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1.0     Introduction

This article provides an overview of the United States Marine Corps (UMSC) Force Fitness Instructor (FFI).

2.0     What is a Force Fitness Instructor?

A Force Fitness Instructor (FFI) is to “…serve as the commanders subject matter expert on physical fitness and sports-related injury prevention.” (MARADMINS 460/16).

3.0     What is the Role of a FFI?

The general role of a FFI is encompassed in the following statement:

“To ensure we are both physically fit and mentally tough, we will build a cadre of Force Fitness Instructors, assigned at the Company/Battery/Squadron level, who will be responsible to the commander for the development of the unit’s physical training program.” (FRAGO 01-2016, 2016, p.7).

The role of the FFI was refined in subsequent USMC publications. Thus, the role of a FFI is to:

  • Serve as the unit commander’s subject matter expert (SME) on:
    • Physical fitness;
    • Nutrition; and
    • Sports-related injury prevention and rehabilitation.
  • Advise the commander on the design and implementation of a structured physical fitness training programme that is uniquely tailored to the units training and exercise employment plan.
  • Be capable of assessing and base-lining the physical fitness of individual Marines and then designing a comprehensive programme to facilitate progressive improvement.
  • Be capable of integrating available resources to support the commander’s physical fitness training objectives.
  • “Responsible for coordinating and supervising the execution of regularly scheduled organizational semi-annual PFTs/CFTs.” (MCO 6100.13A, 2018, p.1-1). Personal Fitness Tests and Combat Fitness Tests respectively.

4.0     Brief History

On 19 January 2016, General Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the USMC (CMC), issued a Frag Order with the intent to “Establish a Force Fitness Instructor program no later than the end of FY17.” (FRAGO 01-2016, 2016, p.7). The new role of FFI would be an integral part of the new Service wide Marine Corps Physical Fitness Programme (MCPFP).

On 01 September 2016, the CMC released a white letter to all unit commanders with guidance on nominating potential Marines for the inaugural FFI course to commence on 03 October 2016. The USMC Training and Education Command (TECOM) would be the lead on developing the course and training FFI’s.

In MARADMINS 460/16, dated 07 September 2016, it was noted that the “…initial course will be conducted for SNCOs only…”

The inaugural 5-week FFI course commenced on 03 October 2016 and graduated on 04 November 2016. The second course (2-17) commenced on 11 January 2017 and was six weeks in duration, with a tentative graduation date of 21 February 2017. The third course (3-17) was described as a 26-day programme of instruction to commence on 05 April 2017, with a tentative graduation date of 16 May 2017. Although official USMC publication stated that Sergeants could be nominated, the inaugural course was reserved for SNCO’s only, and the second and third courses for Staff Sergeants and above. Initial courses were delivered by the Force Fitness Readiness Centre and mobile training teams from late 2017.

MARADMINS 147/17, dated 24 March 2017, announced the establishment of a Force Fitness Division within TECOM.

Course 4-17, a six week programme, commenced on 28 June 2018 and Sergeants were authorised to be nominated for this course. It had a tentative graduation date of 10 August 2017. Course 5-17, a six week programme, commenced on 14 August 2017 for Sergeants and above with a tentative graduation date of 25 September 2017. Course 6-17 was scheduled for 02 September 2017 and graduate on 08 November 2017. All courses up to this point had taken place at the Forces Fitness Readiness Centre in Quantico. Courses 4-18, 5-18, 5-18, 7-18 and 8-18 were to be taught by Mobile Training Teams.

The First Forces Fitness Instructor Trainer course was delivered on 04 January 2018 with candidates graduating on 15 February 2018. Another three FFIT courses were scheduled for 2018.

5.0     What is the Force Fitness Division?

Established in 2017, the Force Fitness Division (FFD) is a Service-level organisation led by a Colonel (OF-5).

The role of the FFD is to:

  • Develop and implement policy, standards, guidance, and reporting of all matters related to:
    • General physical fitness;
    • Occupational fitness;
    • Performance nutrition;
    • Body composition;
    • Martial arts;
    • Water survival; and
  • Sports medicine/injury prevention, based on requirements and direction from higher headquarters.
  • Execute and support research and assessment in the above areas.

The FFD functions as a separate directorate within TECOM working with various internal and external stakeholders.

6.0     What is the FFI Course?

The FFI course:

  • Is designed to train and certify Marines to serve as unit physical fitness instructors capable of designing individual and unit level programmes.
  • Produces FFI’s that leverage total fitness enablers such as nutrition, injury prevention, and sports medicine in addition to managing the daily physical fitness regimen of the unit.
  • Targets leaders who exhibit motivation, leadership, maturity, and natural talent at the small unit level.

7.0     Who is Eligible to Attend the FFI Course?

Eligibility criteria for attend on the FFI course include:

  • All active component Sergeants, and above, with any primary military occupational specialty (PMOS).
    • The inaugural course was reserved for SNCO’s only.
    • Courses 2-17 and 3-17 were for all active component Staff Sergeants and above.
    • Sergeants and above from Course 4-17.
  • Must have at least one year of service remaining at the completion of FFI course.
  • Must have a personal fitness test (PFT) score of 250 or higher (first class from course 3-17).
  • Must have a 1st class combat fitness test (CFT).
  • A PFT and CFT is undertaken within the first week (PFT day 2 and CFT day 4).
  • Must be in injury free and on full duty status for last six months verified by a military physician.
  • Previous formal instruction experience, i.e. Martial Arts Instructor Trainer, Martial Arts Trainer, Formal Learning Centre Instructor, is recommended but is not a pre-requisite. Included Combat Marksmanship Trainer and Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival from Course 3-17.

