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Army’s Soldier and Squad Performance Research Institute Will Increase Lethality, Resilience

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

NATICK, Mass. — “No Soldier ever fights alone,” says Cynthia Blackwell, the S2PRINT project director at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC.

The ways in which Soldiers interact individually, in squads and on small teams play a key role in success on the battlefield. This is one of the main ideas behind the creation of the Soldier Squad Performance Research Institute, or S2PRINT.

NSRDEC and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, have joined together to lead the development of this state-of-the-art facility, which is slated to be built at the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts.

The institute will empower NSRDEC’s and USARIEM’s world-class scientists and engineers with a controlled, cutting-edge, and mission-relevant environment in which to perform applied studies to uncover ways to optimize Soldier and squad performance and enhance combat readiness.

U.S. Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) engage opposing forces in a simulated exercise during Saber Junction 18 at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Sept. 26, 2018. The ways in which Soldiers interact individually, in squads and on small teams will be a key area of study for the Army’s new Soldier Squad Performance Research Institute, or S2PRINT. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Gabrielle Weaver)

S2PRINT’s emphasis is on Human Performance Optimization, with research focusing on the individual Soldier’s and the squad’s cognitive, social, physiological, physical, and nutrition-based performance. Blackwell explained that S2PRINT will provide the Army with a greater understanding of teams, leading to the optimization of team interactions and team dynamics.

S2PRINT will help researchers to develop validated performance and training strategies; tools and interventions for the Soldier, leader and small unit; techniques to mitigate injury; and interventions to increase Soldier and squad resilience and longevity.

Studies performed in the S2PRINT facility, which will include several operationally relevant laboratories, will help researchers baseline, measure, predict and optimize individual and small unit readiness, performance, and resiliency across real-world, mission-essential tasks. Outcomes/findings of this research will ultimately help improve readiness, enhance mission performance, and increase Soldier and squad lethality.

The new facility will also enhance NSRDEC’s and USARIEM’s already strong collaborations with top-notch academic institutions, cutting-edge industrial partners, and other DOD agencies and initiatives. As with other work performed by NSRDEC and USARIEM, the knowledge obtained through S2PRINT will lead to technologies and informational resources that will benefit not only warfighters but also first responders.

Moreover, Natick will be able to develop and evaluate prototype gear and emerging technologies more quickly than ever before, accelerating the delivery time of critical information and equipment to troops in the field — all while reducing costs.

S2PRINT is expected to become operational in the spring of 2023.

By Jane Benson, NSRDEC Public Affairs

The Baldwin Files – Physical Fitness, Combat Readiness and Leaders Who Just Look the Part

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

There has been a lot of interest and commentary lately about the Army’s new physical fitness test the Army Combat Fitness Test or ACFT. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to it generically as a Physical Training Test or PT Test for short. Part of what I will be arguing here is that the name of the new test is something of a misnomer. A PT Test – by any name – is not a good standalone gage of the “combat fitness” of an individual or a unit. Indeed, the discussions about the subject on this site and elsewhere on line got me thinking about my personal experiences and observations of successful and unsuccessful physical fitness programs. Visits earlier this year to Fort Benning and last month to Fort Campbell reinforced my own direct experience the last few years I was on active duty. The Army has grown smarter over time about individual fitness and now achieves as good or better results – and with far fewer injuries – than we did in the so-called “good old days” with unit PT centered on long formation runs.

As I considered the subject, I realized that PT Tests and the testing process were never that useful to me as a leader. Certainly, there were a couple of exceptions. Prerequisite testing to get into Ranger School and the SFQC can and does cause anxiety for the candidates and I was no exception. Other than that, in my long career in Infantry and Special Forces “line” units, PT Tests were simply a routine administrative requirement that provided only another data point to indicate if the unit fitness program was working or not. In terms of judging whether my unit was combat ready, PT Tests scores were of little or no relevance. Frankly, in as much as statistics matter, I was a lot more concerned about individual marksmanship scores and in some cases how recently we had completed requalification on infiltration techniques like HALO or SCUBA. Or perhaps how many people I had on hand with advanced skills in demolitions or long range shooting (snipers). Granted, in Special Forces, baseline physical fitness is rarely an issue, but I would say essentially the same thing about the various infantry units I served in over the years.

