Marines will soon get the option to swap crunches on their physical fitness test with a plank. Officer candidates reporting to training in January 2020 will be the first to see the change.
The Marine Corps updated its graduation requirements Nov. 8, 2019, for candidates reporting to Officer Candidates School in 2020. Members of Officer Candidate Course No. 233 will be the first to have the option to perform a plank on their PFT.
Candidates will have to hold a plank for at least a minute and three seconds to get the minimum score required on that portion of the PFT to be admitted to and graduate from OCS.
The requirement is the same for men and women, regardless of age. Marine recruits who ship to boot camp after Jan. 1, 2020, will also have the options of doing a plank in place of crunches.
Marine officials announced in June 2019 that a plank would be allowed on the abdominal strength section of the PFT. The exercise must be held for four minutes and 20 seconds to receive the full 100 points.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
In September 2019, the Force Fitness Division and Force Fitness Readiness Center put out a video detailing the proper form. Marines must be in a push-up position with feet hip-width apart, with arms bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow so the forearms rest flat on the ground. The Marine’s hips must be raised off the floor, and hands must touch the ground either lying flat or in fists.
Officer candidates can opt for the plank in place of completing 70 crunches within two minutes.
All candidates need at least a 220 on their PFT to be accepted into OCS and then a 235 or higher to graduate.
The new rules will apply not only to candidates reporting to OCS in January 2020, but all future classes, according to a Marine Corps administrative message announcing the new requirements.
Sailors will replace sit-ups with a plank on the Navy Readiness Test sometime this year. That service is currently gathering data from about 600 sailors before setting new scoring requirements.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
Germany lacked many of the natural resources necessary to make war in the 20th Century and knew that it had to rack up victories and seize materiel early in World War II to be successful, and that’s why it was so great for its forces when France made its first offensive of World War II — exactly according to German plans.
So, France prepared for a mostly defensive war against Germany, constructing the Maginot Line and securing an alliance with Belgium for mutual defense. In Germany, meanwhile, there were years of heartache followed by a surge in support of leaders who claimed that World War I was lost by politicians, not soldiers. Once Hitler became chancellor, and other pro-war groups made headway, Germany began re-arming as well.
The seeds of World War II had germinated, and everyone tried to get their ducks in a row for the coming fight.
There was one gap between the Belgian lines and the Maginot Line: The Ardennes Forest, a thick, heavily forested and hilly area that was thought too thick and treacherous for most tanks.
Germany’s plan, meanwhile, was predicated upon the French one. Germany knew that the Maginot Line was nearly impenetrable and attacks against it would be suicidal. They also knew that Belgium, a historically neutral country with a young king, was a relatively weak ally. But, best of all for Germany, they knew that their tanks could get through the Ardennes, but it would be slow and challenging.
On France’s Ardennes assumption: It wasn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. Tanks had only been around for about 20 years during the final ramp up to World War II, and most World War I tanks had been useless on steep slopes, truly uneven terrain, and even thick mud.
The idea that tanks could make it across the muddy, uneven ground in the thick forest and hit French positions might have seemed insane.
But America’s Christie tanks were much more mobile than their predecessors, and the company that manufactured them sold designs and patents to Russian firms after the U.S. Army declined to order them. The Russian tanks had served opposite German forces in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. It was clear that engineers could come up with rough terrain designs, and Germany had even got some good looks at successful designs just in time for World War II. Britain tried to warn France of the dangers in the Ardennes gap, but France barely listened.
And so Germany set a trap. First, German forces began breaking tenets of the Treaty of Versailles, including invading and occupying the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia populated primarily by ethnic Germans. France and England, not yet ready for war, signed the Munich Pact that allowed Germany to hold the Sudetenland if they just promised super hard not to invade anyone else.
Belgium’s King Leopold II, worried that his treaties with France and Britain were worthless, re-declared Belgium’s neutrality and re-organized the military for purely defensive purposes.
For France, this was a huge problem. Now, instead of holding joint drills with Belgium and having permission to stage troops in Belgian territory for co-defense, France could only deploy into Belgium after Germany invaded. That would set off a race between France and Germany to take strategic territory quickly if war broke out.
And France was so preoccupied with this race that, when Germany invaded the Low Countries in May, 1940, France sprinted 39 divisions across Belgium. Meanwhile, Germany parked an army group near the Maginot Line to keep France from pulling troops from there.
