Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers improved their physical fitness and cultivated techniques for refining their quality of life at the two-week Wisconsin Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Camp, offered through the 426th Regional Training Institute at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Hayden Eckleberg, the camp operations non-commissioned officer, the goal of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Camp is to retain Soldiers struggling to pass their Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) or body mass ratio by providing them the resources necessary for improving their physical fitness and quality of life. This iteration of the course trained 69 Soldiers in early August.
The camp offers a diverse set of instructional classes.
“We provide them many tools to improve their situation,” Staff Sgt. Brooks Wangler, the camp’s course manager said. “Tools like resilience training to control how they think and approach certain situations, financial classes in case they are struggling financially, and teach them how to conduct proper exercise.
“We teach them that they don’t need work-out equipment to improve,” he added.
All Army training is conducted with the idea of “train as you fight” — therefore, passing the APFT is about more than simply meeting a fitness standard. A Soldier’s physical conditioning must consistently meet the demands of their occupational specialty and potential combat situations.
The APFT is a critical component of Soldier readiness.
The APFT is designed to test the muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular respiratory fitness of soldiers in the Army. Soldiers are scored based on their performance in three events —the push-up, sit-up, and a timed two-mile run. The scores range from 0 to 100 points in each event. A minimum score of 60 in each event is required to pass the test. The Soldier's overall score is the sum of the points from the three events. If a Soldier passes all three events, the total may range from 180 to 300.
Failure to pass two or more consecutive record APFTs can lead to separation from the Army.
It is an obligation for Soldiers to pass the physical fitness test and meet body mass ratio standards. Those who do not meet the standards eventually face an ultimatum — pass the test or get discharged. The camp offers a holistic opportunity for Soldiers to reclaim their physical readiness to avoid being separated from the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
“The end state of the Comprehensive Fitness Camp is to place Soldiers on the right track to passing height and weight, or the APFT,” Wangler said.
The difficult task for some is finding a way to balance their military duties with their civilian lives.
"The last couple of years have been very stressful in my life," camp student Pvt. 1st Class Caitlin Giller said. "I want to make myself better, and I want to make a better life for myself."
The cadre members identify time management as a crucial component to balancing the two life styles.
Fitness camp student Staff Sgt. Richard Baechle said, “Many people who are out of shape say that they don’t have time. We’re learning that in 15 to 20 minutes you can get a good exercise.”
Staff Sgt. Brooks Wangler, camp course manager, said the cadre members are there to support the students, not to work against them.
"Some people think we are here to tear them down and treat them like garbage," he said. "We are actually here as cadre to motivate them to strive forward."
The students agreed.
"At first I was nervous," Giller said. "I was thinking it was going to be like basic training, but instead everyone here is super positive and encouraging. They helped me understand that I may be struggling, but that there is a solution to this problem."
According to Wangler, the Soldiers are testing at the beginning and at the end of the camp. Four out of the 69 Soldiers passed the PT test their on first try, and the overall average score was 141 points. Seventeen passed the last test with an overall average score of 169 points.
Twenty of the 69 Soldiers met the Army standards for height, weight, and body mass ratio after the first PT test. That number increased to 24 after the second test.
The program will track the Soldiers physical fitness testing conducted at their home units for the next six months.