The Army is opening a new training center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that officials say will allow troops from the 3rd Special Forces Group and the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade to get an athletic edge over the competition.
“The human performance center is not just a gym,” said Ray Bear, the aptly-named 3rd Special Forces Group human performance coordinator. “What you’re going to see here is the same things that you would see at a professional or collegiate athletic venue.”
Bear is right — it’s better than the athletic facilities at many college and pro sports programs. And I would know, thanks to my not-so-illustrious football career at Vanderbilt University. I played in exactly zero games during my three years, but I did spend a lot of time in athletic facilities.
The new 56,516 square-foot “Human Performance Training Center” cost more than $17 million to build, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District spokesperson Dave Connolly. USACE contracted and oversaw construction of the facility, which began in February 2019.
“This facility will support [human performance] missions and functions and incorporates the latest training and rehabilitation protocols to increase combat performance, prevent injuries, and decrease recovery time of Army Special Operations Forces,” Connolly told Army Times.
Another $3 million went towards equipment for the facility, Connolly said. That includes dozens of power lifting racks, conditioning machines like wood treadmills, a rock-climbing wall, turf areas for sled work and additional space for recovery pools and offices.
“[W]e have professional strength coaches on staff that have the experience to take the mission sets of our soldiers and our operators to allow them to train for that mission set based on geographical locations [and] what they’re actually going to be doing,” Bear said.
When you stack up the new ARSOF facility against what I had at Vanderbilt — though the university is raising funds for an overhaul — or even what top programs have for their weight rooms, it would be among the best.
And while I spend more time running these days than I do in the weight room, I imagine 3rd Group and 95th Civil Affairs Brigade operators will have some sore legs after dragging sleds up the facility’s turf ramps.
The facility is one of several similar training centers being built for the Army’s elite forces as part of their continuing efforts to adopt a more holistic approach and “work smarter” when it comes to functional physical training.
That attitude is also coming into vogue across the conventional force with the ongoing, if slow-moving, adoption of the Army Combat Fitness Test.
The Army recently broke ground on an even larger training facility — coming in at 90,000 square feet and $43 million — for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.