FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, Sept. 21, 2012) -- The pilot course for the Army's new Master Fitness Training Program holds its graduation ceremony here, today.
The 30 graduates will then return to their units to help "optimize physical readiness and human performance of Soldiers and train others Soldiers to do what they're doing," said Maj. David Feltwell, a physical therapist with the Physical Readiness Division, and one of the three Master Fitness Training, or MFT, instructors.
"The benefits master fitness trainers can bring to their units is enormous," Feltwell said.
They include higher combat readiness, reduction in injuries, an Army-wide standardized training program with standardized outcomes, improved physical and mental performance and higher self-esteem, among others, he said.
The MFT program isn't new to the Army. It was discontinued in 2001. However, a lot of performance research, program testing and validation studies were conducted in those intervening years and in 2010, the result was publication of TC 3-22.20 "Army Physical Readiness Training" and now the enhanced MFT program, according to Feltwell. He expects TC 3-22.20 to become a field manual by next month.
He sees MFT graduates fanning out to the battalion level at first. Then, and as more Soldiers become MFT-certified, they will be embedded at the company level.
"Master fitness trainers will consult with their commanders, sergeants major and first sergeants to plan training programs customized to the needs of their unit and mission," he said.
"The purpose of the program is not to raise physical fitness scores," he added. "But higher scores will be one of the expected outcomes. And we predict that with fewer injuries, more Soldiers will be able to take the APFT, raising individual and unit average scores."
He explained that fewer injuries are expected because the training will be progressive, balanced and will be carefully monitored by the MFT Soldiers, in close consultation with nutritionists; medical personnel such as dieticians, exercise physiologists, physical therapists and others; and Soldiers involved in the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program.
Soldiers who already have injuries can participate in modified PRT exercises along with the rest of the unit or participate in a reconditioning program for more serious injuries, he said.
During their month of training here, students studied physiology, nutrition and kinesiology; learned hundreds of exercises; and even studied behavioral psychology and how it all relates to measurable fitness outcomes, according to Feltwell.
Exercises varied from free weights, running and calisthenics, to exercise machines and tackling a variety of obstacles on specially designed courses.
But how would a remote unit, far from a state-of-the-art gym or Olympic-sized pool stay in shape?
"We learned to implement well-rounded programs for deployed units in remote areas lacking exercise equipment," said 2nd Lt. Justin Brown. He explained that "strength, endurance, agility, balance, power, flexibility and stability can be sustained through the program." He explained that calisthenics, speed runs, sustained runs and foot marches could be included.
"Also, a lot can be done with basic equipment, even a few sets of kettle bells," Brown added.
Feltwell hopes the implementation of the MFT program "will become a career-span experience for Soldiers," inspired by the new fitness regimen and the Soldiers who help implement it.
"The MFT program will benefit all Soldiers, young and old," said Sgt. 1st Class Floston Arthur, an MFT student.
Arthur conducts physical training for the Chaplain Basic Officer Leaders Course here, where chaplains-in-training range in age from the mid-20s to 50s.
"Chaplains doing PT with their units will give them enormous credibility, besides making them more fit for the mission," said Arthur, who has completed two tours in Iraq, where he said fitness was vital to the mission and fit leaders were an inspiration to their troops.
During training on Wednesday, students conducted group presentations. One of their goals during the presentation was to present the MFT program to their unit leaders and Soldiers in a professional and convincing way, and work out an effective training schedule.
"You're going to do fine and we're not going to let you fall down," said Feltwell at the end of the presentations, with graduation just two days away. "Army leadership is 100 percent behind you and the program."
Feltwell said he will stay in touch with the students and will help set up a website where master fitness trainers can share information and resources with each other and with the school.
He added that being an MFT instructor "is the best possible place I can be to make a tremendous difference." He looks forward to seeing the results of the program and commended the excellent quality of training provided by his fellow instructors.