Eighth Army lengthens, standardizes training time in Korea
SEOUL — Longer training hours went into effect last week for the Eighth Army, with one day a week focused on combat conditions.
On Oct. 21, all soldiers on the peninsula began weekday training with their units at 6:30-8 a.m. Hours had varied by installation — for instance, 6-7 a.m. at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan — so Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux and Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Devens wanted to standardize the times, command spokesman Col. Shawn Stroud said.
“Fitness is the foundation of everything we do,” Devens said in an Eighth Army statement. “Mental and physical toughness are the keys to success in life, both on and off the battlefield.”
Stroud said it’s difficult to fit an entire workout into an hour, and the extended time provides more opportunity to warm up and cool down, as well as time for non-commissioned officers to counsel soldiers on issues such as nutrition, weight control and stress management.
The longer hours were not put in place because soldiers were having difficulty meeting physical fitness standards, he said.
Stroud said Thursday training will focus on combat readiness and could include carrying rucksacks and full combat loads, or simulating carrying a casualty on a stretcher.
“It’s great that you got that 300 on the (Army Physical Fitness Test), but can you do it under combat conditions?” Stroud said.
That training is important because young soldiers now coming to the Eighth Army often don’t have the experience of multiple tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“We no longer can assume that these young soldiers have combat experience,” Stroud said.
Additionally, South Korea has “probably some of the most unforgiving conditions soldiers will face. We want to make sure our soldiers are prepared to handle that climate, that terrain.”
It was still dark Monday morning when 60 or so members of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Osan Air Base began grunting and sweating their way through a series of sprints and warm-ups that culminated in a run of several miles.
Sgt. Justin Spaunhorst, communication specialist team chief, said the longer training gives soldiers more time to focus on the fundamentals of PRT – heart rate, mobility and strength and conditioning.
“I love it,” he said.
Stars and Stripes’ Armando Limon contributed to this story.