While we all often use the analogy, combat is not a sporting event or collegial competition.

I agree wholeheartedly that some sports medicine and physical training techniques are applicable to building physical fitness in soldiers. Some extreme sporting events like ultra-marathons might even approach the kinds of physical exertions seen in combat. However, beyond that, the analogy falls apart. NO competition or sanctioned sport I am aware of requires the participant to intentionally and continuously risk death or catastrophic injury. The fear that combat naturally engenders can be debilitating and sap the strength of even the most physically fit – but otherwise unprepared – soldier. Indeed, the physical and especially the psychological demands on soldiers in combat are not analogous to anything an athlete ever faces in a sport. Soldiers have to perform when they are not at their physical peak. They have to function at an acceptable level with little sleep, less than optimum diet and in austere environments and in all weather conditions day in and day out. In other words, sustained combat requires endurance and mental toughness beyond anything that a brief PT test can possibly measure. That is why longer duration stressful programs like Ranger School are considered so valuable a tool in preparing leaders for combat.

As I have mentioned many times, when I came into the service in 1975, all of my NCOs and the majority of the officers were Vietnam combat vets. Some of the Colonels and CSMs were Korean War vets too. Most of them smoked a lot, and a good many drank way more alcohol than polite society thought acceptable. I am sure those vices reduced their physical fitness by some mathematical factor. Did that really matter? What I do know is that these leaders were exactly the kind of “rough men” that Orwell spoke so eloquently of…and they were nothing if not HARD. Each had been physically and psychologically challenged in the crucible of jungle warfare and had passed the test. Sustained combat is difficult, frustrating, mean and always exhausting. The attached famous picture of members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade speaks to that unforgiving reality. What kind of soldier is best prepared to face that challenge? On the upper left, we have an imaginary commando. He has an impressive physique and the movie is fun to watch but we all know he is play-acting and is not combat ready. Still, because of popular culture that is what many – including some in uniform – think a combat ready soldier should be built like. On the right, we have a short skinny kid named Audie Murphy who was undoubtedly combat ready; this despite the fact that his physique was always unimpressive. That is how many a real combat soldier actually looks. I have no doubt that Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime could bench press, or dead lift much more weight than Audie Murphy ever could. Nevertheless, if I could choose which one I want at my side in combat it is no contest. I choose Audie Murphy.

I never met Murphy or Schwarzenegger so I am not going to say much more about them. Instead, I am going to talk about some real soldiers I did know. Four in particular that I met while serving in the 1st Bn, 27th Infantry in the 25th Infantry Division in 1982-83. This was before the “Light Infantry” initiative of the mid-80s. In those days, infantry battalions of the 25th were referred to (at least by airborne qualified personnel) as “Straight Leg” or simply “Leg” infantry. This meant that we were not organized to be delivered by parachute and did not have enough organic helicopters to routinely be airlifted into battle. Therefore, we walked everywhere with always too heavy rucksacks on our backs. I am not going to name three of the soldiers in this story because it is not relevant to the points I am trying to make. They were my Battalion Commander, Brigade Commander and a Sergeant (E-5) who worked for me. I was a Staff Sergeant and was leading a Scout Section at the time. The fourth soldier was a SFC (later 1SG) named Jim Myers who was the TOW platoon sergeant in the battalion.

SFC Myers was a friend and mentor of mine and a great professional influence on me. He had joined the Army in 1956 and gone to jump school as a combat engineer at Fort Campbell. After a couple of years, he got out but reenlisted in 1966 to go to Vietnam. He served 4 tours in country with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was a short guy and because of his size and previous engineer experience he was routinely called on to do tunnel rat work. He had a picture that was taken as he was crawling out of one of those holes before collapsing it with explosives. In the process, he also earned a couple of Bronze Stars with Vs and four Purple Hearts. My wife and I used to meet up with Jim on Waikiki or one of the other beaches on Oahu on the weekends. So I got to see him with his shirt off many times. On his chest he had one long scar from his right hip up to his left shoulder. There were four distinct bullet holes equidistance along that scar thanks to an AK47 burst he took on his last tour. Not surprisingly, doing pushups and sit-ups was always a struggle for him. Still, he could ruck much younger men into the ground and I swear that if you look up “tough as nails” you will see his picture.

