The 25th Infantry Division is focused on enhancing Soldier lethality and improving readiness through a comprehensive human performance training program. The 25th Infantry Division’s Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic and Lightning Academy have partnered to operationalize Holistic Health Fitness efforts on Oahu. Subject matter experts in the health and training fields came together to pilot a Lightning Tactical Athlete Program (LTAP) for 13 noncommissioned officers Feb. 10 – March 6 on Schofield Barracks. Lightning Academy serves as the US Army Pacific’s premier individual training venue and with the help of the Desmond T. Doss performance experts, the 25th Infantry Division is shaping how Holistic Health Fitness programs evolve for our Army.
“The intent of LTAP is to consolidate Holistic Health Fitness resources in one program and enable junior leaders to drive a culture of fitness across the 25th Infantry Division and ultimately the Army,” said Capt. Andrew Tindall, Lightning Academy commander. LTAP was operationally focused on improving lethality at the squad level and preparing these junior leaders for the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
The 23-day operational pilot program consisted of immersive training in a learning environment that integrated Army Field Manual 7-22 (Army Physical Readiness Training), the ACFT fielding guide, and Holistic and Health Fitness (H2F) program principles for approximately 3-4 hours a day.
"[This] program is the best local school I've gone through and I've been through a lot,” said Sgt. Jamarcus Moten, an Army ammunition specialist assigned to 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. “Not only is it helping me develop and maintain the knowledge on how to properly workout and recover, but the program also teaches me how to relay the knowledge to my Soldiers and my unit.”
The LTAP program provides a distinctive partnership that leverages the expertise of numerous organizations into a comprehensive training program. Overall, this gives Soldiers opportunities that are commonly reserved for elite athletes. LTAP partnered with Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic (DDHC) athletic trainer and strength conditioning specialist, physical therapists, registered dieticians, Army Wellness Center, and Ready and Resilient mental performance experts. Each subject matter expert had multiple touch points that allowed for the program to be holistic in nature with performance at the forefront and Soldier preservation and injury prevention in mind.
“We taught them physical strength, specific energy system development, injury prevention tactics, and ensured the major pillars of tactical strength and conditioning were implemented on a daily basis,” said Neil Santiago, an athletic trainer and strength conditioning specialist with DDHC. “I also mentored the Lightning Academy NCO’s on the execution of these subject areas to further develop the force.”
Physical therapists provided guidance and instruction on injury prevention and management, specifically looking at running efficiency and body mechanics. Maj. Michael Konetsky, a musculoskeletal expert, provided expeditionary means to manage injuries and minimize overtraining that is common across our formations.
Registered dieticians provided education on nutrition’s critical role in human performance and how to maximize post workout meals from on post dining facilities. The Army Wellness Center conducted body composition, resting metabolic, and VO2 max measurements. All of these metrics give leaders and Soldiers a better understanding of their capabilities and methods to measure performance gains.
Finally, a critical element of the course was incorporating performance psychology techniques to help Students gain self-awareness and control physiological responses to stress. One workout a week was a tactical circuit that incorporated mental conditioning tasks while students were under stress from physical exertion. The R2 performance psychologists taught students how to implement diaphragmatic breathing—commonly taught in the elite marksmanship community—to regulate focus and accomplish the task at hand. One week this task was a nine line MEDEVAC request stressing working memory and the next week it was reaction time drills when engaging close quarters targets with an M4.
In order to obtain invaluable and precise training data, the Soldiers also utilized a unique wearable device that combined muscle activity measurements and motion tracking technology to help Soldiers better understand physical movement patterns. This data helped Soldiers understand lower body muscle imbalances and how this can detrimentally impact performance and lead to musculoskeletal injury.
To provide measurable progress to students, there were two assessments, along with physical measurements and screenings. Each assessment helped Soldiers assess his/her goals and mission essential tasks before and after the program—and furthermore, this programming methodology demonstrated how to operationalize a gated and measureable strategy at the Squad level. The Soldiers also completed a pre-workout and post-workout survey along with post program interviews to ensure successful training in the future.
LTAP students saw an average improvement of 20 percent on strength-based events on the ACFT & overall ACFT improvement of 5 percent (23 points total).
Always looking to improve our foxhole, the 25th’s second operational tryout of the LTAP is slated to take place in early May. The program will continue to evolve based on student and instructor feedback—leadership looks to introduce lower impact pool workouts and athlete blood flow restriction which is increasingly used by elite athletes to increase performance. These additions will continue to shape how leaders approach holistic fitness. As the Army looks disperse H2F assets to the Battalion level, the 25th hopes to demonstrate how a human performance center of excellence can change culture in a large organization.