By David VergunSeptember 24, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, Sept. 24, 2012) -- The 31 Master Fitness Trainer, or MFT, pilot program students were told at their graduation they would "play a pivotal role in influencing Soldier fitness and health throughout their lifespace," Sept. 21.
"We're looking for great outcomes and we're going to have a fitter Army with your help," said Command Sgt. Maj. Donna Brock, senior enlisted adviser to the Army surgeon general.
Brock, a former master fitness trainer herself before the program was discontinued in 2001, defined "lifespace" as the amount of time Soldiers are not in contact with a healthcare provider, which is the majority of the time.
"If you see a doctor twice a year for 20 minutes a visit, the rest of the year you're on your own," she said. "Master fitness trainers will decrease the time Soldiers are on their own by providing them with proper physical fitness training, advice on nutrition and sleep management and overall wellness."
The goal of the program is to train about 4,000 MFT Soldiers over the next two years and about 2,000 per year thereafter, according to Maj. David Feltwell, an MFT instructor. He said the trainers will first advise battalion commanders, and as their numbers grow, they will fan out to the company level.
Brock said the month-long MFT program was brought back because it will increase unit readiness and it dovetails with "the Army's strategic imperative: 'prevent, shape, win.'" She said the trainers will consult and advise their commanders on creating a sound physical fitness program, tailored to mission outcomes, that will "increase stamina, resilience and endurance, as well as reduce injuries."
The medical community will be a huge supporter of the MFT program, said Brock, herself a 26-year medic. "Master fitness trainers will consult with health care providers, nutritionists and dieticians on an ongoing basis and will closely monitor their Soldiers, who may need medical advice beyond their capabilities."
"Master Fitness trainers know what to look for to prevent injuries as well as correct body positioning during exercises, posture, balance, the right number of repetitions," Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Bentley, an MFT instructor. He predicted a noticeable increase in physical fitness test scores as a byproduct of the program.
He said there may be skeptics out there, but he believes the program really works.
"My own run time has improved since being here (in training) and my abs are back," said Bentley, who is 45 years old. "The PRT program has gotten me back to the shape I want to be in."
"There are two questions people have been asking me about the program," said MFT graduate Sgt. Rachel Cunningham. "'What have you learned and do you really believe in it?' I really believe in it and I believe the instructors do. You've got to really believe in it to sell it to your command. I have the knowledge now to back the program 100 percent."
"Reading and understanding the training circular on your own can be difficult," said MFT graduate Staff Sgt. Samad Green, referring to TC 3-22.20, Physical Readiness Training, the physical fitness guide used by Soldiers and the program. "The exercise doctrine takes away the guesswork. I believe I can help make it more understandable when I get to a (Forces Command) unit."
Green said he's seen plenty of examples where proper training could have helped reduce injuries.
"I've been to units where they don't understand how the human body works; where they just make stuff up, leading to overtraining and Soldiers who get hurt," Green said.
"PRT is linked to warrior tasks and battle drills," said MFT instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Melissa Solomon. "Soldiers will perform their missions better with proper training. I believe master fitness trainers will be able to go out and articulate this to their commanders and Soldiers and sell the program."
Brock imparted final words of advice to the graduates.
"Your leaders will look to you for expertise," she said. "You'll have successes and perhaps some failures too, but if you work hard and strive to take care of your Soldiers, they will have higher stamina, resilience and endurance. You're not alone in this endeavor. Your leaders want this. Your Soldiers need this."