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Army's new physical training incorporates yoga, resting

As the Army rolls out new physical training and 'combat readiness' tests, some vets and senior officials ask if the new Army is 'babying' troops.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Cornelius Trammell clears a hurdle as he demonstrates one of the elements of the Army's new combat readiness test at Fort Jackson, in Columbia, S.C., on March 1. The Army has redesigned its fitness tests and physical training models for the first time in 30 years.

Brett Flashnick / AP

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The Army is overhauling its physical fitness tests for the first time in 30 years and adding a new "combat readiness test." To help troops prepare, the Army advocates training that incorporates cross-training, elements of yoga, and the benefits of rest.

It's all part of an effort to better prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat, senior US military officials say. Announced March 1, the new training will be phased in over the next six months at several bases.

Still – and not unpredictably – some seasoned veterans say the new regimen coddles soldiers.

“There have been all kinds of rumors about what this is and what it isn’t,” says Gen. Mark Hertling, Deputy Commanding General for Initial Military Training at the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, of the new fitness requirements.

“People have said, ‘It’s yoga-like, it’s like Pilates’ … And frankly, it is all those things,” says Hertling.

Army culture is hard to change, even in the name of better fitness. “Lots of folks are saying, ‘Ah, you’re babying them,’ ” Hertling reports. “ ‘You’ve got to drive them hard, and work them until it hurts.’ ”

Yet such hard-charging training often came with a huge cost, he notes. “When you’re driving people until it hurts, that will result in injury. Not just in fixing people and mending bones, but in lost training time.”

During basic training, for example, the practice has long been “to load up soldiers quickly with lots of gear” and send them out on long marches, Hertling explains. “In our testosterone-driven world, it’s about doing something more, and something harder.”

But research has found that the strain accompanying such tough training leads to stress fractures and other injuries, he argues.

This research is increasingly bolstered, Hertling adds, by the experience of soldiers fighting two wars in exceedingly harsh climates over the course of a decade.

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