FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - With spring approaching and the snow gradually melting from the running paths of Fort Wainwright, soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division are beginning to move their morning physical training back outside.
But for many this won’t mean an end to their daily gym visits.
Physical fitness is a regular part of an Army workday, but to a growing number of Arctic Wolves morning PT is just half of their daily regimen and “Arctic Tough” doesn’t just mean the ability to train and fight in Alaska’s brutal winters.
Staff Sgt. Brian Cattaneo, section sergeant for Company A, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment’s mortar platoon, spends his lunch hour at Fort Wainwright’s Physical Fitness Center.
“There are several reasons for putting in extra time in the gym,” Cattaneo says. “It maintains the fit and athletic appearance the Army is looking for, it’s a competitive way to separate you from your peers, and basically, the stronger you are, the better you’ll be at your job - especially in the infantry.”
While the United States, along with several other nations, faces a growing obesity problem the Army is cracking down on Soldiers who don’t meet physical fitness standards.
For Staff Sgt. Medardo Paralejas, a human resources specialist for 3-21, going to the gym is just part of his overall fitness program.
“Staying in shape and living healthy is incredibly important,” Paralejas says. “Especially as you get older, it’s a must to fight heart disease, diabetes and other effects of aging. And in the Army, it’s free!”
Pfc. Omar Gonzalez, an intelligence analyst with the 184th Military Intelligence Company, started going to the gym as part of his physical therapy after breaking a leg.
“I’ve been going to the gym for a long time, Gonzalez says, “but since joining the Army I’ve really gotten serious about it.”
His gym partner, Pfc. Robert Leedy, also with the 184th M.I. Company, started out early as well.
“I played football, so working out was part of training, but now I do it to help my PT score.”
Soldiers cite various reasons for their daily workouts, but the most common are improving their PT score, stress relief, and maintaining an athletic appearance.
Sgt. Ashlyn Devries, team chief of the brigade’s battle systems operators, has an additional reason for hitting the gym after work.
“I’m the only female in my platoon. I have to keep up with the guys,” she said.