Obstacles Add Pep to Unit PT Program

FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 9, 2010)-Every now and then, a good Army physical training program dismisses the usual pushups, sit-ups and formation runs. Other activities like group sports and aerobics work a wider variety of muscles, build teamwork and, let’s face it … they’re just a lot of fun.

Last week, the 111th Quartermaster Company of the 49th QM Group at Fort Lee, brought back one of its favorite out-of-the-ordinary fitness routines – a unit-constructed obstacle course with multiple challenges that left participating troops exhausted and dirty.

“It’s tough and sometimes painful, but they absolutely love it,” said Capt. Xkoshan Arnold, company commander. “Every time we do this event, it becomes the topic of excited conversation for days afterward.”

While some elements of the course tested speed and agility – like the tire drill that was reminiscent of a sports training camp – others were a pure test of brute strength and the will to succeed. At one station, the Soldiers hefted large logs while performing sit-ups and squats. At another, they dragged a beefy truck tire down a 100-foot patch of grass. They also low-crawled through mud and hoisted fellow Soldiers onto their shoulders for the fireman’s carry; the back-to-back events offered little opportunity for rest in between.

“By the end of the training session, you’re really feeling it,” said Arnold. “It’s a comprehensive workout and even the fittest troops max out their strength on the course. The muscle strain stays with you for a few days afterward. It works a lot more parts of the body than a routine PT session.”

There are mental benefits as well, the captain noted. The training event breaks up the unit’s routine, which promotes positive morale. A problem-solving strategy is needed to successfully negotiate the obstacles, and individuals have to overcome the challenge of wanting to give up when their muscles give out.

“I think it fits the Soldier’s way of thinking,” Arnold said. “They like to know the obstacles that lie ahead so they can push their way through it and have that feeling of success on the other side.”

Arnold gave the nod to his mortuary affairs company staff – particularly 1st Sgt. Marcus Jones, the organization’s lead NCO – for introducing the obstacle course to the unit physical training program and making each event more challenging for the Soldiers. Known for the whistle he uses during company training, Jones is the “unit motivator,” the captain noted. “His presence at the confidence course only adds to the high-spirited energy of the event.”

About 120 troops participated in the Sept. 2 training. Among them was Col. Marcus Cherry, 49th Group commander. According to Arnold, it’s also garnering the attention of other 49th Group units who want to take part in future events.

“The success of the program speaks for itself,” Arnold said. “It has generated a lot of excitement among our troops, and that’s why we’re really proud of it. I think it also shows what can be accomplished with a little ingenuity.”