News: Professional Strength Conditioning Program at 3rd SFG (A)
Story by Capt. Jennifer Bocanegra
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) now has a program available to improve the physical and mental stamina of Special Forces soldiers who are expected to stay in top physical condition based on the requirements of their job.
The program called, Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning Program, is modeled after the mythological figure Thor and was developed by the United States Special Operations Command in February 2009.
“The Army Special Operations warrior should possess superhuman strength, stamina, speed, durability, and longevity,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Garber, U.S. Army Special Operations Command Surgeon’s Office.
Garber also said the program’s main goals are to increase combat performance, prevent injuries and decrease recovery time of Army Special Operations Forces.
This summer, the 3rd SFG (A) THOR3 staff began arriving, led by former Atlanta Thrashers head strength and conditioning coach, Ray Bear. Prior to his arrival to the Group, Bear served as an Army medic for six years and is a Veteran of Operation Desert Storm.
Bear spent the majority of his career keeping major and minor league athletes in top condition. He holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Sports Medicine with a concentration in Athletic Training. He has worked for major league sports teams such as, the Atlanta Thrashers and the Atlanta Braves.
Bear’s team includes a nutritionist and three strength and conditioning specialists. Based on the structure of the program which is geared to simulate Performance Enhancement Teams used in professional sports, each member of the team has a background working with Division 1 College or minor league athletes.
Laurel Wentz is the 3rd SFG (A) THOR3 nutritionist. She is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics. Wentz holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Sciences and a Master of Science Degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. She worked with the athletic department at Florida State University as the sports dietitian, helping the University’s athletes utilize nutrition as a training tool to improve their performance.
Lance Stucky, strength and conditioning specialist, is a former assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Maine and Florida State University and an intern with the Carolina Panthers. He worked under head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerry Simmons and served as a strength and conditioning graduate assistant at the University of Virginia. Stuckey holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s Degree.
Greg Infantolino, strength and conditioning specialist, previously served as the Human Performance Coordinator for the National Strength and Conditioning Association and head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Colorado College Hockey. Infantolino has a Bachelor’s Degree and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, a Certified Club Coach through USA Weightlifting and a Level 1 USA Track and Field Certified Coach.
Lastly, strength and conditioning specialist Jason Pompili is a Morgantown, West Virginia native who spent most of his career with West Virginia University. Pompili also worked as the director of strength and conditioning at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi and with the Islander men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, and women's golf.
Despite the team’s previous experience with professional and semi-professional athletes, their most valuable asset is that they have the knowledge base necessary to develop mission-specific training plans through observations, interactions and feedback from operators and commanders.
Bear said the THOR3 workouts are tailored for functional movement and are performance based, varying with the needs of the individuals and teams participating. His workouts can range from Olympic power moves to different types of muscular strengthening and cardio-vascular exercises.
“My intent is not to switch anybody’s program completely around,” said Bear. “They’ve gotten here doing what they’ve been doing and I just want to take and hopefully add some things to it and enhance what they’ve been doing,” said Bear.
The Army Special Operations Command Surgeon’s office refers to THOR3 as a “Prehabilitative program,” which means it aims to reduce Special Operations manpower loses due to injury and disease through services and education provided by a team of Human Performance Enhancement Professionals.
There is also a second arm to the program, a rehabilitative portion which consists of the examination and treatment of combat injuries, as well as physical therapy for wounded warriors who are continuing to serve with the Special Forces Operations community.
Cindi Gold, a physical therapist, is also a recent addition to the team. Gold is originally from New York and has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy and a Master’s degree in Physical Education and Sports Medicine. She is a certified athletic trainer and board-certified in Sports Physical Therapy. Gold said she worked at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson before moving to Fort Bragg, N.C. She has also served in the Army Reserves for 12 years.
Gold says her role in THOR3 is to provide rapid access to physical therapy care to members of the Group. She also works with Bear to improve injury prevention and provide a bridge program to optimize human performance during rehabilitation from injury.
“The greatest number of injuries to operators occur during training versus combat. Of course combat injuries are more severe, but the numbers of injuries that occur during training are greater,” said Gold. “This is something that we are seeking to positively affect and as well as to improve longevity so that operator are not as “broke” at their time of retirement.”
Bear said his training sessions are open to all members of the 3rd SFG (A) including the Group’s wounded warriors. Based on the team’s knowledge and experience with the many aspects of physical performance from training athletes, they able to assess the physical abilities and limitations and work to everyone’s physical performance level, even guys who have been wounded.
“Mr. Bear finds a way around certain injuries to maintain the highest level of performance wounded warriors can get to. He normally gets a wounded soldier when they are at about 80 percent recovered and really can bring many of them to 110 percent,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shad Rayner, Wounded Warrior Liaison Officer, 3rd SFG (A).
Since the THOR3 team’s arrival, the group of attendees during workout sessions has increased dramatically. Bear says he begins workout sessions at 5:45 a.m. and continues with different groups throughout the day.
Bear said he anticipates increasing the program’s workout space this spring which will allow the team to cater to the large volume of attendees to workout sessions. The team is also developing programs for members of the Group to deploy with and use.