Members of the 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg spent the past four months receiving the “gold” treatment. The battalion was engaged in testing a pilot program for the Soldier Readiness Test, currently in development by the U.S. Army Forces Command.
FORSCOM tested the SRT across several different functional brigade types, including armor, infantry, stryker and engineer brigades at various installations.
All brigades had a designated Gold, Silver and Bronze battalion, with each receiving different resources during a trial period that began with an initial SRT in July. The pilot SRT consists of seven activities that Soldiers must perform while wearing their Army Combat Uniform, boots and full body armor.
Tire flip: Soldiers must flip a 225-pound tire six times in 30 seconds
Agility test: Soldiers must perform a 40-meter T-shaped shuffle in 30 seconds
Dummy drag: Soldiers must drag a 240-pound dummy 15 meters
Sandbag toss: Soldiers must throw a 40-pound sandbag over a 7-foot tall barrier 10 times
Run: Soldiers must complete a 1.5-mile run with an over-under obstacle at the halfway point
Unit-specific muscular endurance event: Soldiers must complete an event specific to the job requirements of their brigade. The 20th Eng. Bde. Soldiers performed a sandbag stack of 10, 40-pound sandbags onto the back of a truck and off again.
After the first round of SRT testing, participating units trained for four months before retesting in November.
As a Gold battalion, the 27th Eng. Bn. had access to a range of support staff, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, dietician, a strength and conditioning coach and master fitness trainers. Companies in the battalion also received Beaver Fit boxes, which are basically portable gyms that the units could set up next to their Company Operations Facility.
The boxes contain gym equipment such as medicine balls, a tire, exercise bands, hammer and ropes. Soldiers can attach a squat and bench press rack to the outside of the box as well.
Audrey Atwell, company commander, 264th Engineer Clearance Company, said her Soldiers appreciate the ready access to gym equipment.
“You can’t always allow your Soldiers to go to the gym because we just don’t have enough gym facilities,” she said. “This allows all the platoons to rotate through the Beaver Box and do a lot of the muscular strength and endurance workouts out at the company COF area with the entirety of the platoon.”
Platoon leaders developed workouts that utilized the Beaver Box with the assistance of SRT strength and conditioning coaches and MFTs. They varied the workout methods between a required number of sets per exercise and a set amount of time to perform the exercise to maximize options, said 1st Lt. Dan Myers, 618th Engineer Support Company (Airborne).
“It’s pretty much an infinite amount of options, so every week, when my platoon does a workout, it’ll be a different scenario,” he said. “(This way) we aren’t getting everyone mundane and bored, which is one benefit if it moves forward … it keeps people on their toes and that’s good for your muscles too because you want to keep your muscles confused. If your muscles get used to doing the same thing every time then you get stagnated and you don’t progress.”
Development for performance in the field is one important goal for the brigade, explained Col. Marc Hoffmeister, commander, 20th Eng. Bde. He praised the SRT for its emphasis on conditioning for real-world scenarios.
“For anyone who’s been on a 12 to 18-hour patrol, or been outside the wire for a week plus at a time, fully kitted all the time, it’s brutal. If you don’t condition for that, you can’t perform. And this does that. This focuses on the unit mission, so I embrace it.”
Final results for SRT testing in November are not yet available, but Atwell said she can see a noticeable difference in her Soldiers.
“I would say our medical readiness has improved at least 5 to 6 percent over the course of four months and that’s directly through engagement with the SRT enablers, modifying our physical fitness program, reducing musculoskeletal injuries and having access to medical care at the battalion level,” she explained.
Once all participating units have completed testing, FORSCOM will analyze results from the pilot program. It is not yet an official Army readiness test.