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Physical fitness training program, loosely connected to new Army fitness test, aims to create athletic soldiers

Lt. Col. Kristen Auge drags a 90-pound weight across turf as part of the new Army fitness test, conducted as a test run during deployment to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 23, 2019. The new fitness test will require more training and more effort to pass, said Auge, 51, commander of the headquarters battalion of the 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard.

BILL BOECKER/ARMY NATIONAL GUARD

By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: August 27, 2019

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A team of fitness and health professionals is helping Fort Bragg soldiers get training similar to a professional sports team.

A physical therapist, a dietician, two strength coaches and an athletic trainer are working with the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command's 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. The team is part of a pilot study in 30 units as part of the Army's Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) initiative.

Paul Boyce, a spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command, said the program is meant to optimize troop performance and control injuries while building and sustaining physical fitness and personal readiness.

"It is a comprehensive, integrated and immersive health and fitness system designed to generate lethal soldiers who are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to engage with and overmatch the enemy in multi-domain operations," he said.

Other Fort Bragg units taking part in the study are the 27th Engineer Battalion, the 1st Battalion of the 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment and the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, Boyce said.

Capt. Amanda Pritt is a physical therapist and the H2F coordinator for the team helping the 264th. She said the program could change the Army's physical fitness program.

In the past, soldiers have done pushups and situps on Tuesdays and Thursdays and run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Pritt said. The H2F program is well rounded and less likely to cause injury, she said.

"We're all seeing what it can do for the soldiers," she said.

The H2F program is based on the Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning (THOR3) program used by Special Operations troops, Pritt said.

The effort is loosely connected with the expected launch of the new Army Fitness Test. Pritt said H2F doesn't train soldiers specifically for the test, but is expected to improve how they do on it.

Others on the team training the 264th soldiers are Gerald Ernat, a dietician; Darriel Kitchens, strength and conditioning coach; Brandon Johns, strength and conditioning coach; and Geoff Koteles, athletic trainer.

The team uses the Army's "Gym in a Box" equipment to train the soldiers.

The container has weights, kettlebells, ropes and medicine balls.

Kitchens said the equipment allows the troops to spread out so they have room to train, he said.

"You can have many soldiers training at the same time," he said.

Johns said the Gym in a Box also enables what he called "progressive training," which has the soldiers starting with lighter weights while steadily building muscular endurance, strength and power.

The team makes sure the soldiers are using proper form while working out, Kitchens said.

"You can get hurt training if you're not training properly," he said.

The team wants the soldiers to train like athletes, Kitchens said.

Koteles said the team is similar to a training staff for a major college or professional sports team. The training will help the soldiers be ready to deploy, he said.

The training is effective, Koteles said.

"We can see it," he said.

Koteles said the soldiers' morale seems to be up.

"They just feel better overall," he said.

Ernat said he makes sure the food that the soldiers eat is providing the fuel they need for performance. He wants to improve their body composition and overall health, he said.

"It's just going to help them be healthier and a more optimal athlete," he said.

Johns said the Army needs soldiers who are resilient and athletic. The H2F initiative is based on elite training programs like a million dollar athlete would use, he said.

"Anybody in uniform should get no less," he said.

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