WASHINGTON — The Army graduated the first class of “Master Fitness Trainers” to have been taught by one of the service’s six new mobile training teams, April 19.
Those students were taught on-site at their home station, Fort Knox, Ky. Five other classes — each four-weeks long with about 50 students from the active and reserve components — are underway now at Fort Jackson, S.C.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Bragg.
The courses follow four pilot classes at Fort Jackson, S.C., held over the last year. About 100 graduates of those pilot classes are now conducting the mobile training or are advising commanders at the division and brigade levels, said Master Sgt. Jeffery Kane, a team leader with one of Training and Doctrine Command’s new mobile training teams.
The idea of the mobile training course is to save the Army time and travel expenses by bringing the training to the Soldiers, rather than bringing the Soldiers to the training, Kane said.
The six teams will be on the road for the next two years. They might hold one to three classes at one installation and then move on to another. Within the next two years, every major installation will be visited by one of the mobile training teams, he said.
The non-mobile unit is at Fort Jackson. Teams periodically will rotate back there to get the latest fitness updates and ensure their training and doctrine is “up to snuff,” Kane said.
Beginning next year, the teams will venture outside the continental U.S., with visits to installations in Alaska, Hawaii, South Korea and Germany.
The goal of the program is to get enough Master Fitness Trainer, or MFT, graduates so that there will be one at each company and battalion, Kane said.
There are three primary responsibilities for trainers, Kane said.
First, they will advise their commanders and senior enlisted Soldiers on the best physical readiness program, based on their needs and mission, Kane said. They will also write and implement their fitness program.
Second, they will be available to advise Soldiers on their own unique fitness and nutrition requirements, he said.
Finally, the trainers will be the interface between the Soldiers and the medical community, with the goal of injury reduction and performance enhancement, which directly ties to mission readiness.
Reception by Soldiers at the brigade and division levels has so far been good, Kane said.
“However, there are a few commanders who are still getting used to the idea,” he explained. “They are not fully onboard yet, but we are making great strides.”
The reason some commanders are still hesitant is because they are used to designing and controlling their own physical training program, Kane said.
For example, commanders might be doing daily formation runs to instill esprit de corps, and might not be keen on a new approach, even though the new approach introduces more variety, is developed by science and medical research, and is designed to increase fitness and reduce injuries, Kane said.
Kane has been in the Army for nearly 20 years and graduated from the MFT program in 1999, two years before the Army originally shut it down. He had to go through the course again last year because it had changed significantly in certain ways.
The biggest difference between then and today, he said, is the “course content is more balanced and robust, using the latest findings from exercise science, anatomy and physiology.”
Each team consists of four civilian contractors, as well as two Soldiers to serve as team leader and noncommissioned officer in charge.
The contractors in the mobile training teams must have a background in exercise science and nutrition. They must also pass the same physical standards as Soldiers. A year of teaching is also required.
To become an instructor, applicants must earn 80 points in each physical fitness event, which includes pushups, sit-ups and the 2-mile run. They must earn a minimum score of 240 points on the Army physical fitness test. Instructors also must pass the Army’s body weight standards.
The MFT course covers a wide variety of academic topics in addition to the physical requirements.
Academic topics include nutrition, exercise science, anatomy, exercise physiology, kinesiology, physical readiness training execution and philosophy, Army regulations and doctrine regarding physical training, policy, regulations and philosophy of the program.
“I see a big need for this type of training in the Army,” Kane said. “Every day is a unique opportunity to see physical readiness training progress, — but there’s still a lot of room for growth.”