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Old 09-01-2010, 06:23 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Army Revises Basic Training for "unfit recruits"

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Originally Posted by www.ndtv.com
Army revises training to deal with unfit recruits

Fort Jackson, South Carolina: Dawn breaks at this, the Army's largest training post, with the reliable sound of fresh recruits marching to their morning exercise. But these days, something looks different.

That familiar standby, the situp, is gone, or almost gone. Exercises that look like pilates or yoga routines are in. And the traditional bane of the new private, the long run, has been downgraded.

This is the Army's new physical-training program, which has been rolled out this year at its five basic training posts that handle 145,000 recruits a year. Nearly a decade in the making, its official goal is to reduce injuries and better prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat in rough terrain like Afghanistan.

But as much as anything, the program was created to help address one of the most pressing issues facing the military today: overweight and unfit recruits.

"What we were finding was that the soldiers we're getting in today's Army are not in as good shape as they used to be," said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who oversees basic training for the Army. "This is not just an Army issue. This is a national issue."

Excess weight is the leading reason the Army rejects potential recruits. And while that has been true for years, the problem has worsened as the waistlines of America's youth have expanded. This year, a group of retired generals and admirals released a report titled "Too Fat to Fight."

"Between 1995 and 2008, the proportion of potential recruits who failed their physicals each year because they were overweight rose nearly 70 percent," the report concluded.

Though the Army screens out the seriously obese and completely unfit, it is still finding that many of the recruits who reach basic training have less strength and endurance than privates past. It is the legacy of junk food and video games, compounded by a reduction in gym classes in many high schools, Army officials assert.

As a result, it is harder for recruits to reach Army fitness standards, and more are getting injured along the way. General Hertling said that the percentage of male recruits who failed the most basic fitness test at one training center rose to more than one in five in 2006, up from just 4 percent in 2000. The percentages were higher for women.

Another study found that at one training center in 2002, 3 recruits suffered stress fractures of the pubic bone, but last year the number rose to 39. The reason, General Hertling said: not enough weight-bearing exercise and a diet heavy on sugared sodas and energy drinks but light in calcium and iron.

The new fitness regime tries to deal with all these problems by incorporating more stretching, more exercises for the abdomen and lower back, instead of the traditional situps, and more agility and balance training. It increases in difficulty more gradually. And it sets up a multiweek course of linked exercises, rather than offering discrete drills.

There are fewer situps, different kinds of push-ups and fewer long runs, which Army officials say are good for building strength and endurance but often lead to injuries. They also do not necessarily prepare soldiers for carrying heavy packs or sprinting short distances.

"We haven't eliminated running," General Hertling said. "But it's trying to get away from that being the only thing we do." (The new system does include plenty of sprinting.)

Some of the new routines would look familiar to a devotee of pilates, yoga or even the latest home workout regimens on DVD, with a variety of side twists, back bridges and rowinglike exercises. "It's more whole body," said First Lt. Tameeka Hayes, a platoon leader for a class of new privates at Fort Jackson. "No one who has done this routine says we've made it easier."

The program was largely the brainchild of two former gym teachers who now run the Army Physical Fitness School based here. They are a military version of Click and Clack, finishing each other's sentences and wisecracking with the alternating beat of gas-fired pistons.

One, Stephen Van Camp, is a former professional kick-boxer who unwittingly ran a marathon with a fractured ankle. "That's not tough. That's stupid," he now says. The other, Frank Palkoska, is a former Army officer and West Point fitness instructor who adorns his office here with black-and-white photographs of 19th-century exercise classes and an assortment of retrograde equipment like medicine balls and wooden dumbbells.

"It's back to the future," Mr. Palkoska says before starting into a lament about the Xbox generation. "Technology is great, but it's killing us."

As he and Mr. Van Camp started developing what became a 434-page manual, they began by considering what combat soldiers do and came up with a checklist of things like throwing grenades and dodging gunfire.

Then they matched those needs with exercises. Some of those are already in use by the Army, but others are new and still others are drawn from century-old routines. There are drills that mimic climbing, that teach soldiers how to roll and that require swift lateral movements. Some are done in body armor.

The old style of physical training, he said, was less relevant to soldiers' tasks, which entail lots of jumping, crouching and climbing. "What we did in the morning had nothing to do with what we did the rest of the day," Mr. Palkoska said.

Under General Hertling, the new regimen will also include a makeover of the mess halls at its training bases. At Fort Jackson, there are more green leafy vegetables, less fried food, and milk instead of soda. The food line includes color-coded messages to encourage privates to eat low-fat entrees (marked in green). And there are other changes: no more assaulting tires with bayonets, but more time spent on rifle marksmanship and fighting with padded pugil sticks.

