SOI-East conducts Initial Physical Assessment

Marines from School of Infantry-East Infantry Training Battalion’s Bravo Company undergo a max effort repetition on the hex bar deadlift during an Initial Physical Assessment on Camp Geiger, Aug. 21.

More than 200 Marines from School of Infantry-East (SOI-East) Infantry Training Battalion’s (ITB) Bravo Company underwent the first phases of an Initial Physical Assessment (IPA) on Camp Geiger, Aug. 21.

This section of the IPA, which is the first of its kind, included a max effort on the hex bar deadlift, plank and 300-yard shuttle. The next phase of the IPA is a 3.2-mile self-selected pace ruck . The participating Marines will return in a couple months for a Final Physical Assessment (FPA). This assessment was developed by the ITB Force Fitness Instructors (FFI’s) in conjunction with SOI-East’s Human Performance Center (HPC).

Personnel at SOI-East plan on using the data from the assessments to reduce and prevent injuries and optimize the performance of the Marines going through ITB.

“The Commandant’s mission of having lethality optimized is our goal. Taking every asset we have, optimizing those resources and getting the best result on the backend with our students,” said Darin Peterson, SOI-East’s Human Performance Director. “SOI-East has put together a Human Performance team that is holistic in nature and attempts to get after all the variables that can be manipulated to make a Marine more lethal.”

Peterson said that the Human Performance team is not limited to the civilian staff of the Human Performance Center, but embodies all parts of SOI-East, including support from the FFI’s and Combat Instructors (CI’s) as well as senior leadership and spiritual fitness providers.

MCB Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River’s High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) instructors are also keeping a close eye on the study to see if any major breakthroughs are made.

Collectively, everyone involved hopes to come to some specific conclusions on how to make Marines better tactical athletes.

“We are trying to find the best practices possible to train these Marines and make them the most optimal, effective lethal (Marines).” said Nick Gounaris, SOI-East’s lead strength and conditioning coach.

By comparing the Marines’ results from both the initial and final assessments and tracking their progress, the FFI’s, HPC staff and SOI-East leadership hope to identify trends in that data. Once a correlation is suspected, then the team will come up with an intervention strategy to improve training, even if that means making changes.

“If you’re questioning yourself every day, then you are going to find the best practices,” Gounaris said. “We should consistently be retesting and figuring out if what we are doing is effective and how we can change to make it better.” Gounaris worked at several Division I athletic programs prior to taking his position at SOI-East’s HPC.

Implementing new technologies and methods utilized by Division I sports programs into how Marines train and are monitored during training is a key part of what Gounaris and Matt Hamm, SOI-East strength coach, do to better the physical abilities of all Marines at SOI-East.

“Everybody has different needs, so maybe what we use in sports isn’t the most effective for the Marines, but the only way we figure that out is through testing,” Gounaris said. “We have to do research and evaluation. We have to test and we have to evaluate if we were successful.”

Though this comparison of physical assessments is just a small piece to a larger puzzle of what Gounaris, his team at the Human Performance Center and others elsewhere are trying to figure out, if any discoveries are made, their impacts could change how Marines train. It could also reduce medical costs and, most importantly, save lives.

According to Peterson, there are a total of 16 annual entry-level infantry courses at SOI-East and every company will go through the assessments from now on. The push for this IPA is a direct result of ITB-East’s desire to optimize performance and to add to the lethal abilities of their Marines. ITB is taking advantage of the Human Performance asset they have at the school house and trying to leverage that capability to change the culture of physical training and how Marines approach it.