best way to get them in shape, sustain their fitness level and keep them safe.
Soldiers need to understand there's risk associated with PT and sports activities both on and off duty. They should take into account the weather, surf reports, running routes and underlying factors that may hurt them or their friends. Leaders must ensure Soldiers understand and use the risk management process to identify hazards during any type of physical activity.
Soldiers will do the right thing when leaders encourage and teach them what right looks like. Not all Soldiers jump in with an attitude of leaping before they look. We can ensure that our Soldiers are physically and mentally ready if we take the time and mentor them. With our guidance and leadership, we can help reduce the number of injuries on and off duty. After all, having healthy and physically fit Soldiers benefits everyone.