FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 12, 2019) -- Nearly 30 Fort Drum community members found themselves on the front lines of an intense fitness challenge April 11 at Atkins Functional Fitness Facility.

But this wasn't about battling against fellow competitors.

Rather, participants tested their own strength, stamina and agility by completing eight events in the shortest amount of time possible. With box jumps and deadlifts, pushing and pulling a weighted sled, an Atlas carry with dumbbells and more, competitors made every second count to complete each task.

The Fort Drum Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program partners with Atkins staff throughout the year for three BOSS Invades Atkins functional fitness challenges. Staff Sgt. Jonathan Banister, BOSS president, has worked behind the scenes at several of these events. This time, he decided to enter.

"I just wanted to see if I could do it," he said. "I've seen everyone else compete before, so I wanted to try it and see what my time would be."

Banister was happy with his performance, but said that the combination of back-to-back events made it incredibly challenging.

"I didn't really practice any of the tasks before," he said. "I would advise people like me who haven't done this before to practice and get used to doing the workout ahead of time."

Sgt. Aaron Alvardo, assigned to 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, also was a newcomer to the functional fitness challenge.

"The movements are simple, but there are so many and they are fast-paced that you really have to push yourself," he said. "I mean, I reached my limit pretty fast."

With the establishment of the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which soon will be the test of record, functional fitness workouts are becoming a more conventional way of conducting physical training. Alvardo said that conditioning is key, because the ACFT has more events than the current PT test and - like the functional fitness challenge he just completed - it is faster-paced.

"I think for the most part we are trying to train at a faster pace," he said. "If you lift and then go right into the next movement and then the next like we did here, that reflects pretty well in what we are doing with the ACFT."

Jessica Yates is a frequent patron at Atkins Functional Fitness Facility, where she regularly works on strength training. When she moved here two and a half years ago, a neighbor introduced her to the facility and taught her powerlifting.

"So now I have friends who I've recruited here and teach them how to powerlift," she said.

Yates has competed in fitness challenges before - most recently a one-rep max challenge, where she placed first in the women's category.

"It's a good way to push yourself, and it's a good motivator," she said. "I always try to encourage women to come out to Atkins, because we support each other so much here. I have seen them get past the times when they are not so confident, so I would say this is a great confidence booster."

Yates placed second in the functional fitness challenge with a time of 3:43, behind Sgt. 1st Class Christine Permenter, a vocalist with the 10th Mountain Division Band, who finished in 3:12. Stephanie Beaulieu placed third with a 3:46 finish.

"I do this for fun," Yates said. "It makes me proud when I can do something out of my comfort zone. I tell people that you do this and you walk away proud of yourself for accomplishing something, no matter how you placed."

Placing first in the men's category, Staff Sgt. David Jeffries looked more like a recruiting prospect at a NFL combine in his Florida Gators T-shirt than a military police. Jeffries is newly arrived at Fort Drum - still on leave, in fact - but he will soon report for duty as a member of the 23rd Military Police Company, 91st MP Battalion.

Lunging with a sandbag over his head and then smashing a sledgehammer into a tire, he barreled through station after station in a challenge he said was altogether unfamiliar to him.

"I've never done anything CrossFit related before in my life," he said. "But I saw the advertisement and just wanted to try it."

But in order to claim victory, Jeffries had to complete two additional stations when Pfc. Jordan Reichert, with 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, matched his time of 2:31.

Jeffries said that when he enlisted in the Army 12 years ago, physical training was mostly pushups and situps. Now, he's going after functional fitness routines to prepare for the ACFT. The day before the challenge, he was running, doing box jumps and bench presses.

"Pretty much all of this is new to me, but I like it," he said. "I think it gets people like me who love to work out an opportunity to integrate this into physical training."

Atkins Functional Fitness Facility is located in Bldg. 4325, Conway Road. To learn more about this state-of-the-art cross-training facility, call (315) 772-3377, visit https://drum.armymwr.com/programs/atkins-functional-fitness-facility or follow on Facebook to find out when the next challenge is scheduled.

To learn more about the BOSS program, call (315) 772-7807 or visit https://www.facebook.com/bossfortdrum/.