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Adaptations To A New Physical Training Program In The Combat Controller Training Pipeline

Summer 2011

Walker TB, Lennemann LM, Anderson V, Lyons W, Zupan MF. 11(3). 37 - 44. (Journal Article)


Objectives: The United States Air Force combat controller (CCT) training pipeline is extremely arduous and historically has a high attrition rate of 70 to 80%. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of incorporating a 711 Human Performance Wing (HPW) / Biobehavior, Bioassessment, and Biosurveillance Branch (RHPF)-developed physical fitness-training program into the combat controller (CCT) 5-level training physical fitness program. Methods: One-hundred-nine CCT trainees were tested and trained during their initial eight weeks at the 720th Special Tactics Training Squadron (STTS) at Hurlburt Field. Modifications to their physical training program were principally aimed at reducing overtraining and overuse injury, educating trainees and cadre on how to train smarter, and transitioning from traditional to "functional" PT. A battery of physiological measurements and a psychological test were administered prior to and immediately after trainees undertook an 8-week modified physical fitness training program designed to reduce overtraining and injury and improve performance. We performed multiple physical tests for cardiovascular endurance (VO2max and running economy), "anaerobic" capacity (Wingate power and loaded running tests), body composition (skinfolds), power (Wingate and vertical jump), and reaction time (Makoto eye-hand test). We used the Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48 (MTQ-48) for the psychological test. Results: We observed several significant improvements in physical and physiological performance over the eight weeks of training. Body composition improved by 16.2% (p<0.05). VO2max, time-to-exhaustion, and ventilatory threshold were all significantly higher after implementation of the new program than before it. We observed strong trends towards improvement in work accomplished during loaded running (ρ = 0.07) and in average power per body mass during lower body Wingate (ρ = 0.08). Other measures of lower body power did not change significantly over the training period, but did show mild trends towards improvement. Upper body average and peak power per kilogram of body mass both improved significantly by 5.8% and 8.1%, respectively. Reaction time was significantly better posttraining as demonstrated by a 7% improvement during the reactive test. Reactive accuracy also improved significantly with the post test accuracy percentage jumping from 61% to 76%. Furthermore, overuse injuries, a major source of attrition fell by a dramatic 67%. Conclusions: The modifications resulted in significant improvement in trainees' graduation rate. In the eight classes prior to implementation of these changes, average CCT graduating class size was nine trainees. For the eight classes following the changes, average CCT graduating class rose to 16.5 trainees, an increase of 83%. Due to its success, STTS leadership expanded the modifications from the eight weeks prior to CDS to include the entire second year of the pipeline.

PMID: 21706460

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