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Corps aims to win over HITT skeptics

Apr. 22, 2013 - 03:58PM   |  
MOH Kapaun MWM 20130415
Marines and former Marine Brian Stann give a demonstration during the grand opening of the High Intensity Tactical Training Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., on April 15. (Mike Morones / Marine Corps Times)
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Six months after the Corps rolled out its premiere functional fitness program, officials are working to ease apprehension among Marines who remain skeptical of the new workouts. They are establishing a training pipeline that will enable troops to teach one another, like they do with martial arts, and also indoctrinating new personnel attending the School of Infantry so the curriculum can take root throughout the service.

The High Intensity Tactical Training program includes hundreds of exercises designed to complement the various phases of a Marine’s deployment cycle, emphasizing injury prevention while helping to enhance and sustain strength, speed and agility. It officially debuted in October after two years of development, and to date, 35 HITT centers have opened across the force. But while interest in HITT is on the rise, some Marines are leery.

At Camp Lejeune, N.C., for instance, there have been complaints that HITT’s focus on suspension training limits how many Marines can train in the centers at one time, said Kellie Clement, the HITT center manager there. Additionally, she said, some have questioned whether the program is “intense enough.”

“They have not yet fully embraced the HITT programming but are slowly getting comfortable with it,” she said.

In California, meanwhile, HITT seems to be getting into full swing. Camp Pendleton alone has 15 centers — 11 outdoor and four indoor, and the busier ones see up to 700 patrons weekly, said Joe Artino, the fitness programs supervisor with the Semper Fit division there.

HITT got a big endorsement in April when Brian Stann, the former Marine captain and Iraq war hero who now fights in the UFC, showed up at Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., to help open the HITT facility there. Stann’s celebrity, and undeniable credibility, should help assuage the concerns of Marines more accustomed to PT routines built around running and heavy-duty weight training.

“As Marines, we sometimes think a good workout is when we can barely make it back to our office to get changed,” Stann said. “It doesn’t always have to be that way. It should be something that makes you feel better, not that makes you more broken down.”

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Stann said he did serious and irreversible damage to his body during pre-deployment workups in the Corps, yet he still wasn’t in peak condition when he deployed.

HITT represents a vast improvement, he said. It’s three phases match the deployment cycle of most Marines. The Warrior phase is designed to get Marines to their peak performance as they deploy. Combat HITT is geared toward preventing injuries during a deployment, and Athlete HITT — which focuses on strength and speed — can be used pre- and post-deployment. An aquatic phase is now being introduced. It’s designed to be exhausting but easy on your joints.

What may finally win over remaining critics is the “train the trainer” plan in which Marines will learn to conduct HITT training themselves.

The School of Infantry-East, based at Camp Geiger, N.C., will send PT instructors to nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River in May to learn how to teach the program to new grunts.

Leaders at SOI-East were looking for new PT options to help them turn out optimally trained infantrymen, said Col. Barry Fitzpatrick, the commanding officer there, and HITT filled the bill.

The program produces Marines who are more fit, he said. But that wasn’t enough. He also wanted to make sure the instructors were fully qualified.

“HITT provides some of those nationally recognized certifications,” he said.

Ryan Massimo, combat fitness specialist for Headquarters Marine Corps, said getting more PT leaders through that course is one of his staff’s primary goals. That will allow the Corps to sustain the HITT program with Marines alone, he said.

“We know at Semper Fit that we’re not going to be able to cover however many Marines there are going to be [across the force],” he said. “We want Marines to be able to train other Marines safely and effectively — the right way.”

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