FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 20, 2017) - - The value of a coach to a squad of young Soldiers, competing in an Army reality show, rises above their raw talents of youth, strength, endurance and will-power. This professional coach's promise to attain performance at a higher level, the level of a well-trained athlete, requires a mystical confidence of experience and success.
For the BOSS Strong Championship in San Antonio, Coach Brandi Binkley, recruited by the Alpha Warrior organization, is one of several assistant coaches brought in to provide the right instruction and motivation for Soldier teams with the desire to perform at their maximum potential. She knows what military fitness is all about.
"I was in the Navy for five years, started out as an air-crew," said Binkley, a veteran E5. "I blew my knee out and got reassigned to F-18 squadron and worked there for three and a half years until I got out in 2003."
For the BOSS Strong Championship, Binkley was assigned to coach team "Able" from USAG Italy, one of the five teams of rugged professionals from around the world, to work on fitness, resilience and readiness. Readiness has always been on her mind.
"I gained some weight after my injury, and couldn't do what I intended to do when I came into the military -- be in a search and rescue squadron," said Binkley. "Then after I was reassigned, I knew I couldn't [remain at that level]. I needed to take care of myself and be mission ready, so I made simple basic changes and I got better."
When Coach Binkley transitioned out of the military, she devoted herself to fitness.
"After leaving the Navy, I've been an exercise physiologist for 15 years now," said Binkley, a master trainer and owner of PhysioFit in Nashville, Tennessee. "Bennie Wylie worked with my mentor, and asked me if I'd join him in this competition. [I'm thrilled] to be able to do what I love on a daily basis -- work with people to get better physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and to be able to transfer that to our Soldiers, I don't think there is a higher honor than that. I [told Bennie] 'absolutely, let's do it.'"
Binkley was joined by coaches Yancy Culp, Wes Okerson, Matt Miller and Drew Logan and has been embedded with the Soldier teams since Sept. 11, 2017, as they vie for the championship.
After nearly two weeks with team Able, Coach Binkley has come to know and appreciate her Soldiers. "My crew, hands down - I'd hire any of them at PhysioFit. Their work ethic is unparalleled to anything I've seen," said Binkley. "Their desire to want to win, to please and work hard - not only for me, but for their team, it's inspirational. My guys are each individually very different, but they have embraced the differences and love each other, and they work so hard. I've not heard one complaint. I am so over-the-top impressed with them."
In addition to fitness coaches like Brandi Binkley, the Army has employed coaches and Soldier advisors from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado, and experienced in Total Soldier Enhancement Training, to serve as assistant coaches and trainers in various events, such as swimming, equestrian and combative training.
"In TSET, we expose Soldiers to high level elite training," said Capt. Mike Kohn, WCAP coach for bobsled team and infantry officer. "As an Olympic athlete and now an Olympic coach, we want to evolve as world leaders. We want to treat our Soldiers like professional athletes. Imagine how resilient they're going to be with the mentality of a Soldier and the physicality of a world class professional athlete. That's going to make us a world leader in health and fitness."
Along with Coach Binkley, Capt. Kohn has been working daily with their Soldiers in strength, flexibility, endurance and team training through myriad obstacles and events leading up to a finale on Sept. 24.
"As hard chargers, these Soldiers are getting out there [typically] with MREs, and back in the garrison, fighting balance of life issues," said Cpt. Kohn. "The purpose [of the competition] is to expose Soldiers to the benefits of the BOSS program, perform community service, get fit and appreciate where they are in life and know -- as a Soldier, they've got support from the Army and to take advantage of those opportunities."
"Brandi brings motivation," added Capt. Kohn. "She's been great at teaching about diet, how to work out, stay motivated and giving [her team] direction about how to take care of themselves when they leave here. Her expertise is in nutrition, flexibility and core work. It's critical in developing strength. Her attention to detail is something only coaches of her caliber have. It's tough for the Army to match her motivation level."
The young Soldiers in team Able are typical of many serving in the Army today. They represent the raw material -- the straw that is folded into the adobe bricks that make the force that defends the United States of America stronger.
"It's been an incredible honor to put back into these Soldiers," said Coach Binkley, or just Brandi to her team and assistant coaches. "I don't take my freedom for granted. It's something I thank God for every day. These guys are so young and they put their lives on the line without question. For that, I want to give them everything I have while I'm here, an investment in their person, their soul, and their mindset."
Coach Brandi's Soldiers had many praises for the substance and style of her training.
"She's taught me not only the right types of food, but also what to eat before and after the workout," said Spc. Joey Biggers. "She can point out my weaknesses better than me."
"During regular PT in the Army, we seem to do the same things over and over and I think honestly - people get bored with it, and I see a lot of injuries," said Spc. Landon Kennedy. "To me personally, seeing new [methods] from the civilian standpoint is great."
Teams had the opportunity to meet all the coaches before the competition began and choose the ones who they thought would be the best fit.
"Coach Brandi was the last person to get picked in the competition," said Spc.Gerardo Lopez. "But she came in and taught us mobility and how to eat right. We definitely look a lot better, feel a lot better and move a lot better. She's a real inspiration."
"Having coaches provides the straight leadership we need for the competition, but also having a positive attitude all the time is [fantastic]," said Spc. Anthony Rodriguez. "[She] shows us that even when something bad happens, we just keep going. All that positive energy from the squad, win or lose, we keep going for the next event."
"Coach Brandi is awesome. She has a long history of exercise, competing and in the gym," said Spc. Kennedy. "Her knowledge, and bringing it to us is unreal and a great experience. We are extremely blessed to have this opportunity with her."
"Coach Brandi has bonded with our team, showing us that someone really does care. We haven't had that in a long time." Said Spc. Biggers. "Like a mother figure, she's nurturing us, taking care of us and also able to push us, and strive for nothing but perfection from each and every one of us."
"Coach Brandi is like a second mom to me. She's done so much for me, I love her, "said Spc. Lopez. " All fitness training is, is a mindset. She's taught me a lot within such a little amount of time. She's an amazing coach and an amazing person."
"I think she's like - the best coach," said Spc. Rodriguez. "It would be awesome to have Coach Brandi back in Italy with us, with our company and platoon. I want to thank her for everything she's done for us."
Spinning gold from straw is a promise only an imp like "Rumplestiltskin" from a Grimm fairy tale can make. This kind of praise from the Soldier is worth more than gold to Coach Brandi. It's evidence her work has been a positive influence and left a lasting impression on these Soldiers.
"My emotional attachment to all of them is real. They are very deep and inspiring human beings and each one has overcome so many obstacles," said Coach Brandi. "They made me realize how soft I've gotten, how good I have it, which makes me more grateful for the sacrifice they've made, to be away from their families -- to go when called. It takes a special human to do that."
BOSS refers to Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, an Army program designed to increase exposure to educational, social, recreational, and artistic activities by unaccompanied military members at Army garrisons around the world.
The goal of the BOSS Strong Championship, anticipated to be an annual event, is to increase Soldiers' awareness of the most modern ways to increase functional fitness, and to highlight the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs and facilities available on Army bases for Soldiers to use in their personal workout programs.
The Army wants to match fitness training methods with the right training and recreation facilities, to achieve the maximum benefit to the Soldier as they prepare for the fight down range.
During the two-week event, the Army has been recording each team's progress for delayed broadcast on the U.S. Department of Defense News website and other online platforms. The web series will tell the story of the contestants and follow the teams as they progress through the competition.
The competition is sponsored by Cerasport Rice-based Electrolyte Drink, Trigger Point Performance Therapy, Global Promotional Sales and Breezer Mobile Cooling.