Soldiers build strength for missions with high-intensity training
By Ruth McClary
BAGHDAD ó Seven soldiers of Company A, 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, grunt and moan as they lift Humvee shock springs and tires to build strength and endurance for upcoming missions.
The 20-minute high intensity workout is called the Tabata, a variation of the fitness training the platoon performs three days a week.
The workout, established in 1996, is named for its creator, Dr. Izumi Tabata, of Tokyo. It incorporates timed, maximum intensity exercise in short bursts, followed by a resting period.
“This is good combat training,” said Sgt. Gavin Hutchins, a squad leader in 2nd platoon, of Jacksonville, N.C. “We are building up our bodies to carry ammunition cans and heavy supplies when we go out on missions.”
In this workout, the soldiers perform an exercise rotation for 20 seconds, and then rest for 20 seconds. They complete a five-exercise rotation at eight sets each.
Not only does the regimen prepare troops for the rigors of combat, as it mimics the movements of knocking down doors and removing debris during a mission, it’s helping one soldier become healthier.
“I came into this unit with high blood pressure,” said Spc. Ronald Gardner, an infantry driver from Salisbury. “It was (at a high of) 154 … now it’s 115 over 70, so this workout is saving my life.” Gardner has lost 40 pounds using this workout.
The rotation exercises include carrying the springs, lifting and holding the larger springs, hitting a humvee tire with a sledge hammer, pulling the tire with straps and variations of push-ups.
The soldiers said the humvee shock springs range from 30 to 45 pounds, and the tires weigh about 300 pounds each.
“The tires were given to us by the supply sergeant, and the rest of the stuff we got from the dump,” said Hutchins.
The soldiers began cross fitness training in Kuwait. A certified instructor there told them about the Tabata program and then trained them to push it to the limit.
“If you got anything left after this workout, you are wrong,” said Spc. Daniel Beck, the platoon sergeant’s radio operator, of Elkin.
The soldiers exercise on the basketball court at 3 p.m. The temperature is more than 100 degrees, with no covering or shade to help block the sun. A hint of breeze blows, but not enough to dry the sweat that drenches all of them. The dirt from the springs migrates to the soldiers’ hands, arms, and clothing. Yet, they keep holding on.
Hutchins said the platoon has lost 100 pounds as a group since they began working out in Kuwait about a month ago.
“These guys are going to be strong in a short period of time,” said Hutchins.
As the sweat pours down his face he shouts, “Cross fit or die!”
The Army National Guard’s 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, made up of about 4,000 Soldiers, operates in a nearly 2,000-square-mile area of Iraq.
The brigade’s operating area includes joint security stations with Iraqi forces in southwestern Baghdad and the mainly agricultural areas southwest of the city.
The 30th, known as the Old Hickory Brigade, is mainly made up of North Carolina Army National Guardsmen, with one battalion from the West Virginia Army National Guard and a company from the Colorado Army National Guard.