Ultimate Performance Enhancement Training for the Ultimate Fighter

Story by Brian B. Feeney, Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness
Staff Sgt. Colton Smith, a III Corps combatives instructor from Fort Hood, Texas, attempts a choke against Jesse Barrett during an elimination bout to join the cast of "The Ultimate Fighter" season 16, at Mandalay Bay  in Las Vegas, Nev., July 31, 2012. Smith won the season 16 welterweight title in a nationally televised unanimous decision, Dec. 15, 2012. (Photo courtesy UFC)

Staff Sgt. Colton Smith, a III Corps combatives instructor from Fort Hood, Texas, attempts a choke against Jesse Barrett during an elimination bout to join the cast of “The Ultimate Fighter” season 16, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev., July 31, 2012. Smith won the season 16 welterweight title in a nationally televised unanimous decision, Dec. 15, 2012. (Photo courtesy UFC)

“As I walk to the octagon for a fight I’m fully focused, I’m thinking to myself: My game plan will work, I trained harder, I am more dedicated and my life experiences surpass his — just like Brad trained me,” said Staff Sgt. Colton Smith in describing how he won the television reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter,” last December.

“Brad” is Bradley Williams, a Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Master Resilience Trainer Performance Expert at Fort Hood, Texas, where Smith is stationed and is a member of the standout Fort Hood Combatives Team. The two started working together last summer to increase Smith’s mental skills as part of his training for the annual All-Army Combatives Competition. Two months into their training together, Smith was invited to audition for “The Ultimate Fighter” in Las Vegas, Nev. He won his match and was invited back for the six-week filming.

The two worked together intensely right up until Smith left to live in quarantine with the 15 other competitors in the Ultimate Fighter House to start filming. Smith knew he had arrived at the house with an edge: He was not only in peak physical shape, but in peak mental shape. He knew he was the only one of the contestants who had systematically trained to build and maintain confidence by mastering attention control, energy management, goal setting and positive imagery.

“I arrived at the house with a lot of the same shortcomings as the other fighters, but the mental training Brad gave me is one of the biggest parts of being a combat athlete. When I get the butterflies before a fight, I know how to make them fly in formation,” he said. This preparation included gaming out all the sudden shifts in a fight that might happen. He also carried with him a laminated card with constructive self-talk he had developed with Williams.

Smith won all of his preliminary matches and qualified for the championship match in December, then returned to Fort Hood where he was sworn to silence by the show’s producers. While there, he redoubled his work with Williams. Then on Dec. 15, 2012 in Las Vegas, on national television, he won the championship and the show’s first prize of a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“I can’t say enough about how important Brad’s training was to my victory. He built my mental state — it’s more than being physically and cardio strong. Being mentally strong and prepared is a new age for the Army’s elite athletes,” Smith said.

The performance enhancement Smith mastered is the fifth pillar of CSF2’s overall program for training Soldiers to be holistically fit. CSF2 provides all five pillars to all Soldiers and makes the program available to any family members and Army civilians who wish to take advantage of it.

Staff Sgt. Colton Smith works with Brad Williams, a Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Master Resilience Trainer Performance Expert, to hone his mental fitness at the Fort Hood gym in preparation for "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show. (Photo courtesy of CSF2)

Staff Sgt. Colton Smith works with Brad Williams, a Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Master Resilience Trainer Performance Expert, to hone his mental fitness at the Fort Hood gym in preparation for “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show. (Photo courtesy of CSF2)

The first pillar is an assessment of one’s overall fitness called the Global Assessment Tool. It is an online assessment through which individuals are able to confidentially assess their physical and psychological health based on four of the five dimensions of strength: emotional, social, spiritual and family fitness. Soldiers retake it at least once a year and after deployments.

The second pillar comprises follow-on video instruction modules recommended to the GAT-taker based on his or her individual GAT score. These video modules teach skills that support all five areas.

The third pillar is Master Resilience Training, performed primarily by noncommissioned officers, along with Department of the Army civilians, such as Army Community Service personnel, who complete an intensive two-week MRT training course. These MRTs teach Soldiers down to the company level plus family members and civilians.

The fourth pillar is institutional MRT training at every major level of the Army education system, from basic training to the war college.

As the fifth pillar, Performance Enhancement provides Soldiers, family members and DA civilians with the mental and emotional skills to strengthen their minds and perform at the peak of their capabilities. It is composed of six mental skills: Mental Skills Foundations, Building Confidence, Attention Control, Energy Management, Goal Setting and Integrating Imagery. For a detailed description of the each of the mental skills Smith learned, visit http://csfprep.army.mil/program.php.

After Soldiers receive these Performance Enhancement mental skills lessons, they create an Applied Performance Plan in which they address how they will employ the mental skills in the “before,” “right before,” “during,” and “after” phases of the task to be performed.

At Fort Hood alone, CSF2 has used Performance Enhancement to improve the performance skills of tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunners. The training has also elevated Fort Hood Soldiers’ performance with combat life-saving skills, various field training exercises, preparing for Special Forces Selection and even culinary arts competitions. Fort Hood’s CSF2 MRT-PE staff plans to apply the training to aerial gunnery next.

Other Army installations with CSF2 Training Centers have used Performance Enhancement to prepare Soldiers for the Army Physical Fitness Test and Expert Field Medical Badge testing, as well as to prepare teams for Army-wide competitions including Best Ranger and Best Sapper.

“Since becoming Director of CSF2, I’ve watched CSF2 make a larger and larger impact on Army Readiness and Resilience. I truly believe that our program will be a mainstay in making the Army a stronger, more resilient force that it needs to be to meet the demands of the 21st Century,” said CSF2 Director Col. Kenneth Riddle. “The success of Staff Sgt. Smith in ultimate fighting is only the tip of the iceberg.”