Army’s master fitness trainers make comeback

The Army’s Master Fitness Training Course, discontinued in 2001, will soon be back. The pilot course for the new Master Fitness Training Course, or MFTC, which began Aug. 27, is underway at Fort Jackson, S.C., and the class of about 30 Soldiers will graduate Sept. 21.

The MFTC rebirth was announced at the same time U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, known as TRADOC, decided to retain the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test. TRADOC also emphasized that Training Circular 3-22.20, published August 2010 to prepare troops for combat-specific tasks, will remain the physical readiness training program for the Army.

“The objective of the MFTC is to target [mid-level] NCOs (noncommissioned officers) and junior officers and teach them the fundamentals of exercise and nutrition science, using TC 3-22.20, Physical Readiness Training, as the foundation,” said Capt. Donald Maye, operations officer, Physical Readiness Division, Fort Jackson. “When they return to their units, they will have the skills and expertise to tailor a comprehensive physical readiness training plan for their unit.” Upon graduation, the master fitness trainers will return to their units to provide fitness mentoring, in consultation with their commanders, according to Maye. Maye explained how fitness programs should be customized for each commander’s mission requirements. He said the MFTC instruction — taught by subject-matter experts with backgrounds in exercise science and physical therapy —  “is broad and flexible enough to accommodate the specific requirements of the unit mission to which they are assigned. For example, a program for engineers who do a lot of heavy lifting might be different from one at a medical treatment facility.”
In addition to consulting with their commanders, Maye said the eventual goal of the MFTs will be to collaborate regularly with medical personnel, physical therapists, nutrition experts and even those involved with Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and Family, or CSF2. “The goal of the program is not to train Soldiers to improve their physical fitness test scores,” he emphasized. “It is to train to doctrine, which itself is based on exercise science principles.” He added that improved PT scores and injury rate reduction would be byproducts of a fitness plan based on the doctrinal principles found in TC 3-22.20. Although all Soldiers are expected to benefit from the MFT once they arrive at their units, the ones who will see the most improvement are those at the lowest levels of fitness. “Our goal is to provide leaders the tools to safely and effectively train Soldiers,” Maye said, adding that the program advances at a slow enough pace to prevent injuries from over training or from progressing too quickly to allow the body to recover and rebuild.
He also said those with injuries will benefit from MFT supervised fitness and reconditioning programs. Maye said the MFTC is progressing “exceptionally well” and the trainees are providing constructive feedback for further improvements in the course.

Once they graduate, they will retain their primary military occupational specialty and will receive the Army skill identifier as MFT certified. He said the goal is to eventually provide one MFT per company-level command. Also, TRADOC is working on changing the designation of TC 3-22.20 to Field Manual 7-22. “We hope to make the change as early as next month,” Maye said, adding that the change will not affect any of the content.