By SGT Giancarlo CasemMarch 12, 2011
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- Fort Irwin is an Army post that prides itself in providing the most up-to-date training scenarios for units training at the National Training Center. Therefore, in order to transition to the Army's new Physical Readiness Training, or PRT, program, units across the installation sent Soldiers to attend a four-day PRT familiarization course, March 7-10.
Instructors from the Army's Physical Fitness School, based out of Fort Jackson, S.C., traveled to Fort Irwin to train Soldiers on techniques and procedures to properly conduct a PRT session.
The PRT program, found in Training Circular 3-22.20, supersedes the Army Physical Training Field Manual 21-20. The PRT is an overhaul of the decades-old FM 21-20, it puts an emphasis on battlefield-related conditioning, said Sgt. 1st Class David Rispress, a member of the Mobile Training Team from the Army Physical Fitness School.
"The PT program was focused on aerobic exercises," Rispress said. "With the PRT, there's a greater focus on anaerobic exercises and on building energy as well."
The Mobile Training Team's mission is to train Soldiers mission is to train Soldiers in PRT. The Soldiers will then return to their units and be able to train other Soldiers or advice their leadership about conducting PRT.
Rispress said the biggest challenge the program currently faces are the concerns it is not physically challenging enough. However, Rispress refuted those concerns by reassuring Soldiers that once PRT is fully integrated into a unit's PT program, PRT sessions would flow much more smoothly and Soldiers will be able to transition from one exercise to the next without pause.
Another area that the PRT will focus on is a Soldier's ability to move quickly and change directions while in a combat environment. This is achieved by a few new exercises such as the Crouch Run, where Soldiers must run while crouched, and Laterals, which require Soldiers to move sideways without bouncing or hitting their feet together.
Rispress said that some of the exercises were designed with real-world applications in mind. During the Sustaining Phase, Climbing Drills 1 and 2 will require Soldiers to perform Pull Ups and Flex-Arm Hangs while wearing their combat gear.
"It seems like a good program, especially at the sustainment phase," said Spc. Sean Nace, Supply and Transportation Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. "Once you do ten repetitions and you have to do it in full 'battle-rattle,' it's pretty hardcore."
These exercises were designed to simulate Soldiers in the battlefield having to pull themselves up over obstacles. Another real-world situation translated to a PRT exercise is the Soldier Sarry.
While Soldier Carries have been part of countless units' PT regimen in the past, the PRT program will standardize the exercise Army-wide. The main difference is that a Soldier will be taught how to carry a fellow Soldier while having his firing hand free to operate his weapon.
Other conditioning exercises show an emphasis on improving trunk strength and stamina. Rispress explained that a having a strong core will help overall strength and improve a Soldier's balance, required for maneuvering in the battlefield.
"There is an improvement in movement related to conducting Full-spectrum operations," he said. "It develops more stability and is focused more on how the Soldier functions in his environment."
Many of the Soldiers in the course noted that the new program will be more rigid and will take some time to acclimate to. When Soldiers change positions from standing to the ground, there is a prescribed way to execute the movement.
In order for a Soldier to get into the prone position, he must first crouch and place his palms on the ground, then kick his feet to the rear into the push-up position. He can then lay on the ground if the exercise calls for it. To stand up, he reverses the order.
If a Soldier is required to lie down in the supine position, he does so by taking a step back with one foot and then lower his whole body to the ground, without using his hands. These movements were designed to help strengthen a Soldier's core and also to help with muscle memory, Rispress said.
"I definitely see a benefit in the discipline aspect - having to go to attention between each exercise - and the exercises just go straight into another," said Nace. "It's going to take a lot of endurance and muscle memory. I see that playing a part in being more physically fit."
Like many of the other Soldiers in the course, Nace said he had his doubts at first. Many, like Nace, have had only a limited experience with PRT. However, after participating in the class with the exercises done accordingly and in succession, his doubts were soon erased.
"I'm optimistic, I was skeptical coming into this class," Nace said. "PRT will play a more positive aspect of making a Soldier more physically fit, sharper mentally and physically. I think it will also (increase) motivation. When you're physically fit, you're more easily motivated and you're thinking more clearly."