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I Corps CSM Leading Charge to Build ‘Tactical Athletes’

We’ve written several articles on the need for a more rounded physical training training program for armed professionals. The important thing is to focus on occupational or functional fitness. According to a story by SGT Lindsey Kibler of the I Corps Public Affairs Office, Corps CSM John Troxell is doing just that with his new Physical Mentally Emotionally Hard Gauntlet which he developed while serving as the Brigade CSM of 4th Bde, 2nd ID, during their 15-month deployment to Iraq in 2007.

“We had 60 to 80 pounds of kit on, going long distances, and I needed my guys to be physically fit, to be hard,” CSM Troxell said. “Hard in the sense that they need to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong to make it.”

His realized that having Soldiers strictly train for the Army Physical Fitness Test wasn’t enough because the APFT wasn’t designed for the rigors of combat. Once he assumed his new position he set about to do what NCOs do; train Soldiers but this time he could train even more by training the Corps’ subordinate unit Sergeants Major. In turn, once trained on the basic concepts, they can return to their units with this new physical fitness methodology and effect change within their own organizations.

On April 29th, CSM Troxell gathered the Corps’ most Senior NCOs for a PT session, but one unlike anything they had ever done before. Designed to work more than those muscles used on an APFT; it forces the body to work its core, back, hips and upper thighs. CSM Troxell and his command team set up 21 different stations consisting of various non-standard equipment items like wrecker chains, logs and tires.

“This isn’t about testing your strength against me or anyone else out here. I’m too busy smoking the dog crap out of myself to pay attention to anyone else,” Troxell told SGT Kibler. “It’s you against you, and only you will know if you’ve cheated yourself or not.”

Participants spent a set time at each station and moved round robin style to the next event. As the session progressed, fatigue set in and this is exactly what CSM Troxell wanted to to see. The point is to push individual limits. In his program there are mental and emotional components to comprehensive Soldier fitness. You have to reach down and work through the challenge.

“You need something to compensate for your physical deficiencies. Your mind, soul and spirit are what will keep you going,” he said. “We are tactical athletes. We face dynamic things on the battlefield, and we need to be prepared for that.”

This is great stuff and it is awesome to see a Corps CSM take the lead on something like this. As the Army transforms its physical fitness program we hope that programs like this are incorporated into a larger program. The old pushup, situp, 2-mile run APFT is a relic of the Cold War. It has a sausage factory feel being more suited to administrivia than combat applicability. Oddly, the Army had a more combat focused draft-era PT test up until the early 80s when it switched to the three event test. America fields the most professional Army this world has ever seen. It is about time that it gets to the work of making the most of its combat Army and doing the things for the sake of being the best rather than being the easiest to manage.

11 Responses to “I Corps CSM Leading Charge to Build ‘Tactical Athletes’”

  1. Matt says:

    Get rid of the armor/crap and give the Marines a 7.62 AR or similar. A killing weapon.

    An infantry carrying ’60 lbs’ of kit a day, all day long, will not have the speed and stamina to keep up with a Taliban fighter wearing a man dress, running shoes, an AK, and a couple of magazines in a chest rig. Notice how this was the same kit of the Viet Cong? Just saying, we have a love affair with being heavy and ultra-safe. We also have a love affair with having an defensive posture, and not an offensive posture.

    To me, our forces should be able to not only match the enemy in speed and mobility, but to defeat them in both areas. Wearing 60 lbs of crap or using a varmint gun shooting a .22 caliber bullet is not light infantry.

    Finally, I will leave you with the Mission of the Marine Corps Rifle Squad. “The mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and/ or repel enemy assault by fire and close combat.”

    How the hell are we supposed to ‘close with’ or ‘fire and maneuver’ wearing 60 lbs of crap? How are we to ‘destroy’ the enemy with weapons that are more suited to killing rabbits and coyotes, than killing deer or humans? Or how are we to kill the enemy when they can engage with us at distances outside the effective range of our varmint guns, and then after shooting a magazine or a belt of ammo, they are able to run away and catch a bite to eat before evening prayer?