SFC Myers retired in 1988 and passed away about 10 years ago. He was my hero and I wanted SSD readers to meet him. Another positive role model during that time was my Battalion Commander. He had earned two Silver Stars in Vietnam with the 1st Infantry Division. He was a big guy about 6’3” and was a chain smoker as I recall. He had received just one Purple Heart during the war. A mortar shell had landed near him and shredded the muscles in both legs. He apparently had to endure some two years of physical therapy after they put him back together as best they could. His legs remained twisted like warped wood. He walked with a limp and it was painful to watch him run. Yet, he led all the unit road marches – including a three day, 70 miler that we did just before Team Spirit 83. More importantly, he was always out at training actively teaching, coaching, mentoring and leading by example rain or shine. Despite not being what some would consider a PT stud, he was probably the single best infantry battalion commander I ever served with.

On the other hand, my Brigade Commander was almost exactly the opposite. He was tall, tan and fit. However, I never once remember seeing him out at training in the rain or the mud or at night. I never saw him with a rucksack on his back and that is noteworthy in a leg infantry outfit. I learned a lot about bad leadership from him and for that I am grateful. He did have one idiosyncrasy I will highlight here. He liked to run by himself out to unit training on sunny days. He did not like to wear a standard PT uniform on his runs. Instead, he wore ranger panties, running shoes without socks, and – I kid you not – a gold chain around his neck with a silver dollar sized gold medallion. I know all this because he did not wear a shirt but rather a generous coat of coconut tanning lotion slavered over his entire body. Before anyone asks, I have no idea who on his staff was tasked to put the lotion on his back. He would come out, put his hands on his hips, display his toned physique, and grace us lesser men with his presence for a few minutes before running on his merry way. Because of this odd and frankly disturbing habit, he was known in the Brigade un-affectionately as “Disco.”

Sadly, the Brigade Commander had a certain cult following among a few of the junior officers and even some of the junior NCOs. He was young and dynamic and looked like the central casting version of the steely-eyed infantry officer of the movies. My Scout Platoon Leader was one of those guys. It was clear that he idolized the Brigade Commander, saw him as the better professional role model, and was frankly ashamed that the Battalion Commander could not and did not project the same kind of “studly” image. Since he could not differentiate form from substance, the Lieutenant saddled me with a buck sergeant who was a semi-pro bodybuilder. One look at the kid’s guns and the tiny waist and the LT just knew this had to be a superior NCO. Of course the fact that a line company had sent him to us was an obvious clue that they had no use for him. I quickly found out why.

The kid made sure to educate me on his detailed training and dietary requirements. He had to get 8 hours sleep per night and at least an hour at the gym twice a day. He required 5 high protein meals per day that he needed time to prepare himself. Messhall meals or C-Rations were calorically insufficient for his needs. Not to mention that if he was preparing for a competition he would need additional time. Of course, he assured me that he would otherwise be available for unit training. He really said that. I did learn some interesting things about bodybuilding from him and from Schwarzenegger. First and foremost, bodybuilders are not as healthy as one might think from looking at them. They practice unhealthy tricks to make their muscles “pop” like dehydrating themselves before a competition. They train their muscles for show not go and deliberately and severely limiting their fat intake means they have little stamina. They are great for short bursts of activity – say for an hour or less – but flag quickly. This kid could easily max a PT test but literally could not keep up on a road march of several hours even after others took his ruck and weapon.

In short, despite his well-developed muscles, this young sergeant was actually not physically fit enough to be in the infantry let alone the scout platoon. Unfortunately, I was not able to get my LT to see that. He actually wanted the guy to take over the platoon’s PT program and turn us all into bodybuilders! Luckily, I had a little juice of my own in that battalion. I went up the NCO chain to the CSM and then we both went to the Battalion Commander. Shortly thereafter, the sergeant moved to the Brigade HQ to be the Brigade Commander’s driver. Together I am sure they could pose for a nice recruiting poster but the truth is that neither one was much of a soldier. My LT never forgave me. He actually thought we had lost an asset rather than removed a combat liability from the platoon. In terms of vehicles, the Brigade Commander and that sergeant were racecars. We all know that racecars look sleek and powerful on dry, purpose built paved tracks. However, they do not do well when conditions are less controlled. Say when the track is wet and those cool machines are all but useless off-road on rough terrain. On the other hand, the Battalion Commander and SFC Myers were high mileage but still reliable pickup trucks. It should be obvious that when there is dirty, heavy work to be done, a pickup truck is much more valuable than a racecar.

