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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2021

Kentucky Guard Soldiers take part in AXE fitness camp

By Spc. Alex Hellmann, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Around 30 Soldiers participated in the Kentucky National Guard’s Attack Exercise through Education or “AXE” camp, at Boone National Guard Center, Sept. 7-10, 2021.

The ‘AXE’ camp is based off of the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness program (H2F) and ran by Lt. Col. Eddie Simpson, the camp officer in charge and deputy brigade commander for the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT). The cadre in charge of leading instruction during the week are Guardsmen who are master fitness trainers for their units and/or are civilian-certified fitness personnel.

The goal of ‘AXE’ camp is to take Soldiers and positively shape their perspective towards their mental health and fitness through physical training plans, nutritional education, and focus on finding the motivation to succeed.

‘AXE’ aims to not only foster physical fitness in its participants via workouts and practice exercises but also their mental wellness. Cadre prepared several classes on the topics of resiliency, nutrition, spirituality with the chaplain, and even sleep.

“AXE originated from a white paper that I wrote to talk about holistic fitness, not attacking those physical training test failures, but (finding out) what causes somebody to fail the test,” said Simpson. “The biggest benefit comes out of the Soldiers struggling with something in their lives and learning they can overcome that struggle; that’s the biggest benefit of the holistic approach.”

Soldiers are coached on various exercises that are both effective for the Army fitness standard and that are easy to do at home. The cadre broke the Soldiers into smaller groups of five or six to demonstrate proper form and acquaint them with the gym equipment. With several Soldiers attending due to lower physical performance, the cadre were eager to show them how to exercise properly and move efficiently.

“The biggest portion of the camp is education,” said 2nd Lt. Jesse Mascoe, the project coordinator for H2F program and the state’s master fitness trainer. “We’re trying to give people the knowledge they need to succeed, not only in their Soldier lives but in their personal lives.”

For the campers, the week brought stressful challenges that pushed them to limits they didn’t know they could reach.

“Coming into it, I had a really negative mindset on it, I was like ‘Man, I don’t know if I want to go to this,’ but I’ve learned a lot,” said Pfc. Jaden Conrad with the 307th Maintenance Company. “I can apply everything I learn here to my everyday life, whether it be physical or not.”

As part of the program, the Soldiers took a field trip to CrossFit Frankfort, a local CrossFit gym that Simpson is a part of, to gain experience doing a full CrossFit workout class. There, the group went through a ‘Murph’ style workout challenge where the smaller groups worked as teams to compete for the quickest time while completing a total of a 1-mile-run relay, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats and another 1-mile-run relay, all while cheering each other on to success. The title of the workout, Murph, comes from Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan, June 28, 2005. The workout was one of Murphy’s favorites to do.

The goal for the AXE camp cadre is to develop the program and make it something that can be attended by unit leadership at all levels, and bring the force to a better level of physical readiness and mental health.

“We prefer those Soldiers who are at risk for failing fitness tests to come here because it would specifically help them,” said Mascoe. “However if leaders took part, they could take this information and bring it back to their units and physically help them too.”

Whether the greatest benefit from attending the camp is a better workout plan or a healthier meal plan, the ultimate goal is to help, support or educate the participants so they can find the healthier path.

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