Only one company-level unit
at Fort Riley has the Commanding General’s Physical Training Streamer on its
guidon – and its Soldiers say it earned that distinction by instilling a
culture of hard work and discipline with a liberal dose of competition.
Soldiers of “Blackfoot”
Troop, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st
Infantry Division, had to complete a 12-mile ruck march in less than four hours,
a four-mile run in less than 36 minutes and achieve an average Army Physical
Fitness Test score of 250 points. The first two events required that at least
90 percent of the unit take part and every Soldier had to meet the standard.
The troop exceeded the standard, finishing the run in 32 minutes and achieving
an average APFT score of 286.
“It’s about doing (physical
training) every day and developing a culture that says it’s OK to show up every
morning and work so hard that you almost puke,” said Capt. Jabari Johnson, the
troop commander and native of Lake Worth, Fla.
Johnson and Sgt. Gabriel
Gallegos, a master fitness trainer with the troop, developed fitness plans that
involved a great deal of variety relevant to Soldier skills and a competitive
element that they said pushed Blackfoot troops to better themselves.
“We get together to work
out a PT plan that’s focused, using Physical Readiness Training and its three
main foundations of endurance, strength and mobility,” said Gallegos, a native
of Las Cruces, N.M.. “We focus on that, but we include that competitor aspect —
it benefits (Soldiers) when they actually see a scoreboard, and it gives them a
look at where they stand and how they can improve, so they feed off that.”
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II,
1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley commanding general, presented the streamer — the
first he has awarded in his 14 months in command — July 11 in the presence of
the entire “Longknife” Squadron.
“It felt awesome,” Spc.
Benjamin Grim, an armourer with “Blackfoot” Troop, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt.,
and native of Oak Grove, Mo., said. “I’ve never seen a troop get that, and now
we had it, it was unreal. Some people might say it’s just a streamer, but it
means a lot because of how hard we worked for it.”
A typical week of PT for
the troop includes two days of collective training – usually a four-to-six-mile
run— two days of muscle strength and endurance training and one day of battle-focused
PT where teams compete in tasks like assembling and disassembling weapons after
a run in their tactical vests and carrying simulated casualties on litters.
“We incorporate PT into whatever
gunnery or training that we’re doing at that time,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he knew his Soldiers
were buying into the program just before the division run during Victory Week,
when a Soldier who injured himself playing soccer for the squadron told Jackson
and 1st Sgt. Patrick Lockett he wanted to run anyway because, as he said, ”I am
a Blackfoot trooper and I’m expected to.”
“That brought it home for me that these guys have
embraced challenging themselves every day,” Jackson said. Forty three of the
unit’s 81 Soldiers wear the Physical Fitness Badge on their PT uniforms, signifying
they scored at least 90 points in each of the three APFT events. But the troop
doesn’t plan to rest on its laurels. It is in the process of being approved for
a Sober Armies Bravely Expedite Readiness, or SABER, streamer, indicating no
Soldier in the troop has been arrested for driving under the influence for more
than a year. “It’s all connected,” Jackson said. “It’s about discipline.
Discipline, the BRO Standard and knowing you’ve got responsibilities on and off
duty.” Grim said he felt a tangible benefit to the hard work. “I feel great,”
he said. “The fact that my fitness level went up, it changes everything and pushes
me to be a better Soldier – to work better,” he said. “Even guys who are
injured now can’t wait to get off of their (medical) profile and be part of the
team, to be part of the team that won the streamer.”