Indeed, I have always trusted guys that perform reliably day after day like pickup trucks more than those flashier types who require higher maintenance. Effective PT programs are important. I have believed that, preached that gospel and hopefully set the right example my entire career. However, as you can see here, I do not give too much weight to PT tests. I know this new one is more logistically burdensome than the simpler test it replaces. I expect that it will be a better indicator of overall physical fitness but admit that I do not think the juice – in terms of measurably improved soldier fitness – will be worth the more cumbersome squeeze. I draw your attention one last time to the attached picture. Everything a leader does should focus on preparing your individual soldiers and your unit collectively to fight and win in the harsh reality of sustained combat. Physical fitness is just one of many components that build combat readiness. Keep it in the proper perspective. Finally, always remember that the picture on the left is an imaginary soldier and the picture on the right is a real soldier. I assure you that particular real soldier is in every way the better role model.

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

Special Tactics Airmen Open Tyndall AFB Airfield for Operations

Friday, October 12th, 2018

HURLBURT FIELD, Florida- Air Force Special Tactics Airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron assessed, opened and controlled air traffic at Tyndall Air Force Base, Oct. 11.

Special Tactics Airmen have the ability to assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in any environment, including those that have been impacted by a natural disaster.

The Special Tactics Airmen cleared and established a runway at 7 p.m., Oct. 11, and received the first aircraft at 7:06 p.m.

Special Tactics Airmen are in control of the airfield and are prepared to support airfield operations at Tyndall Air Force Base until further notice.

This will allow support to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Tyndall Air Force Base.

Tyndall Air Force Base received extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

-1st Lt Jaclyn Pienkowski, USAF , 24th SOW PAO

MDM 18 – Wizard Wall

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

No matter the trade show, I’m always asked what the coolest thing I saw was. Sure, there were cool lasers and jackets and UAVs, but the most innovative thing I saw was Wizard Wall, probably because it’s the most practical.

We all used butcher block paper in the service and most of us dealt with map overlays. While they are great ways to share information, the issue with both of them is how to hang them. Wizard Wall makes it a cinch.

Available in clear and white, it uses static cling to stay in place. Wizard Wall is dry erasable.

wizardwall.com

Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team Bringing Next Generation Technologies To Soldiers

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Sanford, a maintenance supervisor, Delta Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery Regiment, gives commands to his platoon following their departure from a UH-60 Black Hawk during a training exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 28, 2018. The Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team is working to narrow the capability gaps that affect Soldiers — particularly the 100,000 close-combat Soldiers who close with, engage and destroy the enemy. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua P. Morris)

FORT BENNING, Ga. — In October 2017, the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, or CFT, began work to narrow the capability gaps that affect Soldiers — particularly the 100,000 close-combat Soldiers who close with, engage and destroy the enemy.

This is a critical task, as civilian and military leaders alike recognize that the Army is losing the near-peer advantage by being out-ranged, out-gunned and increasingly outdated. Potential adversaries and even private industry have been fielding new capabilities much faster than the Army.

The team has had some early success with the implementation of the Infantry One-Station Unit Training transformation and the requirement approval for the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular, or ENVG-B, device. In particular, the ENVG-B requirement was written and approved in 30 days. The average time it takes the Army to approve requirements is two to three years.

The Soldier Lethality CFT is doing exactly what was intended at the outset: to have warfighters and developers work together to prepare capability documents that enable the rapid delivery of capabilities to the warfighter, and to inform a potential program of record.

The ongoing efforts of the Soldier Lethality CFT will be the focus of a Warriors Corner presentation on Tuesday, Oct. 9 from 3:20-4:00 p.m. Eastern time, as part of the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“The Army’s fundamental responsibility is to equip, train and field Soldiers with the tools and resources to engage and destroy the enemy,” said Brig. Gen. David Hodne, Soldier Lethality CFT director. “Soldiers must have capabilities that increase lethality, mobility, situational awareness and protection while countering threats. New systems will be designed to employ emerging technologies to ensure our Soldiers have a decisive advantage over potential adversaries.