This meant the Ardennes was guarded only by trees, and Hitler was jubilant. His tanks were tied up in traffic jams throughout the forest, a few good tank battalions or some skilled bombers could’ve stopped the push through the Ardennes cold. Instead, German armored forces were unopposed as France focused its attention north.
The entire Army Group A, with seven armored divisions and another 37 of other types, spilled into Belgium and France well to the rear of where France expected to face any opposition. While French forces fought valiantly across Belgium, they were preoccupied with the massive force that maneuvered its way to Paris.
France had fallen into Germany’s trap, marching their forces into the Belgian plains while Germany’s jaws closed around Paris. On May 14, 1940, just weeks after Germany invaded, French forces withdrew from Paris to save the city from the fighting. French forces began attacking their own oil and weapon stockpiles to limit what Germany would take in victory.
The Yazidi women who have fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will be the subject of a new feature film in production by Amazon Studios and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.
This will mark Shapiro’s feature film directorial debut.
According to a report by Deadline.com, the exact plot details are unclear, but Shapiro has done much research into the plight of the Yazidi. Among the stories Shapiro has looked into is that of captured humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller.
The report notes that Mueller was forced into sex slavery and a marriage to ISIS leader Abu Bake al-Baghdadi, and that both the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders and the Obama Administration failed to negotiate for her release.
Mueller’s parents claimed they were told that if they did make an offer to the terrorist group, they would risk prosecution. Details of Mueller’s captivity were provided by at least one former sex slave who escaped ISIS, and a letter smuggled to her family.
Mueller died in February 2015, with ISIS claiming she had been killed in an air strike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, after being held for 18 months. Earlier this month, some reports claimed that Al-Baghdadi was also killed by an air strike.
Shapiro is also reportedly researching the so-called “European jihadi brides” in preparation for the project. Some of the worst torture suffered by Yazidi sex slaves has been at the hands of the spouses of ISIS fighters.
Shapiro is best known as the creator of the Lifetime series “UnREAL,” starring Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, and also worked behind the scenes on the ABC Reality show “The Bachelor.”
The Soviet-run Red Star Kennel mated Giant Schnauzers, Airedales, Rottweilers, and Moscow Divers as the primary breeds. These were chosen for the Schnauzer’s agility and sharp guarding instinct; the Airedales’ happy disposition, perseverance, and staying power; and the Rottweiler for its massive make, shape, and courage.
Other breeds included Newfoundlands, Caucasian Shepherds, and others – including the now-extinct Moscow Water Dog.
They created the ideal working dog, a large breed that stays alert, is protective without being aggressive, and is able to withstand the extreme climates of Russia – which ranges from frozen Siberia to dry, hot desert. By 1983, it was declared a new breed worldwide.
As a result of the extremely selective breeding, the Black Russian Terrier is a big dog, upwards of three feet tall and 130 pounds – and needs a job to do in order to be happy.
While initially used to guard prison camps and against potential industrial sabotage, the dogs were needed at a time when the population of the Soviet military’s working dogs was on the decline. While not added to the American Kennel Club until decades later, the young breed was at work in the Soviet Union by 1954.
They love to run around in big spaces and a reportedly very lovable pets. But they need to be around people. Think of it: a specifically bred large, powerful dog with big teeth, who only wants to cuddle. Some owners report they will destroy your house like German Panzer Army if you leave them alone too long!
The teaser trailer for Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is here and if you don’t have the soundtrack already pumping in your blood, then you need to re-watch with the sound on.
We’ve always thought of the MCU’s Natasha Romanov as a woman with no family and no past, just a bunch of red in her ledger, but this trailer hints at something more.
Taking place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Scarlett Johansson’s standalone film is rumored to be the last for the original Avengers and the first for Phase Four. It doesn’t look like it will disappoint.
Take a look:
Marvel Studios’ Black Widow – Official Teaser Trailer
In what appears to be a nice Russian-spy-family-reunion, Romanov is surprised by a guest who matches her fighting style move-for-move. Yelena Belova (played by Midsommar’s Florence Pugh, who is having a great year) is another alumna of the Red Room. Also to join in are David Harbour’s (Stranger Things) Red Guardian/Alexei Shostakov and Rachel Weisz’s (The Mummy) Iron Maiden/Melina Vostokoff.
There’s even a nice dinner scene with comedic relief and everything.
