Fort Riley, Kansas

 

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Competitive drive, will to win fuel ‘Blackfoot’ troop’s quest for CG’s PT streamer

By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2ND ABCT PUBLIC AFFAIRS | July 29, 2014

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.”
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