Effective mission command requires Soldiers and Leaders trained to operate in ill-defined, ambiguous conditions. Through training, Soldiers learn to act decisively while accepting prudent risks. Training assists Soldiers and leaders in developing mutual trust through a shared understanding of the unit’s strengths and weaknesses. Training also reinforces the need for Soldiers and Leaders to collaborate and dialog in order to achieve a greater understanding of the operational environment.” –Unit TACSOP
There are lots of ways to manage a Platoon Physical Training (PT) plan. I’ve seen Platoon Leaders completely disengaged from their Platoon’s fitness plan and let their NCOs run have full autonomy. I’ve also seen Platoon Leaders completely engaged in many different ways. You must be involved. The Army trusted you to lead your Platoon, and you are legally responsible. You have an obligation to be a part of everything your Platoon does. You are responsible for their success and failure – this should go without saying. With that said, know where to be involved. I highly discourage you as the Platoon Leader to lead the actual session, BUT you should have given guidance prior, approved the finalized PT plan, supervised rehearsals, and give feedback after the session. It’s essentially an abbreviated version of Troop Leading Procedures, and if done you will establish a culture of high level planning and execution that will have positive effects in other areas of your Platoon. After all, PT is the one even that happens every single day where you get to interact with your NCOs. Use it wisely.
PT Planning serves as a daily tool for planning patrols using:
- Commander’s intent.
- Subordinates’ initiative.
- Mission orders.
- Resource allocation.
Step 1: Create Goals. You can assume that at a minimum your Platoon will be measured on the Army Physical Fitness Test. This is an anchor to measure and set goals against. If you choose to have more or different goals, make sure they are next with your Commander’s priorities. If you can show improvement in your Platoon’s average PT score, and keep most everyone healthy, you will stand out among the other Platoon Leaders. Of note, there are also two other common Infantry physical standards: 5 Mile Run (40 minutes), and Ruck Marching (12 miles in 3 hours).
Step 2: Create a Daily and Weekly Battle Rhythm. Hopefully you’ll have 90 minutes for PT each day. You can fit it in 60 minutes, but it becomes a rush.
- Dynamic Warm-up: (Time: 15 Minutes). The first thing you will want to do is a warm up. The Army is REALLY bad at this. Have you ever watched world class athletes warm up? Aim to mirror that. The days of “extend to the left” are over. Stop doing it. Have your Platoon line up on a line as if they were about to do a sprint, make two or three rows as necessary, and do calisthenic type exercises out to 20 meters. Once they reach the end, have them repeat going back the other way. Do this 10 times using different movement exercises, and add in some sprints towards the end. Make sure to specifically focus on the areas that the workout is centered around. By warming up this way, it will reduce injuries as you go into your workout.
- Workout: (Time: 45-60 Minutes). Many of your Soldiers go to the gym at night or during the day. Your PT plan should be predictable so they’re not doing bench press at the gym and the next day surprised with a chest workout. The best way is to publish the PT plan a week in advance. However, most will fail at this. A clever way to make your workouts predictable is to have a certain theme each day of the week. So, your soldiers may not know all the details of what they’re doing a week in advance, but they will know the general gist. Below is what I recommend as a Weekly PT Battle Rhythm.
- Monday: Long Run (approx 5 miles).
- Tuesday: Crossfit type workout – full body.
- Wednesday: Sprints.
- Thursday: Ruck Marching.
- Friday: Sports, swimming, or something that gives a 2nd full body workout for the week.
- Cool Down: (Time: 15 Minutes). This is the most important part of the workout, but the most neglected. Conduct a full 15 minutes of deep stretching. Incorporate partner assisted stretches, and yoga techniques.
Step 3: Create a Long Term Strategy. If your goal is to have a 270 PT average, and you are currently at a 262, estimate how long it would take you to get to 270. Three months is probably long enough to get results, and short enough to keep your Platoon’s attention span. Since our focus is the PT test, the core of our workouts should center on improving push ups, sit ups, and running. Your workouts should be comprehensive. In other words, don’t just do push ups, sit ups, and running, but make sure you’re doing enough to strengthen those muscles so you can achieve your goals. Get a calendar and plan the concept of PT each day for three months building up to the test.
Step 4: Assign an NCO for each day’s workout. A Platoon Leader’s role is not standing in front of the formation leading PT. Your role is to give orders to your NCOs, and train and validate your NCOs so they are leading PT and meeting your intent. Treat each PT session like it is a mission. In other words, agree on how you want to the Platoon PT session to run, do a rehearsal to make sure you have a shared understanding. Allow the NCO to lead the PT session, and have an After Action Review to discuss where things went well, and areas of improvement.
Below is a CONOP for a Long Run. This should be the minimum level of detail. Have each one approved by your Commander.
* Notice the CONOP measures performance from week to week. Posted and distributed so everyone knows what’s going on. Provides opportunity for Platoon Leaders to plan with Squad Leaders. Mile Markers help leaders understand “time and space”. MEDEVAC planning for real world emergencies.
Step 5: Measure your Goals and adjust. At the end of the three months take a Platoon APFT. Analyze the scores against your previous scores. Take into account injury rate, and individuals performance as well. Do an AAR with your NCOs. Repeat cycle and go back to step 1.