One Company from the 1st Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Londonderry, NH, is making its mark preparing their Soldiers for the upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). On September 7th, C Co (Comanche), out of Saco, Maine, conducted a Grader ACFT certification for 12 Soldiers from Comanche and HHD, 1-304th. Comanche’s Master Fitness Trainer and NCOIC ACFT Master Grader Instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Roy, led the certification, delivering in-depth instruction both before and after the 12 participants underwent the ACFT.
There are now two ACFT certification levels. ACFT Graders, formerly “Level One” are able to serve as graders for the test. OIC/NCOIC Soldiers, formerly “Level Two” are able to serve as OIC or NCOIC, certify fellow Soldiers as graders and OIC/NCOIC, certify the testing location, and grade the test. All former Level Three Soldiers are now OIC/NCOIC.
The certification involved in-depth instruction on each of the six events. Roy walked the certifying Soldiers through the correct body positions and movements for each event, describing and demonstrating how to identify incorrect and potentially dangerous actions. Understanding that the three-repetition maximum deadlift is likely the most unfamiliar exercise, SFC Roy took additional time to show specific actions that could result in bodily injury or a safety fault. Upon completion of the six events, Sgt. 1st Class Roy conducted an in-depth AAR and spot-checked participants on their knowledge and understanding of the new concepts. The participants are now able to serve as graders in any administration of the ACFT.
For the past 12 months, Comanche has focused its PRT regimen on ACFT-centric events, taking advantage of its two Master Fitness Trainer (MFT) certified Soldiers, Roy and Staff Sgt. Seymour, and planning to send a third Soldier to school early next year. While Roy has taken the lead on ACFT certification, Seymour has served as the Company’s lead MFT. Running his own business as a personal trainer, with certification as a massage therapist and physical therapy assistant, Staff Sgt. Seymour takes his role as the company’s fitness guru to heart, creating custom workout regimens and setting goals for Soldiers at all levels. His custom PRT sessions begin and end with the Preparation Drill and Recovery Drill, but intermediate activity focuses on a mixture of high intensity and cardiovascular exercise, designed to prepare Comanche for the ACFT while keeping Soldiers engaged. Seymour uses any available equipment to serve his purpose; it isn’t uncommon to see Comanche Soldiers carrying MRE boxes or dumbbells to mimic portions of the Sprint Drag Carry event.
The Company’s Soldiers continue to push themselves outside Battle Assembly weekends. Led by Seymour, four Comanche Soldiers, with three other members of 1-304th, completed a 200-mile Ragnar Relay, from Bretton Woods, NH to Hampton Beach, NH, with each runner completing three three-legs, totaling between 15 and 20 miles. Early next year, members of Comanche plan to complete the Tough Ruck competition, walking 26.2 miles with a standard ruck the day before the Boston Marathon, honoring the fallen and supporting military families.
Preparing for the ACFT like Comanche is easy. First, units can leverage their MFTs and even those Soldiers with civilian athletic and fitness certifications. Then, with their help, design engaging workouts that mimic the functional movements and exercises of the ACFT. Achieve Soldier buy-in by conducting post-PRT AARs to identify best practices. Change up the PRT routines to maintain a dynamic regimen. The 1-304th Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Michael Child, further emphasizes the need for fitness training that keeps things interesting, always reminding his units that PRT doesn’t need to occur between 0500 and 0700.
Roy discusses the most common responses he hears when conducting ACFT training, “The most common statements that I hear from my trainees on this new fitness test is how worried they are about the deadlift’s potential to cause injury, but this is exactly the reason we need to incorporate it into this assessment. Think about a day in the life of a Soldier; how often are you having to lift and move equipment? How often do you need to move under load? Now look back and think of the number of times you can recall a fellow soldier being injured performing these types of activities. We need to try not to think of it as an injury causing activity, but instead think of it as an injury prevention activity. Developing these muscle groups will help to significantly reduce some of the largest causes for injury in the military, and increase our overall readiness and reduce our costs.”
Throughout FY20, Comanche’s Drill Sergeants will visit units outside the Training Command to share their knowledge and help prepare adjacent formations for the ACFT. These engagements will hone the Comanche Soldiers’ own ACFT knowledge and training capacity, while also serving as a recruiting platform for the Company.