Camp Devens - Physical Training - WW1 Cantonment 1918
It is axiomatic that perfect physical condition is requisite to military efficiency. Army leaders not only encourage exercise on the part of the men but also require a certain amount of physical training as a part of the day's work. The systems and the methods of carrying them out differ in many organizations, but in each of them a certain procedure is religiously and regularly followed.
Some company commanders have a so-called "setting-up" exercise before the morning mess, directly after the reveille roll-call. This is in charge of a sergeant who has been designated by the commanding officer. The company is extended so that there is an interval of two paces between each two men, and four paces between ranks. First the sergeant illustrates and explains the exercises to be performed; then the company joins him. There are certain groups of four different exercises prescribed in the manual, and after the company has practiced for some time the sergeant has merely to say: "Company, attention. First group, one-two-three —"
The men then go through the entire group without command.
Sometimes the "setting-up" is performed by battalions, as in this picture. The men march to an open field, remove their hats, coats, and blouses and go through the movements en masse. When the soldier has mastered the minor exercises, he is taught to perform others with a rifle.
This training is not carried on in a superficial manner, but in accordance with certain definite principles of physical development. Each movement has for its object the building up of some member or set of muscles; by a combination of all, every part of the soldier's body receives benefit, and whatever minor deficiencies he may have are overcome.
And so, if upon your arrival at Camp Devens you perceive a body of half dressed men, gyrating and bending in an astounding manner, do not concern yourself as to their sanity; they are merely having "setting-up drill."