Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Aaron Webster, national partnership officer with Marine Corps recruiting command, center, and Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Omanahernandez, senior enlisted advisor of the Martial Arts Fitness Center of Excellence on Marine Corps Base Quantico, right speaks with a volleyball coach during the American Volleyball Coaches Association convention, in Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 14, 2023, about the Marine Corps Recruiting Command’s Coaches Workshop. The Marine Corps National Partnerships ensure the coaches of the next generation of Marines have the resources and skills to accurately present the Marine Corps as an option to their athletes, and support recruiter access to prospective audiences. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Payton Goodrich)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Payton Goodrich

Those Who Do Well, Teach Well: Force Fitness Instructors to Attend SHAPE Convention

23 Feb 2024 | Lance Cpl. Brenna Ritchie Marine Corps Recruiting Command

From mortarman to becoming a force fitness instructor trainer, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Omanahernandez has served 11 years in the Marine Corps, and throughout this time, he has transitioned from student to teacher.

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Omanahernandez, senior enlisted advisor of the Martial Arts Fitness Center of Excellence, is a Force Fitness Instructor Trainer with Training and Education Command on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. The Venezuelan native moved to the United States when he was six.

“There’s a huge cultural difference. I have seen from the outside where the Marine Corps is seen as the American dream,” said Omanahernandez. “Well, being a Marine has changed my life.”

When Omanahernandez first became an FFI, he went back to his unit to train and teach them how to take charge of their physical fitness. Following this, he returned to MCB Quantico, where he earned the title of force fitness instructor trainer and was tasked to train the next generation of force fitness instructors.

“The best way to describe being a force fitness instructor is teaching the whole Marine concept in a mental and physical aspect, but specifically for fitness,” explained Omanahernandez. “I get to influence the Marine Corps as a whole because there’s no specific job that comes to this course.”

Marines that are in the infantry, food service, administration, linguist, or any other occupational field the Marine Corps might offer come to the FFI course for five weeks to train with a class of 30 to 40 other Marines at the MAFCE. Students study both in a classroom, learning anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and kinesiology, and outside the classroom, learning recovery techniques, stretches, exercises, and other general physical training. Once the Marines complete this course, they return to their respective units and build fitness programs unique to their Marines’ needs.

“As far as being an instructor, being a trainer, I love being in front of people,” Omanahernandez expressed. “I love to meet people from all around. It makes me better, and it makes them better. We’re just learning from each other’s experiences.”

Omanahernandez has attended multiple Marine Corps Recruiting Command partnership events in the past, such as the National Volleyball Coaches Association and the Society of Health and Physical Educators America National Convention. In March, he will be going to this year's SHAPE convention.

“The SHAPE convention is an event where there’s a majority group of people, specifically educators and the Marines, and I go in and run a few PT events, which I’m really excited about,” said Omanahernandez. “I’ve done a couple of these events now, so being able to experience building connections with civilians that may or may not know anything about the Marine Corps is important.”

Building relationships with high schools, colleges, and their staff through these events and the Educators and Coaches Workshops brings awareness to students interested in the Marine Corps. Being an instructor of Marines, Omanahernandez has an insight into how similar being an FFI is to various sports coaches.

“Through these partnership events, coaches can start understanding that we’re not that different,” Omanahernandez said. “Yes, we’re in the Marines, and we wear a uniform. They also wear a uniform. They’re not in the Marines, but as far as fitness is concerned, it’s very similar to what we do.”

Omanahernandez also explained a coach approached him at the NVCA event in Tampa, Florida. The coach participated in a Coaches Workshop on Marine Corps Base Quantico in 2015. At these workshops, educators and coaches alike experience a small portion of boot camp and learn about what it is to be a Marine. During the workshop, the coach met, learned about tie-ins, and proceeded to use them with his athletes.

Marine Corps tie-ins provide an opportunity for guided discussions led by the instructor. Omanahernandez said the coach had been using them for the last nine years.

“Gunnery Sgt. Haywood has also attended some of these events; he just went out to Colorado State,” Omanahernandez continued. “We do this all the time, going out to network and share what the Marine Corps can offer.”

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Alon Haywood, chief Force Fitness Instructor Trainer at the MAFCE, is a native of Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and works with Omanahernandez. Haywood came to the continental United States to start college but quickly found the Marine Corps. He joined initially for the financial aspect, a steady paycheck, and tuition assistance, but he quickly found that fitness was his passion.

“I fell in love with the physical training and building the mental fitness and overall becoming a stronger, better person,” Haywood said. “It gave me many opportunities for personal development.”

In 2018, Haywood came to the FFI course as a Sergeant and was ecstatic to return to his unit to share his knowledge. Haywood’s main reason for becoming a FFI was because of his fondness for educating others. He said that he wasn’t the type of person to keep information to himself.

“My favorite thing about being an FFI is the coaching aspect of it. One thing that coaching has done for me, at least in the FFI program, is giving me that one one-on-one, face-to-face time with Marines,” said Haywood. “Teaching them, showing them things, they weren’t aware of, even how their body moves. Being able to give them that information and build that rapport with them through physical training, I look forward to it every day.”

Haywood focuses on teaching proper recovery techniques and emphasizes warm-up exercises and cool-down stretches. He said there’s a lot of scientific background to physical training rather than just going out and doing push-ups, pull-ups, and planks.

“I’m excited to also attend the SHAPE convention this year,” said Haywood. “I’ve worked with [the organization] 2 or 3 times now, showing the coaches that the Marine Corps knows how to teach physical training from an educational standpoint. I love it, I enjoy it, and I just hope that for the remainder of my career, I’ll be able to inspire the next generation to become Marines for years to come.”
Marine Corps Recruiting Command