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June 08, 2012


Physical readiness enhancement training teaches, motivates Soldiers to become fit

Story & photo by  Sgt. Debralee P. Crankshaw, 363rd Public Affairs Detachment

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — The 394th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), at the direction of the Army Reserve’s 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) (ESC), held physical readiness enhancement training (PRET) at Fort McCoy May 10-24.

“The primary mission is to take individuals who are within the 103rd ESC’s footprint that need additional improvement in their Army physical fitness training or their height and weight in order for them to be eligible for advanced schooling or military occupational specialty schooling,” said Lt. Col. Kelly D. McNeese, commander, 394th CSSB. “That is important because that is what we do as the military: to be ready both functionally and, as Soldiers, be fit.”

PHOTO: Soldiers participate in Physical Readiness Enhancement Training at Fort McCoy. Photo by Sgt. Debralee P. Crankshaw
Soldiers from the Army Reserve's 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and subordinate units, participate in Physical Readiness Enhancement Training at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 16. The 15-day course included physical training and nutritional education to improve Soldiers' Army Physical Fitness Test scores and weight control.

The 258 Soldiers in attendance from the 103rd ESC and their subordinate units used their two weeks of annual training to take part in this rigorous curriculum.

“We have them for 14 hours a day, with classroom and different PT sessions and marching to chow (more than) 10 miles a day. It’s 1.7 miles to the chow hall and 1.7 miles back. Not to mention marching to the PT fields,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dan Cordell, platoon sergeant, 1st Platoon, A Company of the PRET and security non-commissioned officer in charge, 103rd ESC.

Cordell is one of the 28 volunteer cadre members who asked to train and mentor these Soldiers. Cordell said he chose to volunteer because, “PT is my thing. I love training individuals … My passion in life is PT, anything to do with fitness.”

“They come from all (major subordinate commands) across the board and they are a great bunch. That just happened by accident,” said Master Sgt. James Holloway, acting command sergeant major, 394th CSSB, about the cadre.

The cadre focuses on the physical training of the Soldiers with runs, road marches and guerrilla drills. The Soldiers also completed a confidence course, which included tunnels, a cargo rope climb, a rope climb, monkey bars and a low crawl.
“Physical fitness is a key to allow you to adapt and to overcome serious situations, overcome stress, overcome climate,” said Holloway. “It’s just a good motivator tool and it’s necessary for the military.”

While the curriculum is demanding, it isn’t as bad as some Soldiers feared.

“(I expected) lots and lots and lots of PT, early mornings, late nights, I was not sure I was going to be able to keep up,” said Spc. Lisa Brown, truck driver, 1011th Quartermaster Company. “It’s not quite as hard as I thought, I still have a hard time keeping up, but as long as you give it your all, it’s not so bad. You just take one PT session at a time and get through it.”

A dietitian, Capt. Lauren Popeck, 322nd Medical Company out of Southfield, Mich., was on hand for that portion of the training. She gave classroom instruction to the group, but also had one-on-one sessions with those Soldiers who are overweight.

The Army Move program and a healthy weight manual downloaded from Army One Source are the main materials Popeck used to help them on their fitness journey.

“Our goal is to educate the Soldiers so they know why they should eat what they should eat to keep them healthy and give them energy to complete their mission,” said Popeck. “Also to be able to maintain a healthy weight so that they are fit for duty and able to perform their tasks.

The Army recommends a weight loss of three to eight pounds a month for those on the weight-control program. According to Capt. Michelle Corker, officer-in-charge, 322nd Medical Company, this is possible if the Soldiers use what they have learned.

“Continue with the dietary guidelines you’re learning here and take them home and integrate them into your daily lifestyle,” she said. “It’s very impractical to expect them to exercise as much as they’re exercising right now, but 30 minutes to 45 minutes at least three to five times a week is very reasonable. If they continue to eat nutritionally, like they’re being taught, and remember their food groups … they should be able to lose their three to eight pounds a month very healthily.”

The 394th worked with the cadre to set up the curriculum after attending the PRET leadership course, which taught how many iterations of physical training were needed.

“This is our first (PRET) and we thought we brought a lot to the table,” said Holloway. “It was already kind of templated, we just used that to set the tone for what is required for the Soldiers to actually meet their goals.”

He also added that it was necessary to adjust the training because “nothing ever looks the same as it does on paper. We just took the basics as we normally would at a school environment and just applied it to the way we do everything,” he added.

Next year, the 644th Regional Support Group will implement the PRET. The 394th believes it left a good starting point.
“We built the launching pad, now it’s up to the 644th to take off with it,” said McNeese.

The 394th had some concerns when they began, but after initiating the training found those were unfounded.
The Soldiers have even exceeded their expectations.

“I was a skeptic. When I first got the mission, I thought this is going to be a hard thing to do, but it has not been,” said McNeese. “This has been eye-opening in a lot of ways. I think what we’ve shown here is that the Soldiers, given the opportunity to grow, learn and develop their personal skills as well as their skills in the unit and as a team, that they produce.”

Holloway encourages all participants to push forward after they return home.

“Continue what we brought to the table. This is a change of life overall. We’re going to have some setbacks. Don’t get lost in the setbacks. You just have to continue to put the full effort forward ...”

He also has a message for those who are struggling and need some help.

“If you’re struggling with PT, there is always someone out there that you can go to,” he said. “Actually, everyone has something to bring to the table, whether it’s your wife or your battle buddy. If you see someone who is in dire need, please speak up and try to help them as much as possible.”

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