'Iron PT' aims to enhance esprit de corps for SSI
June 6, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A conversation between Brig. Gen. David MacEwen, commanding general of the Soldier Support Institute, and Maj. Jon Williams, the SSI's Combined Arms Directorate chief, about strengthening the organization's esprit de corps led to a workout session that had most of the SSI officers sweating and all of the participants smiling after physical training on the morning of May 31.
Williams suggested to MacEwen to try a more interesting and challenging approach than the typical officer esprit de corps run, and the result is the new "Iron Physical Training" program.
Officers arrived at Semmes Lake at 5:40 a.m. for formation and had very little advance knowledge about the events to follow. The course, which started near the Semmes Lake Trolley, included a 50-meter Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck tire flip; a 300-pound duffle bag, litter carry; a 100-meter buddy carry, a 4-mile fun; and some CrossFit-like calisthenics.
"Doing lunges just before running a mile plus was definitely a challenge, but I didn't feel like I wanted to fall over," said Capt. Pamela Deville, Captains Career Course instructor. "We were all out there working as a team to get through the events, so we really had a chance to build some camaraderie."
Deville was part of a team of six officers and warrant officers who had to work together to complete the course. They were given a map at formation, along with a general overview of the events, and a safety brief. The team then had to figure out how to best get from one point to another to complete the course.
"I think the HEMMT Tire Flip was the toughest event. One tire has to weigh about 300 pounds," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dennis Stribling. "Moving that much weight, even with a buddy, 50 meters, is definitely a 'smoker.'"
After completing six events around the east side of Semmes Lake, the "iron officers" ran the path from Semmes Road to Chesnut Road, adjacent to the golf course. Traversing the less than gently rolling hills of Fort Jackson, the SSI officers found themselves at the rally point for the final exercise: 100 burpees (about 25 apiece).
"The burpees were pretty tough, but the fact that I knew I had to run back made them especially difficult," said Capt. Christian Bonno, an instructor with the Basic Officer Leaders Course B.
Once all were accounted for at Chesnut and Semmes, MacEwen motivated the officers for the run back.
"Well, you made it out here, now you've got to make it back. The first one to get back to my house gets the most biscuits," MacEwen promised.
Waiting at the end of the course was a homemade breakfast of biscuits, egg, sausage, ham and cheese casseroles, orange juice, coffee and water, prepared by MacEwen's wife, Patty.
"This was a great team building event," Capt. Sarah Noyes said. "When you see a senior leader and his wife hosting an event like this, it really sets a positive tone for the entire institute."
"This clearly met my intent. I wanted to get my officers together to see what they are made of," MacEwen said. "They proved to me that they are a physically fit group, willing to get the job done with limited guidance. The officers of the SSI have great team spirit."
MacEwen said he plans to continue to emphasize physical training while in command and to keep things interesting with the unexpected. The Iron PT session will continue a quarterly series, which is designed to encourage officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers to think outside the box, have fun and increase esprit de corps across the SSI through physical training.