8.0     Where is the FFI Course Delivered?

The FFI course is delivered by:

  • The Force Fitness Readiness Centre (FFRC) located at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Virginia; or
  • Mobile Training Teams (MTT) at a local unit/base (from the end of 2017).

9.0     Outline of the FFI Course

The FFI course is currently a six week programme of instruction (POI), with a minimum of 6 courses per year, with each course allocated 50 students (approximately 300 new FFI’s each year).

Once enrolled on the course, candidates are sent ‘read ahead’ material via the Marine Corps Training Information Management System (MCTIMS). This material is targeted around subjects that had proven to be challenging for candidates during the first two (pilot) FFI courses.

During the course, candidates will learn about (Pujols, 2016; Rollins, 2017):

  • General physical fitness.
  • Foundational/functional movements of fitness: pull, push, hinge, plank, lunge, squat, and rotate.
  • Anatomy and physiology.
  • Biomechanics.
  • Coaching techniques to mentor Marines.
  • Policies and procedures.
  • How to augment the other existing USMC training programmes.
  • Nutrition.
  • Injury prevention, identification and treatment techniques.
  • Anatomy and physiology.

The “…functional movements are based on a colour-coded card system, differentiating work-outs according to strength, balance, endurance and power.” (Rollins, 2017).

Teaching is a mix of classroom instruction and practical application. Generally, the day starts with physical training, followed by classes and practical application (Pujols, 2016).

There are two written tests during the course, with an assessment test on training day one.

10.0     Additional MOS

For those candidates who successfully complete the FFI course, they will be awarded the additional MOS (AMOS) 0919.

“In addition, the MCPFP will examine the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 0919 designation as both a secondary MOS and a potential Primary MOS for selected Marines due to the importance of the FFI and the responsibilities bestowed upon that individual Marine.” (MARADMINS 621/16).

11.0     PFT/CFT Monitor Certification

In order to monitor a PFT/CFT, a FFI must complete the PFT/CFT Monitor Certification course via the MarineNet.

12.0     Force Fitness Instructor Trainer

As reported at the end of 2016 (MARAMINS 621/16), TECOM was looking at the feasibility of developing an FFI training continuum, providing selected FFI’s with career progression opportunities as a Force Fitness Instructor Trainer (FFIT).

These FFIT’s were envisioned for assignment at the Regiment/Group and higher level and would provide sustainment, follow-on training, and certification to unit FFIs as required on an annual basis.

MARADMINS 585/17 outlined the role of FFIT’s as:

  • Supervising and managing resident FFI programmes within their units;
  • Possessing resident knowledge to train additional FFI’s;
  • Ensuring maximum effectiveness of the programme; and
  • Serving as fitness and nutrition primary liaisons for base services.

13.0     Civilian Credentials

As of 24 September 2018, the Marine Corps Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) will fund credentialing for all FFI’s. COOL bridges potential gaps between military training and civilian credentialing, and also pays for the costs of initial credential attainment and renewal.

Credentialing includes:

  • The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF);
  • The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); and
  • The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT).

14.0     Useful Publications

  • Frag Orders (FRAGO):
    • FRAGO 01/2016: Advance to Contact (19 January 2016).
  • White Letters:
    • Commandant Marine Corps White Letter 2-16: Marine Corps Physical Fitness Programme (01 September 2016).
  • Marine Administrative Messages (MARADMINS):
    • MARADMINS 460/16: Force Fitness Instructor Course (07 September 2016).
    • MARADMINS 621/16: Marine Corps Physical Fitness Programme and the Role of the Force Fitness Instructor (29 November 2016).
    • MARADMINS 647/16: Force Fitness Instructor Course 2-17 (12 December 2016).
    • MARADMINS 114/17: Force Fitness Instructor Course 3-17 (06 March 2017).
    • MARADMINS 147/17: Establishment of a Force Fitness Division in Training and Education Command (24 March 2017).
    • MARADMINS 237/17: Force Fitness Instructor Course 4-17 (16 May 2017).
    • MARADMINS 402/17: Force Fitness Instructor Course 5-17 (01 July 2017).
    • MARADMINS 585/17: Fiscal Year 18 Force Fitness Instructor and Force Fitness Instructor Trainer Course Dates (23 October 2017).
    • MARADMINS 640/18: Follow-on Education Opportunities for Force Fitness Instructors (07 November 2018).
  • Marine Corps Orders (MCO):
    • MCO 6100.13: Marine Corps Physical Fitness Programme, Change 2 (30 January 2015).
    • MCO 6100.13A: Marine Corps Physical Fitness and Combat Fitness Tests (17 January 2018).

15.0     Useful Links

  • Official USMC Fitness Website: http://www.fitness.marines.mil/.

16.0     References

Pujols, A. (2016) Meet the New Force Fitness Instructors. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.sofmag.com/meet-the-new-force-fitness-instructors-marine-corps-was-proven-to-be-the-fittest-of-the-armed-services/. [Accessed: 12 December, 2018].

Rollins, S. (2017) How the Marine Corps makes Force Fitness Instructors. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.facebook.com/officialmarinecorpsbasequantico/posts/how-the-marine-corps-makes-force-fitness-instructorsby-capt-sharon-rollinsforc%E2%80%A6. [Accessed: 12 December, 2018].

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