By Marine Corps Cpl. Ashley Phillips, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- The Marine Corps prides itself on being the world’s finest fighting force. To help the Corps maintain this title, units and individual Marines can take advantage of force fitness instructors and various Semper Fit programs to uphold the Corps’ physical fitness standards.
Force fitness instructor is a secondary military occupational specialty created in 2016 to serve as an integral asset in each unit to maintain mission readiness. Marine Corps Sgt. Jared Skelley, the force fitness instructor for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron here, is dedicated and passionate about improving the health and wellness of the Marines he trains.
“Working with Sergeant Skelley has taught me so much,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Amber Hull. “He has changed so many of my ideas and perceptions. He finds ways to motivate and coach you on an individual level. I’ve learned a lot of fitness and nutrition skills from him and am living a healthier lifestyle.”
Hull was in the Body Composition Program, but with hard work and Skelley’s coaching, she was able to progress and maintain the health and fitness standards that are expected of all Marines.
In addition to physical training, Hull focused on diet and nutrition with the help of Kathy Williams, the Semper Fit health promotion coordinator. Williams meets with Marines to teach and improve different facets of health, such as nutrition, portion control and tobacco cessation.
“Every Marine should know that I am here to work with them to create a healthy lifestyle,” Williams said. “Health is more than just exercise and diet. We are looking at the whole Marine -- mind, body, and spirit. Another great resource for Marines to find information is from the bulletin boards at the fitness center. They will let you know about the fitness classes and upcoming events.”
Something for Everyone
Nutrition and diet make up 80 percent of the work, Skelly said, and the other 20 percent is made up of physical training. He said he works closely with Semper Fit by helping teach classes and coordinating with the other instructors.
“I tell Marines all the time to go to the gym and see what great classes are going on,” Skelley said. “All of the Marines on [the Body Composition Program] go see Kathy and learn about Semper Fit nutrition. There are a lot of resources that Marines don’t know about or use. We all work together to provide the best training and information we can.”
But force fitness instructors aren’t just for Marines in the Body Composition or Remedial Conditioning programs, Skelley said. They are trained to coach Marines to become tactical athletes, help prevent injuries and increase overall unit readiness. Skelley has led several unitwide physical training classes with more than a hundred Marines. Force fitness instructors are the subject matter experts when it comes to physical training.
Skelley said he focuses on speed, agility, power, endurance and injury prevention for all Marines.
“Marines should feel confident approaching a FFI, regardless of fitness level,” he said. “A good portion of our training is about coaching and creating programs. We are taught to assess a Marine’s limits and push them beyond those with a progressive program. It’s all about that individual’s mentality. If they give their all with a program I provide, they will improve exponentially.”
Great for the Corps
Skelley said force fitness instructors go through about 250 hours of class time that covers coaching, coaching assessment and peer assessment, and they take 16 tests covering topics such as nutrition, anatomy, programming and personal training.
“The program is great for the Marine Corps,” Skelley said. “It focuses on the planes of motion and functional fitness. This prepares them for attacks or rapid movements. A lot of times injuries happen on the battlefield because of a surprise and the Marine isn’t moving how they should be when they are working out. I give them workouts with these types of motions and, utilizing all the planes of motion, strengthening their core and preparing them.”
The force fitness instructors, health promotion coordinator, Semper Fit trainers and desk staff at the fitness center are knowledgeable and ready to help Marines become mission-ready. For more information on Semper Fit programs, visit your Marine Corps Community Services office. Marines looking to find a find a force fitness instructor should contact their unit leaders or training section.
“I love doing this. Most of the time I use my personal time to train Marines,” Skelley said. “You have to want it for yourself. It’s your body, it’s your health, it’s your longevity, and you have to be willing to put in the work and use the resources that are here. My favorite part of being an FFI is the day-to-day victories of a Marine getting off of [the Remedial Conditioning Program] or [the Body Composition Program], of a Marine coming up to me and saying, ‘Because of what you taught me, I’m reaching my goals.’ Those are the little victories every day that keep me going.”