That’s right – soldiers in Europe better get their fill of schnitzel and get ready to shape up. The man responsible for Physical Readiness Training and healthier eating habits in IMT chow halls is headed your way!
In truth, the assignment of Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling as the next commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army is a win-win. Hertling is a go-getter who in the past year has revolutionized basic training, physical fitness and marksmanship. No doubt he is being groomed for a fourth star, but if you think this is simply a box-checking job, think again.
The career armor officer has commanded the 1st Armored Division, including a deployment to Northern Iraq as the nucleus of Task Force Iron. Hertling has led tank and cavalry platoons with the 3rd ID in Germany and commanded armor and infantry companies of the 5th ID at Fort Polk, La. He also commanded the first armored brigade to be transformed into a Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Hertling probably bleeds hydraulic fluid. Yet he is most recently known for the PRT, changes to the PT test he recently submitted and his mess hall overhaul.
The PRT program replaced the 10-year-old physical fitness field manual. The program incorporates sprinting, climbing drills and other high-intensity exercises that mimic the challenges soldiers face in combat.
The soldier fueling initiative is designed to treat and train new soldiers like athletes. The goal is to train the soldier to eat and drink healthier items that not only prepare him for strenuous physical activity but also fuel him throughout the endeavor and aid in his recovery afterward.
As part of this effort, Hertling ordered soda fountains to be replaced with milk and juices at basic training and most of the 217 advanced schools. Half of all vending machine snacks are healthy. Short orders were cut back. Fried foods are out, and baked foods are in. A selection remains, but soldiers are taught to recognize and select the healthier foods.
It’s likely that Hertling will follow suit in his new position. The three-star, who has a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and taught in the P.E. Department at West Point, is confident adamant that the Soldier Athlete Initiative is of immeasurable value for an Army whose recruits and young soldiers are increasingly dealing with obesity and health issues.
And he is right.
The U.S. Army Physical Fitness School has already seen operational units using PRT get an average 20- to 30-point improvement in test scores. Yet only a handful of commands have embraced PRT or the fueling initiative. As such, implementing the program at U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army could provide the large-scale validation Hertling lacks.
In the meantime, you can read more about some of Hertling’s recent efforts here and here. Also, Army Times will be accompanying Hertling at Fort Gordon, Ga., next week where he will begin a complete overhaul of all Army POIs. Stay tuned …