Fort McCoy News July 11, 2014

PRET Camp teaches more than just a push up

108th Training Command

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Two companies of drill sergeants and support personnel descended upon Fort McCoy as cadre for the Army Reserve's 103rd (Expeditionary) Sustainment Command (ESC) Physical Readiness Enhancement Training (PRET) Camp, June 14-26.

For them, physical fitness is more than a program; it's a lifestyle.

Photo for PRET article
Soldiers participate in one of two daily physical training
sessions at the Physical Readiness Training Camp in June.

The drill sergeants, part of the 95th Training Division's 2nd Company, 330th Infantry (One Station Unit Training, or OSUT,) Battalion of Forest Park, Ill., gave instructions on a wide variety of topics ranging from stretching and injury prevention to proper diet.

Army Reserve drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Alexander Mercado, said the PRET program is a new concept designed to help Soldiers who are injured, recovering from an injury or have strayed from a regular physical fitness regimen.

This program enables them to change their dietary habits and the way they live before they incorporate physical training (PT) into their daily lives.

"We need to get them to change their eating and sleeping habits first before we do anything else. If we don't, the PT is just going to go out the window," Mercado said.

While at PRET, Soldiers spent 14-hour days receiving first-hand training on everything from nutrition to injury prevention.

Staff Sgt. Ishmael McDaniel of the 2nd, 330th, also an Army Reserve drill sergeant, said what makes the PRET important is the education component.

"We spent a lot of time over the past week talking about nutrition, discipline, diet and calorie intake," McDaniel said. "I think those components are really important toward overall fitness and that's what the program is really offering."

More than 180 Soldiers showed up for the PRET camp, some of them volunteers just trying to improve their overall fitness level by learning new techniques and skills related to physical fitness and diet.

Spc. Alton Dowling from the 401st Transportation Company of Battle Creek, Mich., volunteered because he wanted to lose weight and better his PT scores to continue his military career and move up in rank on his own terms.

"The first few days it was hard, my muscles were sore. But it's a lifestyle change and I'm here for a reason — to lose weight and learn how to eat better. The first few days I thought about giving up but kept pushing myself through it because I volunteered to come here and want to do what I have to do to stay in," said Dowling.

Dowling said the drill sergeants were a little intimidating at first, but it was good having them here to motivate, teach and instill the discipline needed that a lot of Soldiers lose. They also instructed on how to do things right.

"They are the best at it, so it's good to have them here," Dowling said.

The Soldiers from the 103rd ESC are not the only ones who benefit from the program.

Army Reserve drill sergeant, Sgt Michael Jones, said as a drill sergeant, it's his job to uphold the standards and this program does that.

"I take the best out of everything by sitting through all the classes with Soldiers, physicians and dieticians. I learn with them and from them. That's what makes an effective leader."

Jones said what also sets this program apart from other unit reconditioning programs is PRET focuses on people who have a problem passing the Army physical fitness test to Army standards.

But, the PRET program is a combination of people wanting to better themselves, become more familiar with PRET, and possibly better their scores in the process.

This was the first year that the 2nd, 330th performed this mission. First Sgt. Miles Odom hopes it won't be the last. "We will ask to come to this (PRET) as long as they will have us," he said.

The other cadre all agreed.