Every service member in the armed forces wants to achieve a physical peak in their fitness. But there’s a limit in trying to be the strongest, fastest and most agile person on the field.
Professional athletes have learned to adjust their training regimen in an effort to prevent injuries down the road. What good is a 4.23-second 40-yard dash time if your body is prone to suffering an ankle or knee injury very easily?
That mindset has transferred to the military with the new Bayonet Warrior Athlete Program starting within the 7th Infantry Division on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The concept for BWAP was pitched by Maj. Gen. Thomas James, 7th ID commanding general. His vision is to make the 7th Inf. Div. a combat ready unit that can win in any kind of environment, he said.
“We’re warrior athletes,” James said. “We are Soldiers who need to deploy anywhere in the world and fight. How can we resource and develop a strategy to change a culture and mindset?”
James saw that units on JBLM were creating workout programs with a sports mindset. It was part of the reason why the Bayonet Division also launched BWAP Boxes.
They resemble storage containers that consist of everything one would find in a fully functional fitness center — kettlebells, ropes, free weights and even attachments for exercises like pull-ups that attach to the side of the box. The equipment focuses on mobility and agility work with less emphasis on powerlifting.
One positive is providing another workout venue for the 7th Inf. Div.’s service members.
“We have gyms on (base) that are actually nice, but those weight rooms can’t service 15,000 Soldiers during PT time,” James said.
On top of that, the BWAP Boxes are also mobile and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice — extremely useful wherever units are sent across the globe.
“Rather than try to grab sandbags and big gallons of oil, it’s nice to have weights,” James said.
BWAP is more than providing a convenient and mobile workout setting. Part of the culture change is to train service members to become certified instructors for their respective units.
Soldiers who can score at least 265 on the Army Physical Fitness Test will qualify to take the instructor course through the 7th Inf. Div.’s Bayonet Academy. The goal is to train instructors who are experts in functional fitness.
Major Jason Yellman, 7th Inf. Div. deputy surgeon, said a good portion of musculo-skeletal injuries that keep service members out of deployment can be attributed to overworking the body through physical activity.
The main reason for creating BWAP is to utilize functional fitness to provide what Yellman described as “prehabilitation.”
“We’re just trying to get to the left of the injury and make sure that the Soldier’s range of motion and functional strength are at an adequate level to prevent injury,” Yellman said. “There are a lot of motivated Soldiers who want to do the right thing. We just want to help them do the right thing in the right way.”
Along with placing a focus on proper, functional fitness training, the Bayonet Division is also going to be placing an emphasis on sleep and nutrition — two major parts of the Army’s Performance Triad. Dining facilities will have a color code for menu options ranging from green (healthy) to red (not so much). Leadership will also continue to push for service members to try and get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
All of these components will build toward the lessons that will be taught by BWAP certified instructors to the 15,000 Soldiers throughout the division.
“There are a lot of motivated Soldiers who want to do the right thing,” Yellman said. “We just want to help them do the right thing in the right way.”
The BWAP is still young and will likely continue to grow in the coming years. There are already plans to help establish monthly competitions for units to complete physical challenges.
Additionally, there will be a “Best of the Best” competition Feb. 28 at Cowan Stadium when Bayonet Soldiers will complete a special workout. The 7th Inf. Div. will also have a special competition called “The Martinez” from Monday through March 10 — a virtual competition to complete exercises in a certain amount of time.
“We’re trying to build a competitive mindset to change the culture,” Yellman said.