ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE — Hand-to-hand combat doesn’t happen often in today’s high-tech military operations, but if it does, Robins airmen may be more prepared for it.
The base unveiled three new fitness areas Friday that put more emphasis on fighting the old-fashioned way.
The areas include equipment related to mixed martial arts, as well as some gear that is more specifically aimed for high intensity workouts commonly used by special operations troops.
One example is a Marpo rope trainer that simulates climbing a rope both vertically and horizontally.
Mick Szymanski, director of the 78th Force Support Squadron, said the new areas will help troops become combat ready.
“The goal is if you practice and train like it is the real thing, then when something becomes real, you can depend on the practice,” he said.
He added, however, that it isn’t just about getting troops better prepared for deployment but getting them more physically fit for their daily jobs. Adding a different kind of workout, he said, will make fitness training more attractive to those who may have become bored with treadmills and standard weight lifting equipment.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Richardson, who works in the heavily deployed Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, was using the equipment Friday. He said it gives him an intense workout in a short period of time, but that’s not the biggest difference from standard fitness equipment.
“This is a lot more fun,” he said.
UFC featherweight Cole Miller, a Middle Georgia native, was there to help demonstrate some of the equipment.
The new areas include a room with padding on the floor where troops can practice martial arts, and Miller was giving some tips to airmen.
The new equipment is in three areas at the main base fitness center. The first, and most costly, is a kiosk in a room where aerobics training is done. The kiosk allows users to train with a virtual instructor.
They can log into the kiosk and choose from 44 types of training. An instructor then appears on a large screen on a wall to lead the training. On Friday, a group was using it to do kick-boxing aerobics.
In another area is the Warrior Athletic Readiness room, which includes equipment often used by special operations troops. Some of it is old school, like medicine balls, but other pieces such as the “battle ropes” wouldn’t be found in a typical fitness center. Two large ropes extend out, and the user waves them up and down for an upper body workout.
The mixed martial arts equipment is in a separate area. It includes punching bags and a Nexersys, which has pads to simulate different parts of the body. An instructor on screen directs the user to strike certain pads in various combinations. It’s like fighting someone, except the opponent doesn’t hit back.
The equipment for the three areas cost about $60,000, Szymanski said, with the kiosk being the most expensive at about $40,000.
That’s a lot of money in an ultra miserly budget climate, but Szymanski said the fitness center gets funding to replace equipment annually, and the center used that for the new areas rather than buying the same equipment.
While the areas are geared toward combat fitness, civilians who work on base can also use them.