Blog comment of the other day: Here is how to straighten out the Army’s PT – By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense

I’ll be the first to admit I hate PT (Physical Training). I was never particularly good at it, and in my case a “runner’s high” seemed to always consist of cramps, difficulty breathing, lots of snot pouring out my nose, muscular twitching, blurry vision, headaches and vomiting. Kinda like nerve agent poisoning.

But the simple fact is, being physically fit is a core competency of soldiering. For an infantryman, that’s obvious. But even Fobbits need to be fit. There’s no telling when those guys will be called upon to fight (at least in the infantry, you generally have an idea that you’ll either be attacking, or be attacked- Fobbits being attacked is almost by definition a surprise).

Jim Gourley has a guest post up at Thomas Rick’s “Best Defense” blog at FP that focuses on Army Physical Fitness.

Nearly one in every three service members are overweight. That includes some officers and senior NCOs. You think the Army doesn’t want to talk about negligent discharges? Let’s talk about officers that don’t pass tape. The “system” that is meant to hold everyone accountable is rife with favoritism toward officers. Officers simply get away with it, because it’s an NCO that usually conducts the PT and weight/tape tests. The pressure to avoid giving an officer a failing grade is intense, and there’s a good deal of back-scratching for NCOs that don’t pull the tape so snug around the waist. I was recently at a party where several NCOs in a unit remarked about a LTC I know here in Vicenza, who is obviously obese. The dirty secret is that he shows up for the unit PT test (he takes the walking option for the run due to a profile for something) and then ducks out of the tape test. There’s a Major in the same unit with a 42-inch waist who would have failed if it wasn’t for his buddy the NCO that fudged the numbers.

via Blog comment of the other day: Here is how to straighten out the Army’s PT – By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense.

Go read the whole thing. I don’t agree with some of his conclusions, particularly about the role of NCOs in a fitness program. But I think he’s on the right track.

One of the big challenges facing the Army however, is that it has to recruit huge numbers of people every year from the general population. And frankly, the health status of the population as a whole sucks. When you start with poor raw material, you’re gonna have a poor end product. Now, someone is gonna chime in about the Marines and fitness. Yes, their culture does place more emphasis on fitness. But they also have much smaller numbers of people to recruit, so they can be somewhat more selective in the people they actually enlist.

I don’t really have a good answer for the problem. Commanders have an incredible laundry list of skills they must train their troops to master, and never enough time to do it.

I’ll tell you this, though. The Army end strength is going to go down very shortly. Fatboys are gonna be the low hanging fruit that gets picked when it comes time to separate people.

4 thoughts on “Blog comment of the other day: Here is how to straighten out the Army’s PT – By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense”

  1. This was a great comment posted on a really lame “guest post” I saw on Rick’s blog. I actually copied this and saved it for use the next time the army sees fit to give me a right-arm man again. The original post was pathetic whining the gist of which was “the CG is tired of finding us not doing good PT, so he is making it all at the company and above.” Then a series of complaints about how he is micromanaging and doesn’t trust junior leaders (the same ones that already failed to do it right). While that is a key problem and I don’t advocate the CG’s blanket fix, the author even came out and said upfront that the cause was junior leadership’s failure to do good PT. “Good PT” requires continual command emphasis, yes by the officers, with good long-term planning (officer/NCO), supervision (NCO/officer) and decentralized execution (NCO) at the platoon and below. What sucks is ad hoc PT put together on the morning of execution.

  2. I think Jim Gourley’s post should be taken in the spirit in which it offered. Like so many problems that can occur in the military, most of them are solvable by good leadership. A trooper is supposed to be a highly trained athlete. This does not mean that all troopers are Olympic or professional class athletes, but they should be trained to perform to a fairly high standard. Proper “morning jerks” can do that. Ad hoc stuff is a waste of time.

    Food can be a problem as well. Good food is necessarily “good.” Military food tends to be well laced with loads of wheat and sugar. We have found that wheat, and other grains (rice is a big offender as well), induce an insulin reaction that is just as bad as sugar and tends to pack on weight. The Mess Sergeants can do a lot to solve the problem, but the guys at Ft. Lee that generate the recipes and train all the cooks in the services need to get on board and do their part to change the service culture.

    When I was in OCS we were supposed to memorize the “22 characteristics of a Leader.” It was mostly a matter of harassment rather than learning anything. All of them really boiled down to one word – example. If the ossifers and NCOs didn’t set the example the troops were aspire to, then it comes down to a “do as I say, not as I do.” Such an environment will only result in an environment of resentment and evasion.

    1. Yes, Gourley’s comment was excellent. What I referred to as whining was the original post that Gourley replied to.

  3. This is so nice article and also to all nice commentators.This Physical Training
    helps a lot to us especially in our community.The fact of Food can be a problem as well.Said to Quartermaster Good food is necessarily “good.” Military food tends to be well laced with loads of wheat and sugar and tends to pack on weight.Its so nice I`ve learn a lot of this thank you for this infomation now i know the best important in physical fitness and thanks for tom ricks who updating this information!

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