SOUTH KOREA - The Army saw a change in its physical readiness doctrine in March 2010, with the introduction of TC 3-22.20, an action taken in accordance with its 2009 posture statement on the issue. But, this was only a part of a changing approach to comprehensive soldier fitness, which included a slew of new programs at varying levels of command.
Some of these programs deal with general fitness, while others are specifically targeted at select groups, such as new and soon-to-be mothers. Others, yet, focus on nutrition and preventative health.
For the new Physical Readiness Training Program, the exercises were designed to meet the demands of combat and combat-specific tasks.
"The intent of the changes was to improve the overall fitness of the soldier while focusing on the movements you make in combat," said 1st Sgt. Mark Bedwell, the senior enlisted adviser to the commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
The old warm-up drills have now been replaced by a preparation drill consisting of the same ten exercises, done in the same sequence every time, for a maximum of ten repetitions. The changes made to the warm-up activities are just the start of the changes introduced by TC 3-22.20; everything from the beginning to the end of a PT session has been modified.
"PT used to be, basically, a three event affair: pushups, sit-ups and a run," said Bedwell.
By increasingly developing the warrior to better adapt to the stresses of the battlefield, the changes introduced by PRT are designed to ensure soldiers are always prepared for the next fight.
"Every soldier knows that when you are in a stressful environment, you revert back to your training," said Bedwell, highlighting the importance of combat-oriented physical training.
While intended as a general solution to soldier fitness, each individual has different requirements. To meet these needs, some units are embracing the CrossFit approach as a supplement to the Army's new PRT program.
"CrossFit is not going to replace the Army Physical Readiness Training as [210th Fires'] primary physical training," said Sgt. 1st Class Remi Riverarodriguez, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the 210th Fires Brigade's plans non-commissioned officer. But, Warrior Division soldiers from across the peninsula attended a two-day CrossFit Level One Trainer Course July 31 - Aug. 1 at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan's Collier Center.
Soldiers who completed the training gained a fundamental understanding of the CrossFit program's unique approach to fitness and many of them will become unit-level CrossFit trainers for their fellow soldiers.
"The training is very beneficial for everyone's overall heath," said trainee Sgt. Keith Caldwell, a San Diego, Calif., native, of Company B, 70th Brigade Support Battalion, 210th FiB.
In general, CrossFit bases its workout program around short, intense functional fitness sessions. The program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive, according to the CrossFit corporate website.
Soldiers of the 210th FiB will use their CrossFit training in a special fitness program unique to that unit.
Still, there are other fitness needs that must be addressed, especially among pregnant soldiers and new mothers. At Camp Casey, military and civilian women gather at Carrey Gym for a program called Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Training.
Although this class is intended to help meet the physical needs of women who are going through pregnancy, that is only the very beginning of what it is all about. Sgt Robin Flores of Headquarter Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, who has been teaching such classes ever since she got introduced to them at Fort Sill, Okla., calls it a "morale booster."
"We are our own support groups. This is for everyone who is, or has been, pregnant," said Flores.
While the men in their lives can attend the educational classes that accompany the exercise sessions, the physical training portion is intended for women only.
But, these changes are much larger than anything limited strictly to the division. Nutritional programs are developing in units Army-wide. Some are even branching out ans specializing, like the weight-control and sports nutrition classes offered to soldiers stationed at Sather Air Base in Baghdad.
The hour-long weight control class aims at balancing and changing an individual's overall lifestyle to have lasting success with weight control. Whereas, the 90-minute sports nutrition class stresses the importance of carbohydrates in an athlete's diet and touches on supplement use.
"The weight control class is to keep everyone in line with Army standards, and the sports nutrition class is more about fueling for exercise," said Capt. Ryan P. Koelsch, class instructor and chief of nutrition care division with 86th Combat Support Hospital, United States Forces-Iraq., who is also a registered dietitian.
As these changes are gradually absorbed by an evolving Army, soldiers can expect to encounter them, eventually, in one way or another. But, as the Army changes, so must the force, and education is always a good start.
"Educating someone to make their own good decisions is always going to be important because they are going to be the one who puts the food on their tray," said Koelsch. "Nutrition and physical fitness really do go hand in hand and to make the most out of anyone's training I think there's some nutrition education people could use."
Sgt. T.J. Moller of the 305th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment contributed to this report.