    To me, a tactical athelete is one that is light weight and has a very lethal and dependable weapon, so that they can truly take advantage of their athleticism and stamina during a fight. We should have guys that can run down the enemy, can close with the enemy using speed and strategy, and still think straight after all that effort so they can make the finishing kill. That is is being a tactical athlete and that is light infantry.

  2. Matt says:

    Also, this post was directed at the Marines, ‘and Army’. All of our military units in Afghanistan should take a hard look at what we are really doing out there, and ask ‘is this effective’? Are we at an advantage or disadvantage, and to be honest with ourselves about that reality.

  3. Rich says:

    It’s not just I Corps. There are brigades and battalions out there that are finding systems that work for them and implementing instruction on how to train the system down to the team leader level, and standardizing the system across the battalion. I know that at least at my installation, there are units using Rob Shaul’s Military Athlete, Ranger Athlete Warrior, some form of Gym Jones instruction, and then of course old school 21-20 APFT type stuff and the “new” PRT. Most important here is not who is coming up with the program, just that soldiers are seeking ways to make their bodies and minds more effective weapons, and realizing that sometimes you have to look outside the “norms” of the military for an answer to your problem.

  4. Scotty says:

    Matt,

    Thanks for the insight, but you are not basing your opinion in reality. Reality is that you can’t even leave the wire without the 60+ Lbs of kit, so what do you do? Do you wait in the fire base, or get out into the open and close with the enemy in kit that will sustain and protect you?

    The indig have extensive networks that will provide and sustain them, not to mention no ROE. We have to play by the rules that we have been given. We also have to conduct the missions or at least fulfill the intent handed down to us by higher. We may not like it, but until the COC figures out what our intent (big picture) is supposed to be then we will continue to work on the small victories that are within our control to obtain, using the guidelines that we have.

    Fact is we do Close with and Destroy the enemy wearing 60+lbs of kit, and to do it successfully you need to be prepared. It’s about time the Big Army started figuring this out 9 yrs into the game. Bravo!!!!

  5. Rich says:

    One last thought. Can we as an organization dictate physical fitness standards that apply to all service members, or should we focus on tailoring pt tests to different skill subsets, ie dismounted combat arms, mounted combat arms, admin, airborne specific, etc? I don’t know. I as a junior leader think its a great idea, but maybe some of you have a differing opinion.

  6. Paralus says:

    Scotty, from the way I read it, Matt was implying that the policy of requiring troops to wear 60lbs. of kit before they leave ‘the wire’ is what part of the problem is, literally and figuratively, by urging the US Infantry to embrace the ‘Light’ in Light infantry and start taking down the wire, shedding the armor, then hunting the enemy at the places and times of our choosing.

  7. Paralus says:

    Scotty, from the way I read it, Matt was implying that the policy of requiring troops to wear 60lbs. of kit before they leave ‘the wire’ is what part of the problem is, literally and figuratively, and was urging the US Infantry to embrace the ‘Light’ in Light infantry and start taking down the wire, shedding the armor, then hunting the enemy at the places and times of our choosing.

  8. […] I Corps CSM Leading Charge to Build 'Tactical Athletes' « Soldier … […]

  9. Nick The Brit says:

    Some of these comments have a lack of current situational awareness of what is needed in the CoE….

    You say carry less weight, but then want to change to a 7.62 round which are heavier and thus would increase your weight further by carrying the same combat load.

  10. Stefan says:

    Ok numbnuts (Matt) you shed your esapi plates. I’ll keep my plate carrier thank you very much! 20 lbs of plate is better than 60 lbs of coffin.

  11. Buckaroomedic says:

    @Rich-

    On the surface, tailored PT tests seem like a great idea. The problem is implementation. Is the PT test based on MOS or assigned unit? It would have to be unit based. As a medic assigned to both light inf and mech inf, I was expected to be able to perform the exact same tasks and conditions as my 11B brothers. How would unit specific PT be “standardized” across the entire Army? Would a combat arms APFT “count” more towards promotion than a combat support APFT? See, it gets tricky quickly.

    I applaud the Army for the new Physical Readiness Test idea. I say; just implement it and do away with the old APFT. Let’s truly make soldiers “Fit to Fight”.