FORT EUSTIS, Va. –
FORT EUSTIS, VA – The five branches of the military have different quirks and perks that correspond with each.
The Navy and Marines, for instance, don't salute while wearing physical training (PT) uniforms. The Navy and the Coast Guard have entirely different rank titles and emblems than the other three branches.
The Marines all get training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and the Army calls their installations posts, unlike the Air Force and Navy, who call their installations bases. When working at a joint command such as Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS), the disparities can be fun to point out. This is especially true for physical fitness.
A certain level of physical fitness is mandatory across the board as the baseline that the branches have in common. From there, the differences begin to surface. The Marines have two different PT evaluations: the physical fitness test and a combat fitness test. The Army conducts very regimented PT in formation. The Navy has various other cardio options to qualify instead of running and the Air Force only has to test once a year if they score a 90 percent or higher on their first PT test.
With these differences in mind, JTF-CS has begun a commander's PT program that brings all the branches together for group PT and cardio-based games, like Ultimate Frisbee and soccer. Each month, a different branch is in charge of the program to expose the services to varying styles of fitness.
"We have such a diverse community, from junior enlisted to senior officers across all the branches, along with civilians and contractors," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Ben Allen, JTF-CS's noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of readiness and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear cell, who helped plan the physical fitness program. "Our commanding general wanted to promote esprit de corps across the command."
The group games have been incorporated to build morale along with physical fitness.
"I like the team sports best," said Allen. "People are more themselves. They go harder; give 110 percent when on a team."
That sentiment isn't necessarily shared by everyone.
"I prefer the physical training portion," said Marine Staff Sgt. Hector Ochoa, NCOIC of the joint operations center at JTF-CS. Ochoa is one of four Marines tasked with developing the Marine Corps PT sessions. Ochoa enjoys the individual effort that a workout requires rather than the games. "I'm not much of a social person."
The Marines, he explained, have a different approach when it comes to training.
"With other branches, they finish and I feel that they could have done more. The Marines push as hard as we can; we push our minds." To Ochoa, that is the biggest difference the way the various services conduct PT.
For Army Sgt. First Class Bilal Shariff, medical plans and operations noncommissioned officer with JTF-CS, the Army has its own way of doingthings.
"Most Army units do PT every morning. This program we've implemented is a good way for the general to monitor his troop's physical readiness," he said. "The Army is a lot more regimented in how we do things. You have to start with certain stretches, end with others and keep them in order. There isn't a lot of room for freestyle exercise."
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and the military takes that seriously.
"We need to keep ourselves in peak physical condition for combat," said Allen.
The military requires its members to pass a test and evaluation on a semi-annual basis, but Ochoa believes there's more to it than that.
"We have to show the citizens that we're a disciplined military force. It gives them the confidence that we can do our job."
Of course physical fitness isn't just for the military. You can't watch the news without hearing about the obesity epidemic in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents (aged 2-19 years) are obese." This makes for some serious complications later in life for children and adults alike. Losing weight is just one of many reasons to incorporate physical fitness into your life.
Thanks to the military's fitness standards, many military members will retire from service with the physical fitness regimen ingrained in their minds.
"One side of me says I want to get fat and lazy," laughed Ochoa, "but I wouldn't last two days. I've been doing this too long. My body would demand it (exercise)."
For additional information on JTF-CS, visit us online at: www.jtfcs.northcom.mil or www.facebook.com/jtfcs.