By Vince Little, The BayonetFebruary 9, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - About 120 Soldiers from various units around Fort Benning, Ga., got a crash course last week on the Army's new Physical Readiness Training techniques.
A five-member mobile training team from the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School at Fort Jackson, S.C., led noncommissioned officers and team leaders through a four-day training session designed to reinforce the program's standards and execution. After an opening presentation Jan. 31, the group completed three straight days of strength, endurance and mobility drills.
"They're tired. They're definitely tired," said Master Sgt. Robert Hoskins, noncommissioned officer in-charge of the Physical Fitness School and mobile training team chief. "You can watch videos and read about (Physical Readiness Training) online, but it has more impact when you show them, teach them and physically involve them."
"They're hearing it from the horse's mouth," Hoskins explained. "When you get a trainer physically there in front of you, they help leaders identify key factors you're not going to get out of a book."
Training Circular 3-22.20, the Physical Readiness Training doctrine, features concepts designed to improve conditioning and help prevent injuries. It officially replaced Field Manual 21-20 across the Army in August.
Hoskins said it's a major paradigm shift in Army PT. FM 21-20 was set up to help Soldiers pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, while PRT stimulates all types of muscles while preparing Soldiers and units for combat-specific tasks.
At the time of PRT's creation in 2005, the attrition rate in Army basic training was 50 percent, he said. The average had dropped to between 8 and 10 percent in 2009, according to a study published by the University of South Carolina. Hoskins said it coincides with overall reductions in PT injuries at initial military training installations.
"It's more practical and work-related than what we did before," he said. "The old FM 21-20 was never scientifically backed up. Two individual studies have validated PRT. This system has proven to work."
Prior to PRT's release Armywide, Hoskins said standards varied across the force and were often different at each post. Soldiers are skeptical at first about the new program, he said.
"It's not until they physically engage themselves that they see this is different," he said. "It's that fast, it's that intense. They become believers."
The Fort Benning Soldiers took part in strength training Thursday at Eubanks Field with kettle bells weighing between 10 and 40 pounds. They moved briskly around 10 stations, performing various lifts, lunges, presses and steps lasting a minute each.
"I work out quite a bit on my own, but it was my first time working with PRT," said Staff Sgt. Zane King, a new instructor with C Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. "It was probably more challenging than 21-20, but incorporated different things. There are more movements related directly to combat situations. We did more sprinting and combat runs as opposed to long-distance runs. Then they incorporated the kettle bells, which was one of the things I really liked.
"If it's done right, I think it will be an extremely effective program throughout the Army."
The 199th Infantry Brigade hosted the training event as an educational platform for Soldiers across the installation. The Mobile Training Team's mission was to get them pointed in the right direction.
"Our goal was to reach out and touch as many Fort Benning leaders as possible," Hoskins said. "Hopefully, they'll be able to teach their Soldiers and peers back at their units. We provided blocks of instruction to show them how to put together plans and implement them."
Citing after-action reports from battalion commanders, he said leaders generally see a 30-point increase in Army Physical Fitness Test scores across the board 90 days after an Mobile Training Team.
The Physical Fitness School plans to launch an 11-day PRT Leaders Course sometime this fall, he said. It's a more elaborate version of the Mobile Training Team program with focus on the science and training circular.