There are many things I have learned over the past few years. As a military human performance expert, it is my responsibility to explore the issues that affect the military physical fitness of soldiers and operators. One of the most alarming issues I have come across is the fact that unit culture is across the DOD is completely incompatible with high performance. This is a very simple issue. X-performance level requires Y-training time per day, week, month, quarter and year. Olympic coaches track this data and we have nearly 100 years of data.
The past 50 years have been particularly instructive. The data is very clear. To have and maintain a given performance level requires a specific expenditure of time and effort. This is a law set in stone and cannot be altered. In recent years many have tried to skirt this law with highly intensive training methods. Those have failed miserably and skyrocketed the injury rate. On the other hand, professional and Olympic athletes are steadily reducing the amount of high-intensity work they do while increasing the amount of low-intensity work they do.
The big issue for the DOD is that they have crafted a culture that does not support physical performance. Physical training is the number one cause of preventable injury in the DOD followed by field training. This is absurd. If the Denver Bronco’s had this sort of record heads would roll. Athletes are not paid to sit on the bench. They are paid to train and compete. Anything that takes them out of training or competing is unacceptable. This doesn’t mean going easier on the men. No one can say the NFL is easy. However, it means training has to be done smarter to keep everyone healthy and fit to play or fight anytime.
If we look at the daily schedule of an infantry unit we see sheer stupidity at work. There is no other honest word we can use. The men come in and perform the worst physical training known to man that is guaranteed to injure every soldier 2.5 times per year. That physical training does not address the needs of the job, the mission, health or safety.
It also is not enough training, even if performed properly to maintain the requirements to engage in modern combat effectively and safely. There is a reason why we rely so heavily on vehicles and why so many contacts are resolved by fire support and air support rather than good small unit tactics. The men are willing but not able and that’s a tragedy because their leadership has failed to allow them to properly prepare. But I digress…
When you look at the rest of the average infantryman’s day, it’s filled with a deluge of idiotic administrative tasks and a hell of a lot of sitting around wondering why you are sitting around. That should never be the case. The men in an infantry or SOF unit should be training for combat daily.
To maintain fitness for combat requires at least four hours per day for infantry and 5-6 hours per day for SOF. Ideally, training would be constructed the same way sport practice is composed, in multiple 90-120min blocks throughout the day. But this doesn’t happen and the training they should be doing is denied for “safety” reasons or lack of resources like ranges. This is assinine because if you are not improving the skill of the men, then everything they do is dangerous. It’s a vicious cycle that has to be reversed.
This issue pains me to no end. The DOD has become such a bureaucracy that even at the SOF team level, the men are so inundated with administrative requirements that nothing gets done. The only thing you can count on is the stupidity of the officers increasing with rank and the fact that your unit’s combat effectiveness will continue to decline over time due to the weight of administrative “requirements.”
Hell, on my last deployment, time-critical missions were put on hold because the SOTF commander wanted the font changed or a spelling error corrected on a PowerPoint presentation. Think about that. The men literally sat in idling trucks while one of the guys – whose head should have been in the game – went into the TOC to fix a PPT slide, often delaying the mission by more than an hour!! Really? And what of everyday life? Inventory after inventory after inventory and bureaucratic fights to get approval to do anything, written in triplicate, passed up, down and around the chain of command begging permission from people local and as far away as the USA for permission to do the smallest of things.
When we invaded Iraq we did it with a ruck, a rifle, and a vehicle if we were lucky. Often we hitched rides. In Operation New Dawn we were required to bring 19 TRICONs full of gear we didn’t want or need and we left with over 40 shipping containers. The DOD has a problem and for some insane reason, they are not interested in fixing it. The culture is broken and the first casualty is performance.
That brings us back to military physical fitness. American Defence is going to lead an initiative called the Tactical Athlete Culture Doctrine (TAC Doctrine). This will be a consulting workshop we offer to units and commands. American Defence will come teach unit leaders how to adopt this doctrine to create a unit and command culture that supports high combat performance. Yes, change is hard, but if we don’t start talking about it and addressing it, nothing will ever change. We have a moral imperative to do the right thing and we are in a situation where we are now forced to do the right thing soon or perish. If you are interested in hosting a TAC Doctrine workshop, please contact us with your best phone number and .mil e-mail address.
The Highland System of Combat & Survival is a manual of arms for training soldiers and armed professionals. It’s a complete set of concepts, skills, and training components to enhance one’s life and performance, especially in combat. Acquiring these skills, understanding the concepts and using the training components is the fastest and most effective way to improve the function of all twelve systems of our body and optimize all four levels of human ability; thus becoming the best version of yourself for life, sport or combat.
The key principle of The System is individual optimization. The goal is to ensure that training provides consistent improvement without harming you and that your psychological disposition doesn’t damage the body and psyche of you or your team. The system is designed to strengthen your mind, body, spirit and tactical capabilities to create a fully developed and highly capable person regardless of the task at hand (especially combat).
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ROTA, Spain (Feb. 11, 2011) Seabees assigned to Alfa Company of Naval Mobile Construction (NMCB) 74 attempt the Marine Corps obstacle course at Naval Station Rota, Spain. NMCB-74 is deployed to Camp Mitchell on Naval Station Rota supporting Commander, Task Force (CTF) 68. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan G. Wilber/Released)