FORT DRUM Soldiers may see a shift in focus in their physical training, as post leadership crafts expanded fitness programs that may better prepare troops for deployments.
The efforts also include the use of several million dollars to create and upgrade workout facilities across the post.
One element of this change is the Mountain Athlete Warrior training program. The program develops soldiers like athletes through exercises that work a wider range of muscles and skills, also known as functional fitness and includes a focus on sports medicine, mental toughness and nutrition.
When it comes to what we need tactically, we need to be good at all of these things, said Maj. Robert D. Montz, who runs the program. Maj. Montz serves as chief of occupational therapy for the posts medical command, but for now is on loan to the divisions surgeon.
The new training program, developed from the Ranger Athlete Warrior program used by Army Rangers and the posts former Tactical Athlete program, is being provided to squad and team leaders, who then can direct exercises for their soldiers.
This gives them the tools so they can go back and run a better P.T., Maj. Montz said. From 2009 to 2011, he directed a Ranger Athlete Warrior program for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga.
The five-day class, which had its first iteration in late August, is going through its third session this week.
Last Wednesday, soldiers quickly moved through several agility exercises on the basketball courts of the Monti Physical Fitness Center, as Maj. Montz, 42, ran around to place cones. In one exercise, soldiers sprinted through cones set in the shape of a triangle, accelerating from their turns.
Nice hard movements, Maj. Montz said.
Other drills had soldiers sprinting off a hip turn, or jumping with their legs together over irregularly placed cones of different sizes, forcing quick jump changes. Running through the drills, some soldiers held their hands at their chests, as if they were carrying a rifle.
Other courses during the week involved proper stretching, core development and nutrition education. Among the programs aims are to improve overall performance while reducing training and work injuries, which can come from poor technique over time.
We try to train muscle movement, Maj. Montz said. Its all form and technique.
The program also reflects the shifting needs of deployed soldiers, who may require the ability to travel shorter, uneven distances more quickly rather than pace for extended runs.
Things shift on the fly, Maj. Montz said. Soldiers think theyre going to do things one way ... things can happen that can change the whole dynamic.
As the program is developed, Maj. Montz said, it could prompt change from the past method of selecting exercises based on the preference of unit leadership. For example, leaders who like to run might emphasize long runs for their soldiers. Instead, soldiers could find success completing a wider range of smaller activities.
Theyre finding they dont have to do a lot of one thing to get results, Maj. Montz said.
The small spaces required to run the training also make it versatile to take place both indoors and outdoors, helpful for the cold north country winters.
Maj. Montz said support from high up in the divisions leadership has helped accelerate the programs spread to battalion leadership and new funding for functional fitness resources.
In about the past year, the post has dedicated about $7 million for several projects, including a soon-to-be-completed functional fitness center along with new equipment and space for both brigades and companies.
Maj. Montz said similar initiatives to develop functional fitness have been undertaken at several other installations, including Fort Benning; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas.
Though there have been questions about the future of the twice-a-year Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been in place since the 1980s, Maj. Montz said he sees the program as a complement to the test, which can be used by leaders to assess soldiers for their specific mission.
Maj. Montz said he hopes the success of soldiers will justify the programs development as a long-term plan.