First Lt. Matthew Toal
There are many ways for 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers to test their resolve at Fort Drum, and the Soldiers of B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, recently learned another when they pitted themselves against the Mountain Athlete Warrior Assessment.
The MAW Assessment is a series of nine tasks designed to assess a Soldier’s physical fitness while imposing real-world conditions. It is based on testing three categories of physical attributes needed in Soldier missions: strength, endurance and movement skills. The nine tasks include an agility test, standing broad jump, pull-up, metronome push-up, 225-pound dead lift, 300-yard shuttle run, heel claps, beep test and Mountain Functional Assessment Test.
Most of these tasks are well-known, while others like the metronome push-up, where a Soldier does push-ups in cadence with a metronome until muscle failure, are less well-known.
Maj. Robert Montz, chief of occupational therapy, along with Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, then 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commander - operations, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, division senior enlisted adviser, helped bring the MAW to Fort Drum. The MAW was adapted from the Ranger Athlete Warrior Program, where it was created for the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“The MAW is not designed to test anything,” Montz said. “It is an approach to overall fitness.”
Montz explained that there are four pillars to MAW: functional fitness, sports nutrition, sports medicine, and mental toughness.
“To maximize performance, whether in the gym or the battlefield, you must optimize all four,” he added.
Bravo Battery included the MAW to expose its Soldiers to more battle-focused physical training. Second Lt. Gage Harshman, officer in charge and a platoon leader in B Battery, was excited to see how his Soldier s would perform.
“I've always supported the idea (of battle-focused PT),” Harshman said. “I believe battle-focused PT will give you an edge in whatever your job is rather than sticking to the traditional push-ups, sit-ups and running.”
Soldiers may be surprised to hear that many of the programs included in MAW, and in other popular exercise routines like CrossFit, have much earlier origins.
“Many of these programs today are similar to what the military was doing in the 1940s and 50s, which is similar to what warriors were doing thousands of years ago,” Montz said. “We have not invented anything new; we have just retooled and re-energized existing themes of fitness.”
Tasks in the MAW Assessment are particularly helpful for field artillery units, where the pace and exertion of occupying a firing position require each Soldier to be both strong and agile. Capt. Rodney Bunyan, B Battery commander, said he believes his Soldiers benefited greatly from conducting the MAW Assessment.
“Having supervised the occupation of a firing position, I can see why it is necessary and beneficial to incorporate the MAW into our daily combat-focused physical fitness,” Bunyan said. “This is why we will inculcate the MAW into our daily physical fitness program.”
Two Soldiers in B Battery, Spc. Jeremy Ricker and Spc. Christopher Zima, also liked the way the battle-focused PT was used in the MAW Assessment.
“It related to a lot of real-life scenarios,” Ricker said. “You could definitely see where you could use some of the tasks.”
The MAW Assessment also offers exercises that are different from the ones Soldiers are used to in traditional PT.
“I liked it,” Zima said. “It mixes things up a lot more.”
“You definitely had to push yourself more during (the MAW) than regular PT,” Ricker said. “This tests more of your overall capabilities.”
“The Soldiers have performed very well. The MAW is something most of these guys have never seen before,” Harshman said. “This assessment is great at showing who has the intestinal fortitude perform at max effort over an extended period of time.”
“By far the hardest event is Task Nine,” Harshman said, adding that Task Nine combines all the events that have already been tested and incorporates them into one event.
Task Nine consists of a two-mile run, followed by multiple rope climbs, rescue stretcher drags, a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle tire flip, and finally, a one-mile run. The Soldiers of B Battery completed Task Nine in sections, with each section competing for the fastest time.
“The guys are already (tired) by the time they get there, so there is that factor as well,” Harshman said.
“The hardest part was definitely the runs (in Task Nine),” Ricker said. “It was a really good test of overall endurance.”
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the MAW Assessment was that it gave Soldiers a chance to see where they need to improve.
“I know now what I’m capable of and can see where I need to improve,” Ricker said. The conditions imposed by the MAW Assessment mean tasks that a Soldier may
normally be able to perform without issue become much more difficult.
“Dead-lifts, pull-ups, and rope climbing – these are three things that I need to work on,” Zima said.
Soldiers of B Battery know that the MAW Assessment is here to stay.
“We have already started talking about our next one,” Harshman said. “Our plan is to identify our strengths and weaknesses and adjust our PT plan accordingly. Bravo Battery has been doing great work, and we're excited to see where they go from here.”
(Toal serves with 3-6 Field Artillery)