The trick now will be to push the program into the rest of the Army, where evidence suggests many soldiers are becoming overweight, particularly during or soon after deployments. The Army Training and Doctrine Command recently distributed the new fitness policy to the entire Army, officially replacing a physical fitness field manual that was first published in 1992.

While the training posts will have to follow the new program, since they are under General Hertling's command, it is not mandatory for officers in the field. Every unit's exercise routine is determined by its commander, and the current generation of officers has been indoctrinated under the old system.

The key, Mr. Palkoska says, will be to revamp the Army's fitness test, which is taken twice a year. It measures a soldier's ability to do situps, push-ups and a two-mile run. Since soldiers often train to the test, those are the exercises most of them do.

Mr. Palkoska and Mr. Van Camp hope the Army will revise that test by including new kinds of exercises and perhaps eliminating the situp.

"We know kids today are less fit," Mr. Palkoska said. "We have to adjust."
Is this a step back in the fight with childhood/adult obesity? Seems counter-intuitive to me, "Well, our PS3 generation can't handle basic, so let's make it easier." All the friends/family I know that joined the military trained BEFORE going to basic. They made sure they could run long distances and able to do most types of cardio (pushups and situps) prior to taking the physical fitness test.

Just seems like we need to be combating this problem not by cutting back on how hard we train our soldiers and the preliminary tests to get in.

Is this a good change for the military or a step in the wrong direction?
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Old 09-01-2010, 06:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Nothing bad could possibly come from allowing our troops to be in less than top shape. And if pushups and situps are your cardio, you're a masochist.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:00 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Beggers can't be choosers.

They need to keep the rosters full, and so they're dealing with a social issue that's a hindrance. It might, on the surface, seem like they're lowering their standards and/or making training "easier." However, the reality is that their recruits are increasingly getting injured. If you know anything about fitness training, it's important to gauge it to the individual. You can always bring people up to a physical standard.

Just because it happens more gradually, it doesn't mean it's easier. It takes longer, but the goal should be the same: combat-ready personnel.

I wouldn't criticize the U.S. Army for their strategy. I would rather criticize social conventions, a lack of public education, and a failure of personal responsibility for the terrible shape recruits find themselves in.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:21 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Is this a step back in the fight with childhood/adult obesity? Seems counter-intuitive to me, "Well, our PS3 generation can't handle basic, so let's make it easier." All the friends/family I know that joined the military training BEFORE going to basic. They made sure they could run long distances and able to do most types of cardio (pushups and situps) prior to taking the physical fitness test.

Just seems like we need to be combating this problem not by cutting back on how hard we train our soldiers and the preliminary tests to get in.

Is this a good change for the military or a step in the wrong direction?
It doesn't sound like they are making things "easier", just more gradual. It seems to me that if you are getting more and more recruits who are significantly out of shape, the goal should be to get them INTO shape first.

I'm significantly overweight. I know that if I went out and tried to just run three miles straight, even though I'm still young I could die, or at the very least do some serious damage to myself. But if I went out and jogged a little, than increased that some every day eventually I would be able to make that three-mile run just fine.

I don't foresee a world where the term "doughboy" comes back as a term for soldier for all the wrong reasons. If anything, I see the military creating multiple "basic training" courses based on the health of recruits that allow those already in shape to move on to other things while allowing unhealthier recruits to do what they need to do at a more realistic pace.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:27 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:35 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I think in some ways it also reflects our changing knowledge about exercise and sports science. There is no point in doing high impact exercises if a lower impact exercise will achieve the same result without the added potential for injury.
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Still and all, it's pretty damning to our present lifestyles (in general) when we
cannot, at first blush, do what our grandfathers were able to do. Is our
modern take on things "advanced"? Or are we sinking deeper into a corrupt
way of living?
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:48 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I am with snowy on this one. I was in the military back in the early 80's and spent six weeks running everywhere carrying a telephone pole between 5 of us. Never did carry a pole after basic training. I also ended up with a fractured ankle and had to spend weeks in rehab. It seems most of the exercises were a way to further break your spirit so that the "military doctrine" was easier to install.

These days, working with the USFS I see a lot more of the "modern" techniques of fitness being employed. There is a greater emphasis on total fitness rather than just pure stamina. My crew even does yoga---tis harder than one might think.
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:50 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I am with snowy on this one. I was in the military back in the early 80's and spent six weeks running everywhere carrying a telephone pole between 5 of us. Never did carry a pole after basic training. I also ended up with a fractured ankle and had to spend weeks in rehab. It seems most of the exercises were a way to further break your spirit so that the "military doctrine" was easier to install.