“Our CFT has been given the task to develop requirements informed by experimentation and technical demonstrations — through teaming, agility and rapid Soldier feedback,” Hodne explained. “This enables informed decision-making by Army leadership for potential programs of record in order to regain our overmatch over near-peer competitors. We have all the right people in the organization; from warfighters, program management, finance, testing, science and technology and others. That was the original intent for the creation of the CFTs.”

Currently, the Lethality team is working on three lines of effort: the ENVG-B, the Next Generation Squad Weapons, and the Adaptive Soldier Architecture. Of the three, the ENVG-B program is closest to fielding, with devices expected to be in the hands of Soldiers in 2019.

“The ENVG-B was developed based on an urgent operational requirement from U.S. Army Forces Command,” said Col. Chris Schneider, project manager for Soldiers Sensors and Lasers. “They were seeking a capability that provided both night vision and thermal sensing capability with stereoscopic binocular depth perception to increase mobility and improve visual confidence in varying lighting present on the modern battlefield during day and night operations. It also had to give Soldiers increased mobility and situational awareness through a heads up display of friendly and enemy locations.”

The ENVG-B is a digital system that allows for significant capability growth and the ability to network sensors and other situational awareness systems such as NETT Warrior, Small Arms Fire Control, range finding systems, and any information transmitted across the tactical network.

“The ENVG-B utilizes the same wireless technology to communicate with the Nett Warrior system and is designed for full compatibility with future synthetic training systems to facilitate Soldiers training and fighting with the same equipment,” said Col. Travis Thompson, Soldier Lethality CFT chief of staff.

To meet future warfighter needs, the CFT has made significant progress in the development of the Next Generation Squad Weapons. The first of these weapons will be the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NG-SAR. The NG-SAR is the planned replacement for the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon for the 100,000 Soldiers of the close-combat force.

To meet future warfighter needs, the CFT has made significant progress in the development of the Next Generation Squad Weapons, or NGSW. The first of these weapons will be the Next Generation Squad Weapon – Automatic Rifle, or NGSW-AR, which will be followed by the Next Generation Squad Weapon – Rifle, or NGSW-R. The NGSW-AR will replace the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW, in the Automatic Rifleman Role, and the NGSW-R will replace the M4/M41 Carbine in Brigade Combat Teams.

“The NGSW-AR is the first in a series of capabilities to modernize the weapons of the dismounted maneuver force,” explained Col. Elliott Caggins, project manager, Soldier Weapons. “NGSW capitalizes on advancing technologies to provide increased performance at range, integrated Squad Fire Control (S-FC) systems, improved ergonomics of the weapon, lightweight case technologies, signature suppression capabilities and Intelligent and powered rail designs through systems integration.”

The goal of NGSW is to improve lethality, mobility and situational awareness of the dismounted infantryman, scout and engineer to overcome our nation’s adversaries and win on the battlefield.

“By incorporating frequent Soldier touchpoints in the development and acquisition strategy of the system, the Army is ensuring the Soldier, weapon, ammunition and fire control combined-system function as needed and are optimized,” Caggins finished.

The most complex effort ongoing for the CFT is the work being done with the Adaptive Soldier Architecture, or ASA.

The architecture is a concept of treating the Soldier as a system much like a tank or an aircraft. It ensures that systems are integrated with the Soldier rather than added to the Soldier.

“With this new architecture, we want to provide adaptive and responsive leap-ahead capability to our Soldiers that results in an innovative, collaborative, and cross-functional culture to drives advanced capabilities into the squad to support current and future priorities,” explained Thompson.

The ASA establishes power, data, connection and transfer standards to the Soldier and their equipment, treating the Soldier the same as an integrated combat platform.

“What’s vitally important about the architecture is that it facilitates technology insertion and Soldier integration through enhanced communication with industry that will enable the advanced capability that our Soldiers require to defeat our current and future threats, and facilitate future technology growth and capability integration across the Soldier and squad,” Thompson added.

NY Army National Guard Runs Infantry Reclassification Training Course

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

CAMP SMITH, N.Y. — Ten Army National Guard Soldiers from the Northeast, who originally were not infantrymen, are now qualified to wear the sky blue cord and crossed rifles of the Infantry after completing a three-week reclassification course.

Conducted by the New York Army National Guard’s 106th Regiment Regional Training Institute, the three-week class is designed to turn Soldiers with a variety of other military occupational specialties into Infantry Soldiers.

