March 19, 2010
By SGT Michael Volkin
It was a misty morning after a terrible downpour when the drill sergeants marched our platoon to a muddy field. We learned how to affix our bayonets to our weapons and took our positions next to a wooden structure with a spare tire on the top.
As the drill sergeants yelled out commands, the 80 recruits stuck the tires in unison.
A memorable exercise it was, but practical it was not. I remember thinking to myself the odds of me using a bayonet in combat where about as likely as my drill sergeant offering to carry my rifle back to the barracks.
Finally, the Army announced last week that bayonet training will be replaced with more practical exercises.
Frank Palkoska, head of the Army’s Fitness School at Fort Jackson, has incorporated some new fitness exercises into the recruit’s military fitness regimen.
These exercises include zigzag sprints and exercises that develop core muscles. These new exercises are much more practical to what soldiers will be experiencing in the field or combat situations (i.e. heavy pack patrols, handling body armor, ambush situations, etc).
The new plan is being expanded this month at the Army’s four other basic training installations ” Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Knox, Ky.
The new training also uses “more calisthenics to build core body power, strength and agility,” Palkoska said in an office bedecked with 60-year-old black and white photos of World War II-era mass exercise drills.
Over the 10 weeks of basic, a strict schedule of exercises is done on a varied sequence of days so muscles rest, recover and strengthen.
As a basic training consultant and author, I think the changes are very positive. Now, if I could only convince Frank Palkoska to replace the back wrenching sit-ups on the fitness tests for the more efficient and effective ab crunch, we would be in business.
SGT Michael Volkin is the author of The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook and the Ultimate Interactive Basic Training Workbook. Both of his books are available at ultimatebasictraining.com