Soldiers must find balance between staying fit and protecting themselves from injury. While units conduct physical training to help increase and maintain troops’ fitness levels, a course is available to help unit trainers plan effective workout schedules to keep Fort Drum Soldiers in tip-top shape.
Fort Drum implemented the Mountain Fitness Trainer course about a year and a half ago to teach unit leaders to create effective physical training programs, according to Matthew Stehr, 10th Mountain Division (LI) physical therapist and director of the tactical athlete program. The course was modeled after the Army’s Master Fitness Trainer course that was cancelled years ago.
When Stehr first arrived at Fort Drum in 2009, he began planning for a localized version of the Army MFT. The first class, offered December 2009, consisted of a five-hour block of instruction.
“We weren’t seeing a whole lot of changes,” Stehr said. “I’d give them information and provide them new techniques for training, but it seemed that not a whole lot changed, so we made it a three-day course.”
He said he felt that the increase of instruction made an impact and Soldiers were able to see the benefits of the new techniques and gain new knowledge.
Stehr met with Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher K. Greca, 10th Mountain Division command sergeant major, before the division’s deployment last year. During the meeting, Greca pushed for a more inclusive training to teach junior officers and noncommissioned officers to be subject-matter experts when it comes to unit physical training programs.
Stehr also noticed units weren’t conducting unit physical training properly.
“We were seeing the same injuries over and over again – overuse-type injuries from units that do excessive amounts of running,” he said. “(Units on their) first day back (from deployment) go out and run six miles and everybody has shin splints the next day and they wonder why.”
Mountain fitness trainers also learn how to help Soldiers on medical profiles stay involved in unit PT activities, Stehr said.
“Unit trainers didn’t know what to do with Soldiers on profile,” he said. “A lot of times they’re just told to go on a walk, and that’s often not going to benefit them.”
The new five-day Mountain Fitness Trainer course teaches leaders to plan a well-balanced unit physical training schedule, how to modify a workout for Soldiers with medical profiles, how to work with overweight Soldiers, and how to prevent injuries, Stehr said. He also introduces his students to Training Circular 3-22.20, which is the Army’s new standard for physical readiness training.
“We’re putting tools in the toolbox – giving them different tools they can take back to their units,” he said.
Overall, feedback Stehr said he has received has been positive and beneficial.
Staff Sgt. Kevin MacLean, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said the class taught him to use the Army training circular to plan his physical training schedules properly.
“I learned how to run through all the drills properly and to mix up the PT – not just doing the standard push-ups, sit-ups and run – with different exercises,” he said. “Learning to include a variety in a (PT program) is more beneficial. A lot of the drills we are learning to incorporate (result in) a full-body workout.”
Stehr said he hopes his students are able to positively impact their units’ PT programs after they complete the class.
“I’m hoping we’re making an impact back at the units,” he said. “I know some have taken what they’ve learned in this class and made changes, and that’s the goal. I don’t expect them to go back to their units and change everything at once, but hopefully they have more knowledge and can start to make changes, and overall improve their fitness, decrease their injuries and improve their overall readiness.”