FORT JACKSON, S.C. -New soldiers are grunting through the kind of stretches and twists found in “ab blaster” classes at suburban gyms as the Army revamps its basic training regimen for the first time in three decades.
Heeding the advice of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, commanders are dropping five-mile runs and bayonet drills in favor of zigzag sprints and exercises that hone core muscles. Battlefield sergeants say that’s the kind of fitness needed to dodge across alleys, walk patrol with heavy packs and body armor or haul a buddy out of a burning vehicle.
Trainers also want to toughen recruits who are often more familiar with Facebook than fistfights.
“Soldiers need to be able to move quickly under load, to be mobile under load, with your body armor, your weapons and your helmet, in a stressful situation,” said Frank Palkoska, head of the Army’s Fitness School at Fort Jackson, which has worked several years on overhauling the regime.