The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) includes 20,000 cadets on 1700 campuses. ROTC cadets have several physical demands to prepare them for military service and missions in a variety of climates and conditions. One requirement is to be ready to face a dynamic, competitive, and lethal operational environment. In October 2019, a new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) was implemented. The ACFT was developed to better predict a soldiersÕ readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield. This is a 6-event test for soldiersÕ, as well as, ROTC cadets. The ACFT is used for promotion, discharge, and job dissemination. Since this test was recently established, the 6 events are novel movements to most soldiers/cadets. Student physical therapists (SPTs) have education on injury prevention, biomechanics, training strategies, motor control, and exercise physiology. As a result, SPTs can instruct cadets on strategies to maximize performance on the ACFT test. Moreover, prevention strategies can be implemented to assist with proper mechanics and neuromuscular control during unfamiliar movement patterns of the different events in ACFT testing.
A ÒCadet ACFT ClassÓ was offered to a cohort of ROTC cadets on the campus of the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse (UWL). The Cadet ACFT Class was offered two times per week for five weeks and included ten, one-hour sessions. SPTs at UWL created/delivered the course content under the supervision of a clinical faculty member. General topics included core stabilization, self-recovery, dynamic warm-ups, and training for ruck marching. Additional sessions were devoted to each of the 6 ACFT events (3 rep max deadlift, power throw, hand release push up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck, 2 mile run). Each SPT was assigned a topic and created a 15-minute presentation and 45-minute lab session. During each class, cadets were given feedback on form, active exercises to promote optimal movement strategies and maximize performance, injury prevention tips, and training ideas. At the conclusion of the 10 sessions, cadets were given a written test on the information provided. Cadets that scored >70% were given a completion certificate to put in their professional portfolio that is used for promotion. SPTs received feedback from peers and cadets. This feedback was intended to improve their presentation in the next Cadet ACFT Class.
Eight ROTC cadets participated in the inaugural Cadet ACFT Class. Overall, attendance was 96% across all sessions. All cadets scored greater than 70% on post-testing, indicating that they had achieved competence in knowledge of the content covered in the course. Feedback from cadets indicated that they found the information to be highly valuable. Ten SPTs participated. These students reported that participation in the class improved their knowledge of injury prevention concepts, comfort with disseminating information to a lay audience, and understanding of the demands and expectations of military personnel.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
The needs of ROTC program and PT program provide a perfect collaboration. Cadets must maintain peak physical performance without sustaining an injury in order to pass ACFT throughout their career. SPTs students can gain experience in the performance standards of teaching and implementing prevention, wellness and health promotion strategies to the unique needs of this population. The intention at UW-La Crosse campus is to offer consecutive ÒCadet ACFT ClassesÓ so all cadets in the Eagle Battalion have the opportunity to receive this information and more SPTs have the opportunity to participate in promoting wellness in this manner.