US Army Spc. Joshua Yajcaji a native of Brick, N.J., assigned to Company B, 1-114th Infantry Regiment, in a security position after dismounting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from to Detachment 2, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation, at the start Infantry reclassification course 18-002 final field training exercise.

Course 18-002 began on Aug. 3, 2018, with 15 candidates and graduated 10 infantrymen on Aug. 17, 2018. Three of the graduates were New York Army National Guard members.

Starting October 2018, the 106th RTI will be one of only six locations where Soldiers can attend the reclassification and other Infantry courses.

Army National Guard Soldiers from the Northeast Region at Infantry reclassification course 18-002 ruck march in the mountains.

“It takes a special person to want a chance to become an Infantry Soldier, to fight for your country and loved ones at home and asking nothing in return,” said Staff Sgt. John Dustman, the senior course instructor at the RTI and 25-year combat veteran.

“I don’t expect those who graduate this course to become experts on the Infantry, but I expect after what they go through they should have it inside to always try and push through at all times,” said Dustman.

Army National Guard Soldiers from the Northeast Region at Infantry reclassification course 18-002 storm out of the belly of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter from Detachment 2, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation into positions during their final field training exercise.

The Infantry is an extremely physically demanding occupation and only accepts Soldiers into its reclassification course who request the change and are excelling in their military duties like the Army physical test, marksmanship, and driver’s qualifications.

Some Soldiers are drawn to the physically demanding portion of the job, like Spc. Michael Labonte, a motor vehicle operator assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment, Rhode Island Army National Guard.

Spc. Michael Labonte a resident of Smithfield, R.I., assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, takes cover before a mock assault.

“I needed something that would let me be out in the field with my fellow Soldiers,” said Labonte, who is a resident of Smithfield, Rhode Island.

He decided to make the job switch because in his current role as a motor vehicle operator, he mostly did paperwork and inspections.

“The course is the most challenging thing I have done in my four years in the military,” said Labonte.

Spc. Brandon Weston, a resident of Buffalo, N.Y., assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment, prepares to take aim with a Machine Gun, 7.62 mm, M240.

Soldiers also spend a large amount of time in a classroom setting to become knowledgeable on the duties they need to perform as modern-day Infantry Soldiers.

“There is a lot of good knowledge going around and a lot of good guys here,” said Spc. Michael A. Shriver, a prior-service Marine assigned to 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, New York Army National Guard.

Army National Guard Soldiers from the Northeast Region at Infantry reclassification course 18-002 ruck march down a mountain.

Students learn to master some of the Infantry’s weapons systems like the Browning .50 Caliber Machine Gun and the M240 machine gun, while familiarizing themselves with other systems like the M320 grenade launcher and the M16 rifle with the M203 grenade launcher attachment.

They are also taught current scientific strategies on how to maintain a peak level of physical fitness that included safety considerations while working out, injury control, environmental considerations, and other techniques.

Spc. Zachary Pisani a native of Boston, Mass., assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, takes aim while concealed behind a tree.

Fitness is a big concern for Infantry Soldiers since they train and operate with a high-level of physical activity.

“The ruck marches, loaded with at least 45 pounds of gear, and the Infantry 5-mile run were the most difficult part,” said Spc. Movado A. McKoy from Queens, a logistics specialist with 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, New York Army National Guard.

What surprised McKoy was just how effective the instructions, tactics and procedures were at this level.

“The lessons we were taught trained us on how to tactically move in densely wooded areas,” said McKoy. “I want this occupation to prove to myself that I can do it.”

Army National Guard Soldiers from the Northeast Region at Infantry reclassification course 18-002, along with course support staff, receive a safety brief for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter before flying out for their final field training exercise.

Ten of the 15 Soldiers who started the course made it to the final task, a 48-hour-straight field training exercise, or FTX, in the mountains and woods at Camp Smith. That task was all that stood in their way to earn the sky blue U.S. Army Infantry colors and badge.

Camp Smith is a military installation of the New York Army National Guard in Cortlandt Manor, about 30 miles north of New York City. It consists of 1,900 acres with training assets and simulators.

Spc. Brandon Weston assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment U.S., and Army Spc. Brandon Weston to B Company, 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment, scramble for positions during a mock assault.

