By Vince Little, The BayonetNovember 18, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The 75th Ranger Regiment is always looking for the Army's best Soldiers. Once they become Rangers, the unit wants to keep them sharp for their intense training and deployment tempo.
The regiment has been continuously deployed since Sept. 11 and Ranger fitness has been critical to its success, leaders said.
Through its Ranger Athlete Warrior program, the regiment uses the latest concepts in functional fitness, resilience, sports medicine and nutrition to optimize human performance within the ranks. RAW has been around since 2006, officials said, but leaders are emphasizing the rewards and sinking more resources into the system to maximize effectiveness.
"Rangers are always looking for an edge to get better, faster and stronger - they already have that elite athlete mentality," said Maj. Robert Montz, the regimental occupational therapist and officer in charge of the RAW program. "There are a ton of resources out there. We thought, let's get some subject matter experts on board who know this stuff and make sure our Rangers are truly doing the right things to become more elite."
The program is built around four pillars: functional fitness, performance nutrition, mental toughness and sports medicine. It incorporates multiple disciplines and takes a holistic approach to keeping Rangers in the fight, factoring in the extreme environments they routinely operate and train in.
Montz said the components address every need for optimal Ranger performance - and they're not just a matter of working out hard. Regimens must be appropriate to the physical requirements, fueled by sound nutritional practices and designed to prevent avoidable "overuse" injuries, he said, with the mind fully engaged. Any injuries that do surface should be addressed promptly and thoroughly.
"That's the whole continuum ... everything a Ranger needs to be operational. This program brings all those dynamics into one," he said. "There isn't a recipe or formula online for becoming a better Ranger. For NFL and college players, there's a nice science out there already for how a linebacker can become a better linebacker. (RAW) is specific for the mission sets Rangers need to do in combat operations.
"We knew we needed something a little more robust than traditional (physical fitness test) tasks."
Among recent moves, the regiment brought in Dr. Travis Harvey to serve as director of human performance. The RAW staff also includes Capt. Nick Barringer, the regiment's first Ranger dietician, and retired Lt. Col. David Meyer, a physical therapist and the unit's sports medicine director. In addition, each battalion now has a strength and conditioning coach, along with a physical therapist, physician assistants and surgeons.
"There's a vast amount of information available. We help them filter it for their own program integration," Harvey said. "Since a Ranger's schedule is already so jam-packed, we want to optimize their time and get them to train smarter and more efficiently. This is specifically tailored for Rangers.
"There are a lot of good training programs and components online, but putting it all together for Rangers is just not out there. We want (RAW) to be the pre-eminent program so they don't need to go anywhere else."
The team of therapists and health-care providers spread the program's principles by conducting five-day training sessions with squad and team leaders throughout the regiment. Soldiers in the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program also get an overview.
In a joint venture with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, the 75th Ranger Regiment provided equipment to Audie Murphy Athletic Center for tactical fitness training. The facility features pulling sleds, ladders, ropes and other apparatus designed around power, speed and agility drills. The gym is undergoing renovations and not scheduled to reopen until March, but it's normally available to all post personnel.
In 2008, the regiment began doing a 10-event RAW assessment to measure the program's impact and functional fitness level of its Rangers before and after combat deployments. It's a physical fitness test loaded with Ranger tasks in uniform to evaluate performance levels. Facilitators said it's a better gauge than the APFT and a great tool that's been shared with other units.
Montz said commanders use the data to make adjustments and help map out physical development for missions.
"The RAW program is constantly evolving to reflect the current mindset, operations and conditions," he said. "It's an ongoing process to make sure we're delivering the most optimal, up-to-date program for our Rangers and leaders."
Chronic issues such as back, shoulder and knee ailments affecting veteran Rangers might have been averted if today's training techniques, methodology and approach to PT had been applied in past decades, Montz said.
Harvey said new science and research are emerging all the time.
"It can be difficult to determine what a Ranger should take away from a particular research study. That's where we step in," he said. "The end product has to be what it's going to do for a Ranger."
The Ranger Athlete Warrior program addresses four objectives through the components of functional fitness, performance nutrition, mental toughness and sports medicine:
* Achieve a level of physical fitness that is commensurate with the physical requirements of Ranger missions.
* Understand and choose sound nutritional practices.
* Employ mental toughness skills to enhance personal and professional development. The regiment's occupational therapist and psychologist coach Rangers on the mind-body connection in order to optimize performance.
* Receive screening, education and skills for injury prevention and "prehabilitation" that prompt effective and thorough treatment through "rehabilitation" of injuries if and when they do occur.
For more information about the Ranger Athlete Warrior program, go to https://www.benning.army.mil/75thranger/content/physical.htm.