EASTOVER, S.C. - In the uncertain and changing global environment of the 21st century, the Army's philosophy on physical fitness and Soldier health has been evolving. Army leaders realize that changing the culture of fitness in the Army to a holistic approach is key to achieving and maintaining a more permanent standard of performance.

Coaches from the South Carolina National Guard's Warrior Fitness Team conducted a demonstration of the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test (ACRT) for South Carolina National Guard Soldiers at McCrady Training Center on Mar. 4, 2018.

The ACRT is designed as a gender-neutral comprehensive assessment of a Soldier's ability to perform during combat and includes events that better encompass the facets of physical performance. The ACRT is part of the Army's "Holistic Health and Fitness" model aimed at improving the conditioning and overall health and wellness of all service members.

The South Carolina National Guard leadership knows how important Soldier fitness is to readiness and adaptability and has spearheaded a statewide initiative to change the culture and improve Soldier fitness by implementing the Warrior Fitness Program.

The Warrior Fitness Program Team is on a mission to enhance the culture of fitness and conditioning within the SCNG by providing world-class coaching and training to every service member, regardless of where they live.

The Warrior Fitness Team is composed of 8 performance coaches responsible for managing seven holistic health and fitness centers across the state. Each performance coach is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with training and educational backgrounds in Exercise/Health Sciences.

"We are providing SCNG members with the same level of training and coaching that collegiate athletes receive because we believe that as a member of the SCNG, you are part of an elite fighting team," said Command Sgt. Maj., Russ Vickery, the state command sgt. Maj and leader of the SCNG Warrior Fitness Program initiative.

Vickery emphasized, "This is a free service for all South Carolina National Guard members. The Warrior Fitness coaches have the highest levels of training, certifications and education. The Warrior Fitness performance coaches are dedicated to improving the fitness of every single member in our ranks."

The Warrior Fitness Team is committed to providing the service, training and education required to ensure that all SCNG members can perform optimally in a "fight" as well as in their day-to-day lives.

"Every member of the South Carolina National Guard needs to understand their value as a member and asset to the total force," said Ron Doiron, director of the Warrior Fitness Program and retired Army veteran. "Each service member needs to be treated as a valued member that the military and American people have invested in. We design programs to prepare service members for the missions ahead, making them physically capable to accomplish all missions assigned, local and abroad."

The Warrior Fitness Team truly understands the physical demands of the military and the unique challenges traditional members face when trying to maintain personal fitness while holding down civilian jobs and taking care of their families.

Doiron coined the "2/28 Principle" to address the National Guard's needs. The principle states that units and commanders have Soldiers 2 days out of the month to train on Mission Essential Tasks, with little or no time left available for physical fitness training. So, he asks leaders to give his coaches their Soldiers for the remaining 28 days of the month, where they can be effectively coached on programs to improve personal fitness, conditioning and readiness.

"The new ACRT is coming. The focus for fitness is being shifted towards work-functional performance. There is no real and continued level of performance without training in precision of movement and proper conditioning protocols, the same process used by professional and collegiate sport teams; preparation for performance," said Doiron. "In the case of the military, the preparation is not to win games, but to win wars."

Jacob Crouch, a Warrior Fitness Performance coach for the West Columbia region describes the role of the Warrior Fitness coaches as a preventative prescription, teaching Soldiers how to train correctly and maximize performance goals, to avoid and reduce training related injuries. The program boosts morale, fosters camaraderie and facilitates a culture where strength training and conditioning is considered fun.

"The first thing we do is schedule an initial consultation with the service member to find out what their goals are. Then, we do an assessment to evaluate integrity of movement and correct any deficits we find. From there, we work with them on creating a training plan that fits into their lives, using the equipment and time that is available to them. We get very creative. If someone doesn't have access to barbells to practice deadlifts, we can use a tool box from their garage."

The Warrior Fitness Team conducts group training sessions daily around the state that any member of the SCNG and family members can attend. To find out more about where the trainings are located, contact the Warrior Fitness Team at scngwarriorfitness@gmail.com or facebook.com/scngwarriorfitness.