During the FTX, students go out as a platoon and are led by two of the course instructors. They move tactically throughout the woods while going up against role-playing enemy combatants made up of their course instructors and handpicked Soldiers.

“The two-day FTX was designed to test all they had been training on, and what they will required to enter the Infantry,” said Staff Sgt. Morgen P. Sealy, the course manager and an Afghanistan combat veteran.

Sealy explained their biggest challenge is that a lot of the units do not prep their students for a condensed and intense course like this.”The best part of the course is seeing the progression in the students from day one till when we get to the field,” said Sealy.

“We want heart, willingness to learn, self-motivation, the desire and the determination to succeed,” Dustman said. “My personal expectation is that after this course they keep learning the craft even more.”

Story and photos: CPL Nnaemeka Onyeagwa, New York National Guard. Photos of Infantry reclassification course 18-002 final field training exercise were taken at Camp Smith Training Site, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., Aug. 13, 2018.

What Sort Of Man Reads Infantry?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

For decades, Infantry Magazine was the professional journal of the grunt. Printed by the Infantry Center, it facilitated outreach to members of the branch, informed on modernization efforts and served as a platform for professional writing. This ad promoting the publication, was printed during the early 70s heyday of men’s pulp magazines, with their lurid covers, promising to satisfy an appetite for life.

I love the combat ace look, with ascot, starched OG-107 fatigues, aviator shades and leather gloves. The only thing missing is a Vietnamese Ranger badge or jump wings, and direct embroidery.

The text reads:

What sort of man reads Infantry?

He’s the guy who’s always there when the going gets tough. Cool, self-assured and thoroughly in control of the situation, he makes the difference no matter what team he’s on. A profile of INFANTRY readers shows that 98% have specialized skills. Taste patterns in clothing reflect remarkable similarity and conformity, leaning towards the conservative. The IM reader is widely traveled, 97% having traveled abroad or resides in a foreign land. An outdoorsman at heart, he is the bon vivant of cuisine au natrual (sic). The INFANTRY buff is well informed and willing to go out of the way for a superior product.

Army Combat Fitness Test Set to Become New PT Test of Record in Late 2020

Monday, July 9th, 2018

FORT EUSTIS, Va. — Army senior leaders have approved a new strenuous fitness test designed to better prepare Soldiers for combat tasks, reduce injuries and lead to ample cost savings across the service.

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The six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is intended to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

Beginning October 2020, all Soldiers will be required to take the new gender- and age-neutral test. Before that, field testing set to begin this October will allow the Army to refine the test, with initial plans for up to 40,000 Soldiers from all three components to see it.

“The Army Combat Fitness Test will ignite a generational, cultural change in Army fitness and become a cornerstone of individual Soldier combat readiness,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commander of the Army’s Center of Initial Military Training. “It will reduce attrition and it will reduce musculoskeletal injuries and actually save, in the long run, the Army a heck of a lot of money.”

At least six years of significant research went into the test’s development as researchers looked at what Soldiers must do fitness-wise for combat.

“Throughout that research and testing, the goal was to provide our leaders with a tough, realistic, field-expedient assessment of the physical component of their Soldiers’ individual readiness,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. “The ACFT is scientifically-validated and will help better prepare our Soldiers to deploy, fight, and win on any future battlefield.”

Roughly 2,000 Soldiers have already taken the test, previously called the Army Combat Readiness Test. They also provided feedback as part of the Army Training and Doctrine Command and Forces Command pilots that began last year at several installations.

“The current PT test is only a 40 percent predictor of success for performing in combat and executing warrior tasks and battle drills,” Frost said. “This test is approximately an 80 percent predictor of performing based on our ability to test the physical components of combat fitness.”

SIX EVENTS

While the ACFT still keeps the 2-mile run as its final event, it introduces five others to provide a broad measurement of a Soldier’s physical fitness. The events are completed in order and can take anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes for a Soldier to finish.

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— Strength deadlift: With a proposed weight range of 120 to 420 pounds, the deadlift event is similar to the one found in the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, which is given to new recruits to assess lower-body strength before they are placed into a best-fit career field. The ACFT will require Soldiers to perform a three-repetition maximum deadlift (only one in OPAT) and the weights will be increased. The event replicates picking up ammunition boxes, a wounded battle buddy, supplies or other heavy equipment.

