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                 Improving graduation and retention rates
was one of the pilot program goals, so we paid close attention to Trainee separations during the training cycle that we conducted mindfulness
and yoga training. 30 Trainees out of a battalion
of 969 Trainees were separated from the battalion during Cycle 21-01 for various reasons. This result equaled a 2.9% separation rate which was the lowest separation rate in the entire brigade during the 2nd Quarter of Fiscal Year 2021. The goal for Trainee attrition at Fort Jackson is 3% or less and no higher than 5%. Compared with the other four BCT battalions within the brigade, the next lowest separation rate was 3.5%, and the highest was 6.9%. 2-60 Infantry Regiment had a 91% graduation rate, the second-highest in the brigade, and a 97.2 total retention rate which was the highest in the brigade during this quarter.
Of the 30 Trainees separated during Cycle 21-01, 19 participated in mindfulness and yoga,
and 11 did not. Although the battalion had a very low overall separation rate, 63% of the separated Trainees had been in a mindfulness and yoga platoon. Other considerations should also be taken into account about the very successful retention rate of the battalion. This cycle was the first cycle in which the mandatory weekly Trainee phone calls were put into practice. This initiative, approved by the TRADOC Commander, requires each Trainee to access their phones for a minimum of 30 minutes per week, generally on Sunday, to make phone
calls. Based on Trainees and Cadre’s feedback,
there is anecdotal evidence that morale improved significantly when this initiative began, which we believe resulted in improved retention rates.
Yoga replaced the standard preparation and recovery drills during PRT. This was a deliberate
decision by the designers of the pilot program to see if a more desirable outcome could be reached through yoga. The yoga desired outcome goals were: 1) Reduce injury rates to shoulders, back,
and knees by a) increasing strength, flexibility,
and mobility, b) integrating deep core muscles,
and c) enhancing awareness of the mind-body connection by linking breath and movement. 2) Improve retention through lower injury rates and better stress resilience, both physical and mental. 3) Create desire and commitment for a sustained yoga practice post-BCT (Yoga in Basic Combat Training Familiarization Manual, page 3). We estimate that the program design, in relation to when the yoga training took place as part of PRT, was problematic because it took away time from conducting standardized PRT drills to prepare for the days PRT session, the amount of time available to complete the actual PRT session, and ultimately, the ability to maximize the time available to train for the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).
This perspective is attributed to the battalion Cadre’s frustration with working around the contracted yoga instructors’ schedules. The yoga instructor contract stipulated that instructors could only work for two hours per PRT session which became a limiting factor for the platoons conducting PRT. Per the program design, the yoga warm-up and cool-down portions of PRT had to be conducted at the beginning and end of the PRT session. This contractual stipulation could never exceed two hours, or there would be a breach of contract, and the government would be responsible for paying overtime fees. This friction point could have easily been corrected if additional flexibility was written into the contract allowing yoga instructors more time during each PRT session.
A further 30 minutes per PRT session would have been adequate to provide the necessary flexibility.
Based on the end of cycle platoon ACFT averages, Cadre, in most cases, noted a negligible or negative correlation in Trainee ACFT scores in comparison to Trainees within the control group. Yoga platoons, in many cases, demonstrated a lack of discipline and a lack of expertise in executing PRT relative to their control group counterparts. Although, as stated above, there was no discernable difference in the platoons conducting yoga when ACFT score averages were compared to previous training cycles or compared against control
group platoons. However, there was a significant reduction in injury rates for Trainees that
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