US Army Warrior Fitness Team Looks to Reload After Successful Two-Year Run
Two years ago U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Glenn Grabs was front and center when the Army gave him permission to start a functional fitness and Strongman team to expand the Army’s recruiting into the ever-growing fitness world. An innovative idea that matched the Army’s direction in changing their antiquated physical training methodology to that of modernized and functional fitness that matched the physical demands soldiers saw in combat.
One big thing: The main effort of the Warrior Fitness Team is to showcase and share their individual Army stories, highlighting the different job and lifestyle opportunities the United States Army provides. The members of the team did this by attending and competing at various fitness competitions including Sanctionals. This assignment was a welcome change for the soldiers of the team, many of whom are combat veterans with multiple deployments. A two-year assignment for soldiers who were selected to the team, many of those soldiers are coming to the end of their assignments with many successful achievements to look back on.
A successful two-year run: The 15-member team includes 12 soldiers that compete in CrossFit and three who compete in Strongman competitions. All are stationed at Fort Knox, KY where they train for the various events that they are scheduled to compete at.
- CPT Chandler Smith is the most well-known athlete on the team. The armor officer has qualified twice for the CrossFit Games during his time with the team. He finished sixth, just missing out on qualifying for the final stage of the Games this year after placing 15th at last year’s Games. Smith also took home the team’s first-ever Sanctional championship when he won the Mayhem classic in January.
- The combination of CPT Brian Harris, CPT Ashley Shepherd, CPT Rachel Schreiber, CPT Kasandra Clark and SGT Jacob Pfaff have teamed up to compete at numerous events throughout the country. The goal for the team was to qualify for the Games as a team through Sanctionals. Harris, Clark, Schreiber and Pfaff competed at Wodapalooza and finished eighth in a star-studded field that featured the best teams in the world.
- The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the team’s aspirations of qualifying for the Games as CrossFit canceled the team competition.
- That didn’t stop the team from competing and showcasing their fitness once competitions started to take place again. Harris, Shepherd, Schreiber and Pfaff won at the Heart of America team competition. Shepherd, Schreiber and Clark won at the Iron Games in the female team-of-three division while Harris, Pfaff and CPT John Murphy placed second in the male team-of-three division.
- LTC Tony Kurz competed at the 2019 Games, finishing eighth in the 40-44 Masters Division. This year he once again qualified for the Games after finishing fourth in the Age Group Online Qualifier before CrossFit canceled the competition this year. He won Masters titles at Strength in Depth and Wodapalooza before finishing second at the Masters Fitness Collective Championships.
- The team has also made their mark in the world of Strongman, SFC Anthony Fuhrman won the World’s Strongest Man (105 kg weight class) and SGT Justin Loy placed 11th in 2019.
- Off the competition floor, the team saw their profile grow to over 20,000 social media followers this year.
- Their profile grew even more within the community as they made their name known through sponsorships. The Warrior Fitness Team was an event sponsor at the Games, the Rogue Invitational and numerous other competitions and fitness-related events.
- Through social media, onsite competitions, sponsorships, and live-streams, the team has shared their Army stories with millions of fans and followers. The team has generated over 3,800 leads, or individuals interested in serving in the United States Army, for recruiters to reach out to about joining their ranks.
What’s next?: Many of the current athletes who are transitioning off the team have used the last two years to help with the continuation of their respective career paths. This is another recruiting tool by the Army, that they can provide skills and occupations through numerous programs to better their lives.
- CPT Smith will move onto becoming a full-time CrossFit athlete where he looks to continue his success.
- CPT Harris is transitioning to becoming a functional fitness and nutrition coach while still serving his country with the Oklahoma Army National Guard as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot.
- CPT Schreiber, who is currently serving as an Army optometrist, will take the skills she learned and work as an optometrist in the civilian sector in Louisville, KY.
- CPT Clark is taking a very similar approach as Harris, moving to Atlanta, GA to coach CrossFit and possibly continue her flying career in the National Guard or transition to becoming a civilian commercial pilot.
The bottom line: The pandemic took away what would have been a banner year for the Army Warrior Fitness Team. The team had been looking to make their presence felt even more on and off the competition floor than what actually occurred. Recruiting has suffered due to the pandemic and the Army will lean aggressively on recruiting programs like the one 1SG Grabs started two years ago to make up for the down year. This will benefit the team even more as they already possess the profile and have an audience with the type of people they want to recruit, those who are fit or looking to become fit. The team may be losing some core soldiers but they look to reload soon and fill the gaps within their ranks.