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Physical training

Editor’s note: As a special service for our readers, WND is running a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to fight with his National Guard unit in Iraq. Allan will write for us as often as he is able to let our readers vicariously experience what people in his position are going through. We hope you will check regularly for Allan’s dispatches and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.

“More PT, Drill Sergeant, More PT.

We like it,we love it, we want more of it.

Make it hurt, Drill Sergeant, make it hurt.”

– Basic Training chant

PT, or Physical Training, is an important part of Army training, and part of what we have been doing at Fort XYZ, in preparation for Iraq duty.

The yardstick for PT is the APFT, or Army Physical Fitness Test, administered periodically to all soldiers in the Army.

The APFT includes three exercises: pushups, situps, and a 2-mile run, in that order. Each soldier must do a certain amount of pushups in two minutes, a certain amount of situps in two minutes, and must make a certain time on the 2-mile run.

How many repetitions of pushups and situps, and how fast on the run? Well, that depends on how old the soldier is, and whether the soldier is a male or a female.

The Army has a chart, and using this chart, you can find the required amount of repetitions and the required time for the APFT. Men have to do more pushups and situps, and run faster, than women soldiers. And younger soldiers have to do more repetitions and run faster than older soldiers.

For example, the group that has to do the most pushups and situps and the fastest run time is the male 17-21 age group. Then, when a soldier turns 22, he’s in the next age group. When he turns 27, he’s in the next group, etc.

The APFT is the way that soldiers are tested, the regular, day-in, day-out PT program is what prepares for them the test.

PT is conducted on a regular basis. If it’s done properly, it provides a balanced program whereby the soldier can improve his strength, endurance and speed. The program includes stretching, various calisthenics, and running. Also, a regular PT program can also incorporate other forms of exercise such as relays, wrestling or even a game of football.

The key is consistency. It doesn’t do any good to knock your guys out with PT one day and then go without it for a week or so. The good programs are balanced and give the soldiers time to recuperate and rebuild their muscles.

Also, when you have a National Guard call-up, you have a group of people at different levels of physical fitness. If you make it too hard, too quickly, you risk losing the really out-of-shape guys. But if it’s too slow, it doesn’t challenge the really in shape guys.

To remedy this, some deployed National Guard units divide their unit into levels. That way, the slower guys can build up more gradually. The goal is to eventually have them all at the same speed, more or less.

When the unit runs together, it runs in formation, in lines and columns. That’s hard sometimes, because you have to keep in step and be careful not to step on the guy in front of you or get stepped on by the guy behind you. Also, call-and-repeat cadences are sometimes sung by the unit running in formation. The guy calling out the cadences runs to the left of the formation. It sounds good when it’s done properly.