The Marine Corps is reportedly set to bring on additional athletic trainers and fitness instructors as it seeks to push physical standards beyond the standard physical fitness test.
The Marine Corps Times reports that athletic trainers and fitness instructors, who are seen as both advocates for and overseers of the new physical fitness standards, have not been employed within the corps at full capacity, in part due to COVID-19. Now, the Corps is expected to have a full contingent of both athletic trainers and fitness instructors by mid-2023. That would entail increasing the number of athletic trainers throughout the force from 35 to 66, and adding 120 force fitness instructors in the next two years, bringing the total number to 900, while also maintaining current positions.
Athletic trainers in the Corps are civilians who hold a degree in the field. Meanwhile, force fitness instructors are selected from the force based on criteria such as rank, duty status, physical and combat fitness scores, and remaining service contract time.
The Corps began expanding its athletic trainer program in 2018, while the FFI program began in earnest that same year.
FFIs help to improve physical and combat fitness scores within units, but also focus on needs specific to a particular unit. Athletic trainers focus on injury prevention and recovery — which leads to impactful results for injured Marines, according to Gunnery Sgt. Chase Gilkey, who coordinates with athletic trainers for Marine Aircraft Group 14.
“It’s a shift in the way of thinking. ‘I’m not useless, I’m just injured,’” Gilkey told the Marine Corps Times. “There’s a time and place to suck it up and there’s a time to say, ‘hey, this really hurts.’”