These days, working with the USFS I see a lot more of the "modern" techniques of fitness being employed. There is a greater emphasis on total fitness rather than just pure stamina. My crew even does yoga---tis harder than one might think.
Okay, that makes sense. Still, during the late 1930's, did they lower standards due to need?
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:21 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Yeah, the bigger picture is that we've shifted from a society built mainly on manual labour to one that has a high proportion of "knowledge workers." Thanks to technology, we have less demand for hands-on labourers.

Just look at the changes in the agriculture industry alone. Much of manufacturing is now done overseas. We're a society that provides more services, creativity, and information than ever before, and we're paying for it physically.

Of course, the changes in the food chain are substantial as well. Back in the '50s, shopping for groceries was a different experience, I'm sure.

How many of us can do a pullup? Think about that. If we're ever in a situation where we need to grab onto something above our heads and pull ourselves to safety....how many could do it? I suppose it's difficult to say because adrenaline and a will to live makes for a complex equation. But still. If there were a huge shift back to manual labour, it would be a rough transition.
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:26 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I just came out of Basic Training from Fort Jackson on August 26th. I had no idea that our PT was a new program implemented this year. Regardless, despite the new PT program being 'easier,' I took away marked gains, including lowering my 2 Mile run time by almost 2 minutes. That's pretty remarkable, considering that we did not run that much (we went on ability group runs at most 8 times in my 10 weeks there). We also did 30/60s (Sprint for 30 seconds, walk for 60, repeat for 8 reps), and later on 60/120s.

However, many, *many* of our recruits had a hard time passing our PT standards (which is 50%--basically about 45 pushups, 50 sit ups or so, and about 17:00 in the 2 mile). I really do think the current PT program could use some more work. As the article mentioned, a lot of recruits bust up their hips, especially during road marches (2mile, then 5 mile, then 7 mile, then 10 mile march with about ~50lbs of gear). I knew one hold-over who fractured his hip and was chaptered out because he stepped in a pot hole during a road march. So there was a lot of emphasis on hip-stability drills. We also did things like the side-bridge, the prone row (think super-man), quadriplex, etc.

I personally think this is the right way for the Army to go--that is to emphasize productive, full body work outs that target small muscles which may be needed for agility and survivability. However, I also think the intensity of our PT program is lacking. The only time I really made upper body gains was when I did push ups and sit ups on my own during free time. Most of the time we would do maybe 20 push ups in the morning, maybe 5 pull ups, and a couple of core exercises.

Occasionally they'd have us do push ups for 45 or 60 seconds, then sit ups for 45 or 60 seconds, but that depended on how much the recruits pushed themselves. We had graduates who couldn't do the side bridge for 5 seconds. In addition, when we got smoked, it depended on how disciplined the recruits were. I'd do my best to do all the push ups and get the concomitant strength benefits, but more than once I saw some of the recruits say, "oh fuck this" and just lay on the ground while everyone else did push ups(and they graduated.)

So in short. Good PT program, bad on lack of intensity.

=====================

*ETA:* Also wanted to add, that some of the people who could not meet PT standards were also some of my best soldiers, who carried around our M249s (a 16lb brick) in addition to their packs. That is to say, some of the standards that the Army requires have very little to do with field utility.

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Old 09-01-2010, 02:43 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I am with snowy on this one. I was in the military back in the early 80's and spent six weeks running everywhere carrying a telephone pole between 5 of us. Never did carry a pole after basic training. I also ended up with a fractured ankle and had to spend weeks in rehab. It seems most of the exercises were a way to further break your spirit so that the "military doctrine" was easier to install.

These days, working with the USFS I see a lot more of the "modern" techniques of fitness being employed. There is a greater emphasis on total fitness rather than just pure stamina. My crew even does yoga---tis harder than one might think.

Read more: http://www.tfproject.org/tfp/general...#ixzz0yJuobLkR
Exactly. While I was in the Navy I refused to believe that we would be required to run 6 miles during any conceivable combat situation.

I've ALWAYS felt that sprints in full combat gear weight should be done as PT as opposed to long distance runs. Marine Corpse "humps", very fast paced hiking in full gear, are combat simulated so they are acceptable but simple running makes little sense.

Pilates as opposed to situps, even though they're often seen as feminine, make more sense as well. Lower levels of back and tailbone issues arrise with the same level of workout and strength training.
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Old 09-01-2010, 03:22 PM   #13 (permalink)
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To add to Kirstang's comments:

I went through basic under the old program and my 2 mile run time went from a 17+ minute two mile to a 12:20 two mile at the end.

