SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The early morning dew was still fresh, the air was crisp and the sun was slowly rising as 32 Soldiers rushed to climb, jump, run and scramble over barriers high and low. The Soldiers were competing in an eight-event timed confidence course as part of a Master Fitness Trainer Course (MFTC) at Camp San Luis Obispo, California, Dec. 12, 2019.
Cal Guard Soldiers from assorted units around the state and representing diverse military occupation specialties (MOSs) took the challenge to lead by example as the two-week MFTC drew close to ending.
“Master Fitness Trainers (MFTs) have been around for a long time but the Army as a whole has not taken advantage of the program,” said Capt. Kyle Woodhouse, the state Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) Project Manager in Sacramento, California.
Woodhouse explained how embedded MFTs should result in a unit’s higher level of fitness across the board, adding that a higher fitness level increases the unit’s ability to pass the ACFT. “With the launch of the ACFT later this year (Oct 2020), these fitness leaders are necessary to prepare Soldiers,” said Woodhouse.
The MFT’s job is to deliver guidance related to the U.S. Army’s Physical Readiness Training (APRT) and the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) initiative. Specifically, they are health and fitness-minded NCOs and officers with high fitness scores and leadership characteristics who improve unit operational readiness and minimize injuries by supporting commanders in developing Physical Readiness Training (PRT) programs.
The course, taught by instructors from the 1st Battalion, 205th Regional Training Institute (RTI), Washington Army National Guard, included topics like exercise science fundamentals, movement and coaching skills, plus tactical strength and conditioning program design.
The usual MFTC is a two phase, online and residential program and typically taught at the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, South Carolina. However, with the new test looming, Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) are being directed to assist across the Guard and Reserve.
The MFTC existed in the 1980s and 90s but was discontinued in 2001. It was resurrected in 2013 as a result of the high operational tempo as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, creating a need for a methodical approach to physical readiness across the force, according to the school’s website.
“We are down MFTs across the forces with deployments and other missions. Having trained MFTs just hasn’t been a priority,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Peck, MFT Course Manager from the 205th RTI.
“As it relates to the ACFT, MFTs are now in great demand for not only program design, but because they can certify a testing site as appropriate, and alongside the testing team of an officer-in-charge, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge and certified graders, can conduct the ACFT,” said Peck.
Sgt. Autumn Jeffers, MFT and 74D Chemical Specialist with the 149th Chemical Company in Lathrop, trains six days a week and works with a lifting and nutrition coach. She has learned how to approach Soldiers from all kinds of backgrounds. “Instead of saying this is what I do, I’m now able to plan for a wider-spectrum audience,” said Jeffers, a seven-year Cal Guard veteran.
Chief Warrant Officer 3, Eric Aguillar is an MFT and 24-year veteran with a family to include 3 children. He served on active duty first as a tank mechanic, and transferred into the Guard as an aviation mechanic, but heard about the Warrant Officer Mentorship program and became a pilot.
He came through the course motivated to develop programming to help traditional Soldiers with only one weekend a month and two weeks a year to train. “With this knowledge, I can give them something substantial to work on during their own time as their part of being a Soldier. So when they report in, it won’t be so hard for them to transition into the ACFT,” said Aguillar.
Staff Sgt. Amber MacMillan, an MFT and 92A Automated Logistical Specialist, is a 15-year veteran with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1106th Theater Aviation Support Maintenance Group in Fresno. She didn’t come from a fitness background in school, but got into fitness after joining the Cal Guard. She lifts five times a week and does some cardio. This course taught her how to train differently.
“We received so much good information, more than I expected in a good way, like how to work out at the unit level with alternate equipment. I can take this training back to my unit and now I have tools to help Soldiers out and to help out my unit,” said MacMillan.
“As the Army transitions to a holistic approach to health and fitness, the unit MFT is more important than ever,” said Sgt. Maj. Brandon Morey, G3 Sergeant Major, Operations and Training—the unit charged with implementing the ACFT statewide.
“These 32 highly trained, MFT Soldiers will become force-multipliers within their respective organizations, providing expert advice on physical readiness issues and monitoring unit and individual physical readiness programs,” said Morey.