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Fort Drum fitness center shifts priorities for soldier exercise


FORT DRUM — The post’s interest in developing its soldiers’ functional fitness was emphasized Friday as it opened a new center for the exercises and outlined more than $10 million in spending on fitness facility development in the past year.

“In order to survive in combat, you have to be fit,” said Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, post and 10th Mountain Division commander.

Gen. Milley told an assembled crowd of more than 100 that the post’s exercise facilities became a priority as he assessed the post when he arrived late last year. The post in the past year has committed to opening 37 fitness facilities at company headquarters and 10 free-standing buildings connected to battalion pool areas, along with several new amenities and renovations to current buildings, many of which are already complete.

“We owe them resources to make sure they stay fit,” Gen. Milley said. He noted the rough winters in the area require easily accessible indoor facilities.

Functional fitness focuses on developing specific muscle movements and overall athleticism rather than building individual muscles. The interest in the exercises has been linked to their application in combat areas along with their potential to reduce injuries.

“The word strong ain’t everything,” said Randolph R. Gillette, the new facility’s manager. “You have to be agile ... you have to have that lateral movement.”

The new $2,082,000 functional fitness center, developed over eight months, provides about 22,000 square feet of space dedicated to a variety of exercises. During a tour period coinciding with the opening, soldiers demonstrated wind sprints on a 25-meter Astro Turf sprint lane, martial arts in a combatives room featuring several punching bags and a boxing ring along with dead lifts in a main hallway.

Maj. Robert D. Montz, who leads the post’s new Mountain Athlete Warrior training program, built off the Ranger Athlete Warrior program, said he was amazed at the new facility when he toured it last week.

“I was like ‘Ah ... this is what soldiers need,’” he said. Maj. Montz, who is also chief of occupational therapy for the post’s medical command, said the facility allowed soldiers to build on what they had learned in the program, which also focuses on nutrition, sports medicine and mental toughness.

The post’s expenditures on exercise facilities have tallied more than $10 million in the past year.

The cost of the battalion-level facilities was listed at $6,967,000, and an associated set of physical training cluster areas was priced at $1,200,000.

Other listed expenditures are $1,298,000 for a new Army Wellness Center, $709,000 among three obstacle courses, $700,000 for a new facility at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield and $663,000 for a separate combatives facility.

“The money spent here doesn’t compare to the lives that are saved out there,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin D. Sharkey, from the Atlantic region of the Army’s Installation Management Command.

He noted that while the concept of functional fitness has been around the Army since he joined in the 1980s, many of the exercises revolved around improvising with moving cinder blocks or water cans filled with sand.

“Now we have all of these fine facilities that can help us win our nation’s wars,” he said.

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