We used to run nearly every day. It was extremely challenging (for someone fresh to the Army and PT) but resulted in a nearly 100% pass-rate (except for a couple injured guys) and the average score was at least 260 IIRC.

I can tell you that my career has involved running with full-kit through the mountains in Afghanistan at altitude...Cardio is still rule #1. Also, life in the Army proper is not easy unless you are in a support MOS...you may survive basic under the new program only to be broken by your new unit. If you are Infantry a PT score test of less than 270 is frowned upon and you will be expected to run nearly every day. Rightly so.


The Army is lowering it's standards not because it wants to but because it has no choice. People who would not have passed Basic under the old program will now go to their units and be liabilities...ticking time bombs who may not break until they are deployed and others depend upon then to be able to suck it up and perform.
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Old 09-01-2010, 03:29 PM   #14 (permalink)
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hehe...

i hope we're never in a non-nuclear, "world war," situation again or we're dead in the water...
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Old 09-01-2010, 03:39 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Is this the point in the thread where we turn to a discussion of empire and decadence?
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Old 09-01-2010, 03:54 PM   #16 (permalink)
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To add to Kirstang's comments:

I went through basic under the old program and my 2 mile run time went from a 17+ minute two mile to a 12:20 two mile at the end.

We used to run nearly every day. It was extremely challenging (for someone fresh to the Army and PT) but resulted in a nearly 100% pass-rate (except for a couple injured guys) and the average score was at least 260 IIRC.

I can tell you that my career has involved running with full-kit through the mountains in Afghanistan at altitude...Cardio is still rule #1. Also, life in the Army proper is not easy unless you are in a support MOS...you may survive basic under the new program only to be broken by your new unit. If you are Infantry a PT score test of less than 270 is frowned upon and you will be expected to run nearly every day. Rightly so.


The Army is lowering it's standards not because it wants to but because it has no choice. People who would not have passed Basic under the old program will now go to their units and be liabilities...ticking time bombs who may not break until they are deployed and others depend upon then to be able to suck it up and perform.
Huh, schooled by the knowledgeable. Of course, I came from Jackson and not badass Benning.

Regardless, I was pretty disappointed that we lowered our standards.
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Old 09-01-2010, 07:42 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Beggers can't be choosers.

They need to keep the rosters full, and so they're dealing with a social issue that's a hindrance. It might, on the surface, seem like they're lowering their standards and/or making training "easier." However, the reality is that their recruits are increasingly getting injured. If you know anything about fitness training, it's important to gauge it to the individual. You can always bring people up to a physical standard.

Just because it happens more gradually, it doesn't mean it's easier. It takes longer, but the goal should be the same: combat-ready personnel.

I wouldn't criticize the U.S. Army for their strategy. I would rather criticize social conventions, a lack of public education, and a failure of personal responsibility for the terrible shape recruits find themselves in.
Couldn't have said it better.
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:28 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I'm not sure there's a type of yoga that can compete with running uphill for 20 minutes, but let's not discount yoga as a legitimate way to stay in very good shape. Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga kicks my ass every time.
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Old 09-04-2010, 10:36 PM   #19 (permalink)
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What I have never understood, is why not have an extended boot camp regime for those that are overweight or less fit but still really have the urge to enlist. I have heard that they have pre-training things that one can do to prep them for boot camp, but some may need the boot camp life of someone waking them up at dawn and forcing them to work out.

I say start those who are less fit with exercises that are less intense but that will eventually work them up to the point where fully "fit" recruits are when they begin normal boot camp. Then make them do the 20 mile uphill grinding runs, the endless sit ups and push-ups.
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Old 09-05-2010, 06:42 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I would love the Boot camp life thing. I always wanted to join the military but they wouldn't take me when i graduated from HS. I have a heart issue that medically dqed me.

I think its great that they are re working there PT program. There are easier ways to get the same results, and now they are learning that. I know the old PT was more for breaking a persons will more then there health but if your going to be badly injured from it perhaps there are other ways of doing that.
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:34 PM   #21 (permalink)
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What I have never understood, is why not have an extended boot camp regime for those that are overweight or less fit but still really have the urge to enlist.
A program like this has been in place since at least 2003. Upon reception to your basic training post, everyone enters processing. Part of processing is a modified physical fitness assessment. IIRC, the standards were something like being able to do 20 push-ups and sit-ups in a minute, as a 1 mile run in under 12 minutes. Those who failed to meet the standards were sent to Fat Camp.

