FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 20, 2017) -- Bennie Wylie was impressed, inspired, somewhat amazed, and exhausted after completing one session of Total Soldier Enhancement Training.
Wylie, the reigning training champion of NBC Television's "Strong" series, participated in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program's TSET workout for Soldiers competing in the 2017 BOSS Strong Championship on Sept. 14 at Fort Sam Houston Theatre.
"It's been a long time since I've felt like that during a workout," said Wylie, 41, a former football tailback and track sprinter at Sam Houston State University who served as a strength coach for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and Texas Longhorns.
Developed by Soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, Total Soldier Enhancement Training, or TSET, is an elite level, Soldier-led training specifically designed to increase performance enhancement and resiliency. The program increases readiness and resilience of Army units through facilitated, team-based training events that expose Soldiers to mental skills training that sets the conditions for more consistent and high levels of performance.
Five BOSS Strong teams of six Soldiers and their coaches accompanied Wylie through a high-energy workout of kicking, punching, running, lifting, pushing and pulling on functional fitness tools, anchored by the "Battle Rig at Bennie's Playground," to the sounds of upbeat music and roars of peer-to-peer inspiration.
"This was outstanding," Wylie told the WCAP TSET Soldiers after accompanying the BOSS Strong Soldiers and coaches Brandi Binkley, Yancy Culp, Wes Okerson, Matt Miller and Drew Logan through their drill. "For us to get to work with you is an honor. You guys maybe don't see it that way, but we got to work with the best. Let me ease in here a little bit and say it again: We got to work with the best!"
Wylie should know. He spent four seasons as the assistant strength coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He was the head strength coach at Texas Tech for seven seasons, and spent one year at Tennessee and three at Texas. When then Texas head coach Charlie Strong took the Longhorns' reins and brought his own strength coach to Austin, Wylie moved on and became the training champion of NBC's "Strong."
"That group [of Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers] that you got to work with, they don't even understand what just happened -- they really don't," Wylie told the TSET Soldier instructors. "What these professionals have been telling you is that what you guys do every day and what you see every day is not normal."
WCAP is comprised of Olympic caliber Soldiers who maximize and embody high-performance agility, mental and physical strength. All Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program meet an Olympic caliber entry standard for their sport. This standard ensures that each Soldier possesses the physical, technical, and mental expertise to perform at the highest levels.
The WCAP is uniquely qualified to motivate and expose Soldiers and units across the Army to the importance and process for continuously building a culture and attitude of continuous improvement. TSET is designed to progress all those attending further along the spectrum of fully developing their readiness -- from building awareness of the importance of being mentally ready to prioritizing deliberate training of mental-toughness skills, then understanding available resources to continuously and deliberately practice toward a never-ending process of self and unit improvement.
Wylie reiterated a message WCAP Head Wrestling Coach Shon Lewis shared earlier with the troops.
"Don't be happy being where you are," Wylie said. "You guys are around the best in the world so don't be happy being the best in the world. It's not good enough. There's always a little more. Gold, and you'll get it. Gold. Silver is nice, but gold is better."
Wylie gave the WCAP TSET Soldiers a verbal gold medal for their work with the BOSS Strong Championship contenders after witnessing firsthand the professionalism of peer-to-peer resilience and readiness training.
"Best workout I've been in in a very long time," Wylie said. "There's probably one, but I can't remember it. Energy was high. Excellent. … Sometimes in a fight, you don't always get instruction, so you better figure it out and just work. I cannot tell you how good it was. You guys have a skill set that is unbelievable."
All Soldiers assigned to the Army WCAP receive continuous training from top experts in maximizing performance, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and wellness. TSET leverages WCAP Soldiers' high performance knowledge base to increase readiness and resilience across the Army through customized, resilience and performance enhancement skills training.
"Unbelievable instruction," Wiley said. "I liked the cues. I liked hearing it. I like how you talked to me. I like how you tried to give me some water, and I said, 'No,' and you asked me again, and I said 'No!' You said: 'You sure? OK.' Boom! I remember details. I remember what you're telling me."
One TSET training session was enough to convince Wylie that it should work for the troops.
"All your Soldiers will remember those details," he said. "They'll remember them, and they will grow. Thank you for what you guys are doing because you are changing the United States Army. Don't underestimate that. You are changing the United States Army."
Wylie sensed that working with their peers, likewise, will inspire the Soldier-athlete TSET instructors.
"Our TSET group, they don't get to see the common Soldier every day," he said. "Now you get back out and you're giving back. And, of course, our troops would love to be around those athletes, just like for me being next to [Paul] Chelimo, world-class athlete. He won the silver [in the 5,000-meter run at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games] but will go and win the gold. There's no doubt about it in my mind. You could see it in his eyes."
BOSS Strong coach Brandi Binkley, a former Navy rescue swimmer, could not resist chiming in to reinforce the concept of TSET to the Soldier-athletes who deliver it to the troops.
"My guys walked out of here feeling like rock stars," she said. "For us, in our daily job in my studio, our only job is to inspire people and make them better than when they first came into our presence, period. And you guys did that.
"You touched them on a level, with the eye contact, and this here means so much to those guys," Binkley added with a pat on the shoulder. "They love it. I guarantee you. That's the biggest difference between the military training that we've known in the past and what we're coming to know now. You guys giving them eye contact, encouraging them, hopping on the guy's back and saying, 'Come on, you've got this, you've got it!' That stuff was great. Don't stop that, because it matters to them. They feel like superheroes today, and that's what they need to feel like."
Wylie said that goes for everyone competing, coaching, training, and helping troops recover throughout the 2017 BOSS Strong Championship, which concludes Sept. 24 with a run through the obstacle course at Retama Park in Selma, Texas, scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. The event is open to the public and admission is free.
"Unbelievable," concluded Wylie, who now runs his own training facility in Abilene, Texas. "It's unbelievable what these Soldiers are doing, and they don't even quite understand yet. They are changing how our Army is going to move forward. And how it's going to move, period. Unbelievable."
The 2017 BOSS Strong Championship is sponsored by Cerasport Rice-based Electrolyte Drink, Trigger Point Performance Therapy, Global Promotional Sales and Breezer Mobile Cooling.