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— Standing power throw: Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow Solider up over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.

— Hand-release pushups: In this event, Soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional pushup, but when at the down position they release their hands and arms from contact with the ground and then reset to do another pushup. This allows for additional upper body muscles to be exercised.

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— Sprint/drag/carry: As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, Soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettlebell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.

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— Leg tuck: Similar to a pullup, Soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees/thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional situp.

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— 2-mile run: Same event as on the current test. In the ACFT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all of the other strenuous activity.

The ACFT gauges Soldiers on the 10 components of physical fitness: muscular strength and endurance, power, speed, agility, aerobic endurance, balance, flexibility, coordination and reaction time. The current test only measures two: muscular and aerobic endurance.

TEST SCORING

The vast majority of policies with the APFT will likely be carried over to the new test.

Scoring could be similar with 100 points for each event for a maximum of 600. Minimum scores, however, may change depending on a Soldier’s military occupational specialty. Soldiers in more physically demanding jobs may see tougher minimums, similar to how OPAT evaluates new recruits.

“The more physically challenging your MOS, the more you’ll be required to do at the minimum levels,” said Michael McGurk, director of research and analysis at CIMT.

Another difference is that there are no alternate events planned for this test, he said.

Soldiers will still get adequate time to rehabilitate from an injury. But under a new “deploy-or-be-removed” policy, Defense Secretary James Mattis said in February that troops who are non-deployable for more than 12 months will be processed for administrative separation or referred to the disability evaluation system.

“Generally speaking, somebody who has a long-term permanent profile that precludes taking a fitness test may not be retainable for duty in the Army,” McGurk said.

At about $20 million, the new test will be more costly for the Army to conduct. A single lane of equipment at full retail value is about $1,200. A battalion set of equipment will range from $12,000 to $20,000. Those prices will likely drop as the Army buys more sets at wholesale.

Equipment should last about 10 years, meaning it will cost less than $3 per Soldier over time.

“If I have a femoral neck fracture in the hip of a Soldier, that injury will cost the government about $1 million,” McGurk said. “So, if I avoid 20 of those injuries a year I’ve paid for the program for the next 10 years for equipment. The potentials on return are very significant.”

COST AVOIDANCE

The Army estimates $4 billion is spent each year due to injuries, non-deployable Soldiers, accidents and other health-related costs.

As part of its culture change, the Army is building a Holistic Health and Fitness System to produce healthier and fitter Soldiers. The new test is one piece of the system, in addition to the OPAT, the improvement of fitness centers, and healthier options at chow halls.

Army researchers studied foreign militaries that have rolled out similar holistic programs and found them to be highly successful.

The Australian army, for instance, introduced it to their basic training and saw a roughly 30 percent reduction in injuries.

“Do I know we’re going to have a 25-30 percent reduction? No, but I certainly hope we will,” McGurk said. “We think [the test is] well worth it and it’s the right thing to do for Soldiers in any case.”

Feedback from Soldiers so far has also been overwhelmingly positive.

“As we all know, physical fitness training can become rather monotonous if people train the same way,” McGurk said. “So, a lot of them saw this as a great change and how it required them to use different muscles.”

While some Soldiers may disagree with replacing the current test, McGurk said that fitness has come a long way from 40 years ago when the APFT was first developed.

“In 1980, running shoes were relatively a new invention,” he said. “The Army was still running in boots for the PT test back then. Change is difficult, but we’re an Army that adapts well to change.”

ARMY VISION

In early June, senior leaders outlined what the Army should focus on over the next decade to retain overmatch against potential adversaries.

The 2028 vision statement, signed by the Army’s secretary and chief of staff, calls for modernized equipment, particularly the development of autonomous systems. It also stresses the need for physically fit and mentally tough Soldiers to fight and win in high-intensity conflict.

“Technology is going to be dominant and we need a lot of things that we’re looking at through modernization,” Frost said. “In the end, you still need the United States Army Soldier to be able to seize and hold terrain.”

The ACFT is a foundational method, leaders believe, that the Army can use to start a new era of fitness and obtain Soldier overmatch in combat.

“The current leadership … has really coalesced and understands the importance of fitness itself and the importance of the PT test to drive that change in culture,” Frost said. “They’ve made the decision and we’re ready to execute.”

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service