From what I understand, the overweight recruits were put on a severely restricted diet, the underweight recruits were given a calorie/protein heavy diet. Everyone participated in formal physical fitness training in the morning and evening with the rest of the day consisting of strenuous random activities until they could meet the pre-entry physical fitness standards. I think a recruit could spend up to 6 months in Fat Camp before being booted from the Army.

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I would love the Boot camp life thing. I always wanted to join the military but they wouldn't take me when i graduated from HS. I have a heart issue that medically dqed me.

I think its great that they are re working there PT program. There are easier ways to get the same results, and now they are learning that. I know the old PT was more for breaking a persons will more then there health but if your going to be badly injured from it perhaps there are other ways of doing that.
Nobody loves Basic. It's 3 days of intensive training, that after being slowed down to cater to the lowest common denominator, is stretched out to 3 months of intense boredom. Also, the purpose of the PT program was never to break a recruit's will; it was to improve their level of physical fitness. There are plenty of hours left in the day for the silly psychological games the Drills like to play.

Echoing Slims; God help these sad bastards when they get to the real Army.
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:46 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Nobody loves Basic. It's 3 days of intensive training, that after being slowed down to cater to the lowest common denominator, is stretched out to 3 months of intense boredom.
That sounds like 3 days of fucking awesome. What's the harm in splitting people into groups based on physical performance and training each group to maximum efficiency? Is that too expensive or difficult or something? If I can sprint 8 laps and the guy that sat on the bus next to me can't do 1, how are either of us being made all we can be if we're being trained side by side?
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Old 09-06-2010, 08:06 PM   #23 (permalink)
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That sounds like 3 days of fucking awesome. What's the harm in splitting people into groups based on physical performance and training each group to maximum efficiency? Is that too expensive or difficult or something? If I can sprint 8 laps and the guy that sat on the bus next to me can't do 1, how are either of us being made all we can be if we're being trained side by side?
3 days of fucking awesome or what your asshole recruiter promised you Basic Training would be like.

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They already divide up recruits as necessary. Those that need remedial PT go to Fat Camp. Those that are deemed able to begin Army PT go to a Basic Training Company. Once there, everyone receives a diagnostic physical fitness test. When the results are tallied, the recruits are divided up in to ability groups A-D. Group A is the fast kids; the guys who ran their 2 miles in 13:30 or less. Group B is the guys who ran 13:31-14:30. Group C is 14:31-15:30. Group D is everyone else.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the long run days. On those days, everyone stretches out together and then breaks up in to their ability groups. The ability groups then take off at a pace/distance that is deemed reasonable for the group, plus 10% faster and farther.

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are push-ups, sit-ups, sprints, grass drills, etc. Everyone does those together (because there is no danger of of one person slowing down everyone else).

Sundays are for cleaning, re-cleaning, re-re-cleaning the barracks and surrounding areas, finding a hidey-hole to sleep and perfecting your masturbation techniques.
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Old 09-06-2010, 09:10 PM   #24 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
 
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That doesn't sound like they slow everyone down to the pace of the lowest common denominator, then.
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:01 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Willravel View Post
That doesn't sound like they slow everyone down to the pace of the lowest common denominator, then.
I was referring to the actual training being slowed down to crawl to cater to the kids whose lips move when they read.

Ex:
  • We spent an entire hour in a classroom watching a power point presentation on the proper way to introduce soap to water and then use said concoction to bathe.
  • 6 hours of classroom time was spent discussing why it's generally a bad idea to pick up, poke or shoot at unexploded ordnance (bombs, grenades, rockets, etc). Equal amounts of time where devoted to discussing why one shouldnt shit where one eats/collects their drinking water and why one shouldnt put pick up foreign objects and put them in ones mouth following a nuclear/biological/chemical attack.
  • An hour was spent discussing the subtle differences between objects that will provide cover and objects that will provide concealment. (Cover stops a bullet. Concealment doesn't.)
  • 6 hours was spent learning the phonetic alphabet and how to tell time based on a 24 hour clock.
  • An entire day was spent in the classroom watching a power point presentation on the proper way to execute a 3-5 second rush/bounding*. Day two was entirely devoted to practicing said movements.
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* A 3-5 second rush involves moving from a prone or kneeling position to a standing position. Then running really fast in the direction you want to go for 3-5 seconds. After 3-5 seconds, it is assumed that the bad guy has seen you and is now getting ready to shoot at you so you lay back down. Stand up. Run. Lay down. Bounding is essentially the same thing but you bring a couple of friends along. Your buddies will shoot at the bad guys to keep their heads down while you run. When you have completed your sprint, you will then shoot at the bad guys so your buddy can run. Repeat as necessary.
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