Members of the Officer Basic Course perform leg lifts during physical training outside of The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in April (Credit: Chris Tyree).
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Goscha (DG): I called my local attorney the other day in order to make an appointment for legal help in incorporating my wife’s business. The attorney warned me that he charged $300 per hour for his services. I agreed, but told him that I was in the Army, and that in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps we do physical training before we are allowed to give legal advice to our client. I expect nothing less from a civilian attorney. I added that no individual physical training would do, it would have to be 90 full minutes of training with every member of his firm and their paralegals. By the time I arrived for my initial consultation, I was greeted by a bill for $1,700.00. After I paid the bill and stepped in with the attorney, I quickly realized that his advice was no better than attorneys who work out on their own. Do you see where I am going with this?
Lieutenant Colonel Josh Berry (JB): I see what you are doing there! Did you also demand that your attorney be vaccinated for world-wide deployment, be fully qualified on a personal weapon, be able to provide life-saving first aid, and be prepared to deploy to war with no notice? I assume you did not, and I do not even know if Warren Buffett could afford that legal bill. My point is simple—we are different than civilian attorneys. All of us volunteered to join the Army, and all of us knew, or quickly learned, that the expectations of Soldiers are different than those of civilians. One of those extremely important differences is the requirement to maintain a high level of physical fitness. A critical tool in maintaining physical fitness for an Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA) is an organized and mandatory physical readiness training (PRT) program.
DG: I see your point. My attorney does not appear to be deployable. However, when considering whether organized PRT is worthwhile, consider these two words: Prone Row. The Prone Row, contrary to published standards, consists of lying face down in either grass that has been freshly sprayed by DPW, mud, asphalt, or a surface that is hiding worms, mosquitos, or fire ants. After you assume the starting position, you have to arch your back in a direction that nature never intended. After you survive that treatment, you may be expected to do the Power Skip, the military movement drill that strikes fear in the hearts of no one. And what about Four for the Core? Does the Army believe that maintaining stress positions prepares a Soldier for worldwide deployment into a high intensity battle? Professional football strength and conditioning coaches of winning teams do not prepare their players in such a manner.
JB: I hear you, and when we served together as captains, we both did enough overhead arm claps to understand how truly detrimental a poor PRT program can be to both morale and your health! Let’s take a step back—why should we have an organized PRT program? Field Manual 7-22 says PRT “prepares Soldiers and units for the physical challenges of fulfilling the mission in the face of a wide range of threats, in complex operational environments, and with emerging technologies.” You are saying that Soldiers in an OSJA can accomplish this on their own, right? I disagree—I believe our responsibilities as leaders requires us to conduct an organized, mandatory PRT program for the OSJA.
DG: Unit leadership is vitally important. Field Manual 7-22 inspires me. However, consider the physical training, not as written, but as practiced. As legal professionals, we strive to elevate our status to that of, or superior to, Soldiers in combat MOSs. I have done PT in weather conditions where no other unit dared to train. Why? Because we are the 27-series fighting for respect. Oftentimes, our training is skewed because we factor in ego and forget to respect the law of reasonableness. When it comes to egos, the 27-series tends to over-achieve! Unreasonable PRT does not prepare us to execute missions. In fact, heat injuries are cumulative, cold weather injuries are debilitating and cause illness, and poorly run PRT can lead to injuries, profiles, and a degradation of combat readiness. Because PRT can be poorly executed, we should embrace the mantra that physical fitness is an individual responsibility. Nobody knows our physical limitations and constitution like ourselves.
JB: I concur that for some Soldiers, their duty position may require individual PRT, but for an OSJA, I believe mandatory PRT is vital. First, if we are honest, in every OSJA there is a population of Soldiers who, if left to their own devices, will not meet their personal responsibility to “achieve and sustain a high level of physical readiness.” Second, PRT gives the OSJA leadership the opportunity to get to better know their Soldiers as individuals, and appreciate their “individual physical and mental differences”—you can learn a lot about your Soldiers by the effort they give at PRT. Third, a mandatory PRT program—when planned, resourced, and executed effectively—gives all Soldiers in an OSJA the opportunity to better themselves physically and mentally, and can increase camaraderie and trust within the OSJA. I fully concede that for many, PRT can be demoralizing, but I believe this is due to poor PRT programs that lack diversity and are not designed to build over time toward a goal—clear leadership failures. Finally, and most importantly, I believe we as leaders are derelict in our responsibilities to our Army and nation if we do not work tirelessly to ensure our Soldiers are physically and mentally ready to fight and win our nations wars—a good PRT program is a critical foundation of readiness. TAL
LTC Berry is a Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the 4th infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. LTC Goscha is a Deputy Staff Judge Advocate with the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.