In an exercise room at the Applied Functional Fitness Center, both instructors and representatives from units all across Fort Hood were hard at work training for a pilot program designed to improve overall physical readiness for the Army Combat Fitness Test. Twenty-two selected Soldiers took part in the week-long Tactical Strength and Conditioning facilitator pilot class, which began Jan. 27.
“The purpose is to have strength and conditioning coaches in the units so we can improve performance, promote wellness and decrease injuries,” Master Sgt. Veronica Phillips, III Corps TSAC coordinator, said. “It’s about observing what we are doing with our bodies: what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong and how can we improve it.”
Phillips explained the pilot program will be the Army’s baseline to see if strength and conditioning coaches are beneficial. If the program is successful, it will be implemented Army-wide in 2021. Strength and conditioning are recognized on the civilian side, so the goal is to incorporate it into the military beginning at the lowest levels, by instructing lower enlisted.
“For a long time in the tactical setting, we’ve always done stuff because ‘That’s how we always did it,’” Brent Moore, an independent contractor with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, who was one of the course’s instructors, said. “This training is designed for the ground guy to be able to take appropriate strength and conditioning protocols and principles, and apply it at the unit level.”
During the week-long course, the Soldiers were given an extensive baseline of strength and conditioning knowledge. The course began with exercise-focused information, such as the correct way to perform exercises or the right way to lift weights, while also honing in on what the purpose of the exercise being conducted. It also covered various aspects of health and wellness because nutrition and sleep play a factor in the Soldier’s performance.
“This course isn’t the end all, be all for them,” Moore explained. “It’s a good way to give them the information to get out there and start moving. But they will need to take it upon themselves to continue to educate themselves.”
Phillips, the event’s overseer, agreed that the plan for this pilot program extended further than the week-long class, elaborating that within the first few months, the Soldiers’ focus would be on continuing to learn the basics within the course. Following the course, the Soldiers would schedule study halls. The study halls are meant for the Soldiers to continue familiarizing themselves with the information to become experts.
Phillips further explained how the units should integrate these newly learned skills into action. The execution would begin with these trained Soldiers coordinating with their leadership to develop a physical training plan.
“Everything starts with the basics,” Sgt. David Cuspert, 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, said. “Now I can take the proper way to do the exercise back to my unit, start them with the basics and then build from there.”
TSAC will help Soldiers learn the proper form needed for specific exercises, as well as how to avoid unnecessary injuries from improper techniques.
“In the last fiscal year we did the pilot ACFT program, and one of the things learned throughout the entire pilot was that injuries were occurring due to improper form,” Phillips explained. “You have Soldiers who want to succeed and excel when it comes to (physical training) scores. And that’s where injuries were occurring. There was no education to say, ‘Let’s start with the basics and build-up to the end goal.’”
All the instructors agree that awareness of proper technique is the most important aspect of physical training.
“There is a right way and a wrong way, a safe way and an unsafe way to do training,” Moore said.
Though the Soldiers have completed their week-long course, the integration of proper TSAC training doesn’t stop here.
“The biggest takeaway is the intent to expand this and get more strength and conditioning coaches to the units,” Phillips said. “We believe as the pilot goes on that it will reduce the injuries because we can train Soldiers how to build their bodies up the right way.”