Soldiers from the 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, look on as mission essential fitness instructor Michael Edwards explains exercises at the Ironworks Gym. Photo by 2nd Lt. Ryan Jokerst / 125th Bde. Support Bn., 3rd BCT, 1st Armored Div.
2nd Lt. Ryan Jokerst
125th Bde. Support Bn., 3rd BCT, 1st Armored Div.
Is traditional Army physical fitness training getting Soldiers ready for deployments and other physically taxing missions? Daunting life in war zones takes its toll on one’s body – that strain is one that Soldiers must condition for, adapt and overcome to remain battle-ready.
Since its inception, members of the 125th Brigade Support Battalion have been seeking a new approach to how they conduct PT. That new approach is called mission essential fitness. As stated by Fort Bliss human performance staff members, MEF is the training required to condition Soldiers for their mission, not only in garrison, but also in any operational environment.
MEF gets its roots from strength and conditioning programs used in by NCAA Division I athletic training programs.
On East Fort Bliss, at the Ironworks Gym, Soldiers train for future and current missions. Leading Soldiers through the strenuous MEF training is fitness instructor Michael Edwards, a former NCAA Division I athlete and strength and conditioning coach at the universities of New Mexico and North Dakota.
“Soldiers are expected to be like tactical athletes,” Edwards said. “Therefore we need to train like tactical athletes.”
Push-ups and sit-ups are not enough for the demanding missions Soldiers are sent on. MEF concentrates on high-intensity, dynamic exercises that are functional to a Soldier’s job. Arranged at stations both inside and outside the Ironworks Gym are exercises such as tire flips, kettle bell snatch squats and medicine ball push-ups to name a few.
Soldiers from the 125th Brigade Support Battalion test their upper body strength and endurance while hitting tires with sledgehammers as part of their mission essential fitness circuit. Photo by 2nd Lt. Ryan Jokerst / 125th Bde. Support Bn., 3rd BCT, 1st Armored Div.
This type of functional training develops the core muscles as stabilizers, reducing injury and increasing muscular balance and joint stability. It places emphasis on the body’s natural ability to move side-to-side, front-to-back, and up and down. The exercises mimic the movements a Soldier is required to make in a combat environment. It can also train Soldiers for environments such as Afghanistan, where the higher altitude has less oxygen. The high rate at which the exercises are done increases the body’s VO2s (the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen). This enables your body to adapt quicker when taking in less oxygen than it is used to.
Edwards says the end state of MET is that Soldiers will develop fewer injuries while preparing for deployments, they will be better prepared for deployments, and will be able to perform their missions effectively upon their return from deployments because they would have suffered fewer injuries in theater. The possibilities of being healthier and stronger while in combat could potentially save lives.
This type of training is easily transferred to a daily regimen utilizing sandbags, workout bands and many other accessories available at Ironworks Gym. The “Mustangs” of the 125th BSB train with the goal of developing stronger and healthier Soldiers who will perform well on Army physical fitness tests and be fit to fight when they are deployed.