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U.S. Army Europe soldiers now have four additional training holidays this fiscal year, but some will be sweating more with a mandatory five days of physical training each week.

All USAREUR units will conduct physical training five days a week, according to a Dec. 27 memo from Gen. David McKiernan, USAREUR commander, that took effect last Wednesday. Prior to the change, USAREUR units performed physical training between three and five times a week.

Also, sergeants time training is no longer mandatory on a weekly basis.

And family time has been eliminated on Thursday afternoons, according to McKiernan’s memo.

“Family time has become an important part of our military culture, but given our current [operations tempo], my assessment is that very few soldiers have the opportunity to take advantage of this program,” McKiernan’s memo stated. “Providing an additional training holiday in the months of March, April, June and August will offset the loss of family time and will allow soldiers and families a more predictable schedule for planning time off for personal business and activities.”

During fiscal 2005 and 2006, USAREUR offered 14 training holidays. For fiscal 2007, USAREUR has scheduled 18 training holidays.

All the changes were made “to provide better predictability for our soldiers and families and to make better use of available training resources,” according to the memo.

Getting rid of family time in exchange for more four-day weekends is beneficial, said Sgt. Brian Kriener of Friedberg, Germany’s 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment.

“It’ll be better for families to get together on the four-day weekends and give them more chances to travel around Germany, if they want to,” said the 23-year-old from Mount Auburn, Ill. “There’s more advantages to have four-day weekends than to have a few hours off every week.”

The increase in the number of physical training days was made to improve physical fitness and to boost the overall combat readiness of USAREUR formations that support combatant commanders, according to the memo.

“In order for soldiers to show steady improvement in their overall physical fitness, unit commanders must maintain [physical training] programs that allow for consistent training at least five days a week,” the memo stated.

Kriener’s unit already did physical training five days a week so he said the new policy would not be a change.

But all did not strongly embrace the new physical training edict.

“I guess it’s OK, if that’s necessary,” said a private first class who wished to remain anonymous. “If they ask us to do it, I don’t mind.”

Sergeants time training for USAREUR — normally on Thursday mornings — was established in the 1980s. Now sergeants are always in charge of training at the individual and small-unit level, and while sergeants time training is still a valid requirement, USAREUR can afford greater flexibility in how commanders manage sergeant-led training, according to the memo.

Thursday mornings “will be given back to commanders so that they may use the entire day to more effectively meet their individual unit requirements,” McKiernan wrote.


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