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 Have you ever noticed during sports competition that the individual or team that tires first often loses? It’s the same for Soldiers. Your ability to cope with battlefield challenges depends greatly on your level of physical fitness. Physical fitness not only determines how well you perform in combat, but also enhances your overall quality of life, improves your productivity, and brings about positive physical and mental changes. Your physical fitness benefits both the Army and you. The Army needs physically fit Soldiers, and when you are fit, you are more likely to lead an enjoyable, productive life.

As an officer, how important is your level of physical fitness? How does your fitness affect your unit’s combat readiness? You’re probably tired of hearing how important it is to be in great shape as an officer, but it’s a basic truth. You don’t have to be the best at everything, but you definitely need to be one of the most physically fit Soldiers in your platoon. Morale improves when your Soldiers are constantly trying to beat you in a run or in an individual event like pull-ups or the rope climb. When that happened to me as a platoon leader that meant instant respect. My Soldiers all knew I could run or road march to the end with any of them. You can’t motivate Soldiers in a road march if you are visibly in bad shape. It’s a sad [sight] when a lieutenant can’t lead his Soldiers physically. Ask yourself: How can you lead or motivate your Soldiers if you’re not at the head of the formation? When it comes to the combat environment, physical fitness is crucial. If you allow your Soldiers to deploy in poor condition, you have failed them. Being physically fit out here [in Afghanistan] will help your Soldiers bear some of the rigors of a combat tour: less sleep, very random and increasingly changing rest patterns, extreme heat, heavy weights, and less than standard nutrition, to name a few. Staying in shape in a combat environment can be a tough task, because you may lack the time or facilities to exercise as you may have been able to in garrison. However, solid cardiovascular fitness will make a significant difference in higher elevations, and upper body and leg strength may prevent exhaustion from heavy gear in hot weather (3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (L), 2005).


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