October 27, 2011

Name: America's 1st Sgt.
Stationed in: Bahrain
Milblog: Castra Praetoria
Email: castrapraetoria1@gmail.com

As the senior enlisted ninja in the company, it often falls to me to devise ways to develop our young non-commisioned officers in preparation for the various leadership challenges they will inevitably face. In my opinion, physical training (PT) is one of the least effectively used tools in our professional development toolbox. Last week I decided to hone my NCOs with a little light body maintenance.

"Alright men, now turn around and kick your partner dead in the crotch!"


Simply thrashing a group of Marines into the ground is pretty easy and not a method of instruction I prefer. If they are simply getting their doors blown off without learning anything then I figure I've passed up a great training opportunity.

I like to ask Marines why we PT at all. Their answers are inevitably: "To be in shape." "Be fit." My personal favorite is: "To look good naked, 1stSgt!" I appreciate the honesty.

The bottom line is we conduct PT in order to make our bodies harder to kill. Never mind the idea of being fitter and stronger than your enemy. Fit, healthy bodies tend to survive being shot, blown up, infected, and other rough treatment. It's only natural the Corps would develop a culture of physical fitness within its ranks.

There are only three exercises I absolutely hate: running, pull ups, and crunches. Coincidentally, these are also the three events comprising our Physical Fitness Test (PFT). My aversion to those three exercises probably has to do with 20 years of repetitively running, pull uping, and crunching. Another pet peeve of mine are PT sessions specifically geared toward passing the PFT. These take the form of long runs in formation followed by a max set of pullups and two minutes of max crunches.

In my ongoing effort to battle monotony and expand the minds of Marine NCOs I try to take a different approach to PT and let learning occur while training. This time I decided it to introduce them to the esteemed Dr. Izumi Tabata and his interval. Of course, my version included rubber rifles and full cammies.

I had them sprint with their rifles for 20 seconds...

"We hate our liiiiiiiiiives!"


...then rest for ten seconds in the prone.

"Oof! I miss pull ups."


This was a great workout. They repeated this scheme of maneuver for eight rounds jumping up and running again and again. The keen observer will note this somewhat resembles how one might move on a battlefield. Hmmm...

"What happened to the ten seconds?"


We don't even have to do push ups if I just make Marines simply keep getting up off the ground.

"I think I'd rather be getting shot at."


Despite what you might think, four minutes of sprints can smoke even the fittest if they are putting any effort into it. I brought the Marines in and we set the rifles aside for part two. Oh yes, there was more!

"I don't have positive feelings about this."


For the second half we did Tabata intervals again. This time one Marine would fireman's carry the other for 20 seconds then during the 10 second "break" they would switch out. This is called hell.

It is unclear who is getting the worst of it in this picture.
"Dude wait, I think I'm gonna honk."


Ideally for training purposes Marines are matched up with someone of similar height and weight. One of my sergeants drew the short straw and had to partner up with my Company Gunny. He's in the large land mammal category.

"Gunny...if you... ever really get... wounded... I'm not sure... you're going to make it."


To my regret I jumped in to aid the exhausted Sgt as to keep from having to clean up breakfast hash browns off the nice astro-turf. 

Fortunately, O-ring reconstruction is covered by Tri-Care.


Afterwards I explained the Tabata interval can be used with any exercise imaginable and they could do this with their squad and fire teams in any number of ways. The method we used here more or less reflects things they may actually do in combat. I hope to see fully armed and armored Marines happily Tabata sprinting up and down the streets at any moment. They're doing it for America and so should you.

Semper Fidelis!


1st SGT, you are an evil, evil man, bless your heart. You remind me of my best (and most hated) Ballet Master, who we tried unsuccessfully for years to get deported "back" to Russia (he was born in Des Moines, but so?). Stay safe, and thank you.

GalPal, Ballet Master? I'm sure you meant that as a compliment but I'm not sure the Marines will let live that one down.

I think any from of calisthenics is good for the human body, mind, and soul.

Excellent training! You should definitely implement those in your real-life encounters. Don't forget to use a light bullet proof vest to protect you from firearms and other weapons. Keep safe and more power!

Ooorah and keep it motivated 1st Sergeant! False motivation is still motivation and you know what is strange? I hated every second of PT every second I was in the Corps, I maintained fitness but I still hated it as my natural habitat had always been a couch before the Corps. Yet looking back on it I miss it and see the great wisdom in it to the point that those PT sessions are now mixed in with my fond memories of being an active Marine. Keep them strong and you are correct, it just might save their lives or help them take some when the time comes.

Semper Fi,
1/3 A
USMC 2003-2007

Good god. You almost make calisthenic interesting. Damned creative of you -- and terrific insight, too.

1st Sgt, if you perceived the comparison to an old-school Ballet Master as an insult, then you need to be schooled, sir - with all due respect. The only human being I have ever known who approached him in sheer physical strength, toughness, and meanness was my Aikido Sensei in Oakland, CA, who was ex-military and an ex-Oakland police officer, and took the same wicked delight in creative PT that you seem to, while wiping the mat with us. And Russian Ballet Master (RBM) could have still kicked all our asses pretty much up until the day he died at 78 years of age. Interval training is the wickedest and the best PT of all, especially when incorporating explosive burst intervals (sprinting, leaping, etc.), and professional male ballet dancers are some of the toughest athletes on earth. I'm glad that you (and Dr. Tabata) are looking after the training of our guys and gals and hope there are more creative, evil thinkers like you throughout the Corps. Are you telling me the Marines aren't tough enough to live down living up to a true compliment? Stay safe, dude, keep your head on a swivel.

Ginge on the back of a kangaroo, accompanied by his dog and his pet monkey.

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