Kentucky Guardsmen attack fitness

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Pfc. Chris Bellman with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade exercises during the AXE fitness camp Apr. 20 in Frankfort, Ky. AXE stands for Attack Exercise through Education and that is what the camp aimed to provide the 30 plus Soldiers who were invited to attend the four-day event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Soldiers from across the state got the chance to learn a total fitness experience during the AXE fitness camp Apr. 19-22.

Defined, AXE stands for Attack Exercise through Education and that is what the camp aimed to provide the 30 plus Soldiers who were invited to attend the four-day event at Boone National Guard Center.

The cadre were brought together by Lt. Col. Eddie Simpson, camp officer in charge and 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry commander, based on their diverse background in the fitness world and CrossFit with several of them owning their own CrossFit gyms or being their unit’s Master Fitness Trainers.

“We are here to educate them on fitness, how to work out, how to eat right, how to have resiliency, set goals for themselves and take what they’ve learned, leave the camp and be successful on their own,” said Simpson.

One of the goals for the leadership was to keep the Soldiers motivated and create a little more relaxed environment than a typical military school. This was accomplished by having the cadre wear t-shirts and no one having their rank displayed.

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Spc. Drew Woods was one of the cadre in charge of educating the Soldiers at the camp.

“I was contacted by Lt. Col. Simpson and he asked if I would be interested in participating in the camp. He knew that I was Level One Trainer in CrossFit training and I was willing to offer what I could,” said Woods.

With several of the campers attending due to lower levels of physical fitness readiness, the camp leadership could not overstate the importance of the camp.

Campers were taught correct lifting, squatting and running techniques as well as in-depth nutritional information in a classroom setting each day but then broke out into small groups of 5 to 6 to get the hands-on experience and more personalized instruction by the cadre. After each day of instruction, the class would come together to compete in a workout of the day and really put into practice the techniques they had been instructed on.

At the end of day two, the cadre took the campers to CrossFit Frankfort to experience firsthand how a local CrossFit affiliate operated.

But the instruction that was given will be information the Soldiers can even use without a gym to be successfully fit.

“Not every Soldier has the capability to go workout all the time, so if we give them the basic tools for them to go out and do fitness with little or no equipment and prepare themselves to be a well rounded Soldier, the intent of the camp will be met,” said Master Sgt. Jay Taheny, AXE Camp non-commissioned officer in charge and a Master Fitness Trainer with Kentucky’s Recruiting & Retention Battalion. “But the standard is passing the PT test, so we still teach them how to run, do sit-ups and pushups properly.”

Expectations for the camp were mixed for both participants and the Cadre at the outset of the camp. After day one, the reality of the camp surprised many in attendance.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I thought the [Soldiers] we were going to get wouldn’t be motivated at all,” said Woods. “But they really surprised me by being motivated and wanting to learn.”

The motivation and drive to succeed helped the campers turn this experience into a positive experience all around.

“The last few days have been pretty informative, I’ve had a pretty good time doing these workouts,” said Pfc. Chris Bellman, AXE camper with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “I had never tried CrossFit before this and it’s tough. The ones that do this on a regular basis definitely earn their gains.”

But gains aren’t the only thing earned from the four days of extensive classroom learning and hands on exercise. Being able to accomplish each workout brings confidence from the tallest, biggest camper to even the shortest one.

“Being shorter and female, I think sometimes people look down on you but going out and doing all the same things they (other Soldiers in the AXE camp) all did proved that I could do it and for me it’s the motivation that pushes me,” said Pvt. Taylor Johnson, with the 2061st Multi-Role Bridge Company.

“I think more people should know about this program and that it continues on,” she added.

The only other female Soldier camper there also echoed the praise for the positive take-a-ways.

“(The camp) exceeded my expectations. It’s been phenomenal,” said Sgt. Jeannie Figueroa from Joint Force Headquarters. “There has been no bias based on gender or age and everyone, from the campers to cadre, all were very supportive. “

Overall the first AXE fit camp was a success and something that everyone involved could find a lot of positives to leave with.

“Our expectations coming into this were really unknown,” said Taheny. “The Soldiers came in a little wide eyed and scared thinking this was going be a four day smoke session, but at the end of the day everyone had settled in and they were very much at ease in the small group instruction. And the cadre was phenomenal in the way they delivered instruction.”