AXE Camp doubles down, helps improve physical fitness

By Capt. Josh Daugherty, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Staff Sgt. Danielle Speier, an AXE Camp cadre member, leads Soldiers in Physical Readiness Training during the 2nd AXE Camp in Artemus, Ky., June 13, 2018. The 2nd AXE (Attack Exercise though Education) Camp for Kentucky Guardsmen followed up the original in March to measure the success of the camp. Still in its early stages, the camp has proven successful results. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Josh Daugherty)

ARTEMUS, Ky. –Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment (1-149th IN) were given the opportunity to participate in a five-day fitness and nutrition course June 12-16, 2018. The course was held at Command Sgt. Maj. Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., and was presented by the Kentucky National Guard AXE program.

AXE stands for “Attack Exercise through Education” which is exactly what the program offers by taking a holistic approach to fitness by addressing nutrition, attitude and exercise technique. This was the second iteration of the AXE camp since its beginnings in early 2018.

“The AXE program offers a holistic approach to fitness where participants are taught fundamentals that when applied, allow those individuals to live healthier lifestyles,” said Lt. Col. Eddie Simpson, officer in charge of the program and commander of the 1-149th. “With a healthier lifestyle will come a transition that makes it more likely for these Soldiers to pass their Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) which is currently the focus of the program. In the future, I want to see the program offered to all Soldiers in the Kentucky National Guard, not only those struggling with the APFT.”

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For five days, Soldiers were enriched with education and carefully selected workouts inline with the holistic approach. Jeremy Mullins, a nutritionist with 15 years of nutritional education and experience, offered complete meal and nutrition planning. Chap. Dale McKee, 1-149th Chaplain led the participants in several blocks of the Army Resilience program focused on helping them achieve their fitness and life goals. Meals were catered and carefully selected to demonstrate healthy eating and proper nutrition. The cadre were all knowledgeable and experienced in physical fitness and experts in high intensity interval training (HIIT) which is the primary exercise technique taught in the course. The remaining daily schedule was filled with 2-3 workouts, a few recovery sessions and a couple exercise technique classes.

“Everyone here is high energy,” said Pfc. Andrew Paul with Detachment 1, 1-149th located in Williamsburg, Ky. “The workouts don’t feel like punishment, they’re actually motivating. Everyone has high morale and doing the best they can. It’s extremely motivating.”

During the week, participants are placed into small teams, which they train with the entire week. Each team has dedicated cadre members (coaches) to lead them in every activity and demonstration. The program follows the Army’s Crawl, Walk, Run model. Soldiers are taught in a classroom setting, shown demonstrations, slowly walked through exercises without using resistance or weights and receive one-on-one instruction and, finally, execute the newly learned exercise in one of the day’s physical training sessions. A culminating type of workout occurred on day three when the evening workout was held at a local CrossFit gym in Corbin, Ky., called 606CrossFit.

“This was the most we ever had in the gym at one time,” said Shea Moody, owner of 606CrossFit. “As a veteran myself, it’s great to be a part of a program designed to help service members live healthier lifestyles. Today, they are doing the “Murph” a workout dedicated to Lt. Michael Murphy who was a Navy SEAL killed in action.”

Every participant took away something different.

“For me, the nutritional education will be the most influential part of the program,” said Pfc. Glen Dean of Charlie Company, 1-149th. “Living in America can make nutritious eating difficult with so many unhealthy choices of food available. Good nutrition has always been my biggest struggle.”

Sixty-four Soldiers participated in this camp, doubling the size of the first AXE camp, which had 32 participants. According to Simpson, 42% of the 32 have gone on to pass their APFT, having failed their previous APFT prior to completing the program and nearly all of the remaining 58% have at least improved their performance on the APFT. 6 of the 32 have yet to take the APFT since completing the program.

“We are taught how to eat properly, exercise properly and how to maintain both upon returning home,” said 2nd Lt. Joseph Coleman Executive Officer of Bravo Company, 1-149th. “I kept hearing it wasn’t a smoke session but it wasn’t until I got through the first few days that I realized that even though we were working hard, my body was sore but holding up. I even felt better than I did when I arrived due to the recovery, rest and nutrition we received.”

Concluding on the fifth day, Soldiers participated in a 1-hour yoga-style final workout before a final formation to recognize the Soldier and cadre member of the cycle. Sgt. Steven Thompson of Alpha Company, 1-149th received Soldier of the cycle honors and Spc. Drew Woods with Detachment 1, Bravo Company, 1-149th was named cadre member of the cycle. Several other AXE courses are scheduled later in the year and analysis will continue to determine the direction of the program.