Romanov and her “sis” have unfinished business with their “family.”
Looks like the villain will be Taskmaster, who, in the comics, injected himself with SS-Hauptsturmführer Horst Gorscht’s primer, giving himself genius-level intellect and superhuman athleticism. He’s a master combatant, swordsman, marksman, and mimic.
Black Widow, Marvel Studios
At San Diego Comic-Con, a fight scene showed Taskmaster’s ability to mimic the movements of his adversary. Given that Romanov’s fighting technique was always so unique compared to the other Avengers, this should make for a visually exciting film. We can also hope for fun cameos (Robert Downey Jr. is already rumored to be one of them).
Directed by Cate Shortland (Lore), Marvel Studios’ Black Widow will open in theaters May 1, 2020.
An Army Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command will be awarded the Medal of Honor Sept. 11 for his actions in a 2015 raid that rescued approximately 70 prisoners from Islamic State militants in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.
President Donald Trump will award the nation’s highest award for military valor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne in a White House ceremony set for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Payne will receive the medal for his actions Oct. 22, 2015, as a member of an American and Kurdish raid force that sought to rescue 70 prisoners — including Kurdish peshmerga fighters — from a compound in the town of Huwija, Iraq, roughly 9 miles west of Kirkuk. The Kurds and Americans had reliable intelligence reports that ISIS was planning to kill the prisoners.
“Time was of the essence,” Payne said, according to the AP. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”
Fast rope training with US Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment forces. US Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite.
When ISIS militants opened fire after Kurdish forces attempted and failed to breach the compound with an explosive, Payne and his unit climbed over a wall, entered the compound, and quickly cleared one of the two buildings where the prisoners were held, the AP reported.
Clearing through the building, the team used bolt cutters to break locks off prison doors and free nearly 40 hostages.
After other task force members reported they were engaged in an intense firefight at the second building, between 10 to 20 soldiers, including Payne and Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, maneuvered toward the second building, which was heavily fortified and partially on fire.
“The team scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building under a savage fusillade of enemy machine-gun fire from below. From their roof-top vantage point, the commandos engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire,” the AP reported. “Payne said at that point, ISIS fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. The team quickly moved off the roof to an entry point for building two.”
As ISIS fighters continued to exchange gunfire with the raid force as they entered the building, Payne worked to open another fortified door, cutting the first lock before heavy smoke from the fire forced him to hand off the bolt cutters to an Iraqi counterpart and retreat out of the building for fresh air.
Rangers pull security while conducting a night raid in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
After the Iraqi partner had to retreat for fresh air, Payne grabbed the bolt cutters and reentered the building to cut off the last lock. After kicking open the door, the commandos escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building, which was about to collapse and still taking enemy gunfire.
Payne reentered the building two more times to ensure every prisoner was freed, having to forcibly remove one of the prisoners who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene, according to the AP.
Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and has deployed several times to combat as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for a wound he sustained in Afghanistan in 2010, according to the AP report. Payne also won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition as a sergeant first class representing USASOC in 2012. He is married with three children and is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is from the South Carolina towns of Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff.
The news of Payne’s Medal of Honor comes just nine days after another soldier was recommended for the extraordinary honor.
In a letter to lawmakers Aug. 24, Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed a proposal to upgrade to a Medal of Honor the Silver Star Medal Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe was awarded after he died of the catastrophic burns he suffered while pulling six soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005.
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.
According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.
The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.
The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”
In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”
Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.
“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know. Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”
Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”
Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.
Rubber, sheep skin, love sock, penis sheath, raincoat, scum bag, prophylactic, the goalie, nodding sock, the Royal wanker, MOPP gear, or, if you’re feeling vanilla, just plain ol’ “condom.”
No matter what you call it, condoms are great for conducting amphibious landings when you don’t want to exchange fluids with the host country. But they’re also good for a host of other things, as numerous enterprising service members have discovered over the years.
Make love, make war, but, for god’s sake, make lots of condoms first. So, just what sorts of things did grandpa use his jimmies for besides the horizontal tango?
There are likely thousands of condoms in this photo even though almost no one in it would get laid for a week or more.
One of the best-known uses of condoms in combat came during D-Day where many infantrymen put them on their weapons’ barrels to keep the bore clear. While water is typically cited as the main intruder that soldiers wanted to deny, War on the Rocks has rightly pointed out that many weapons in World War II could actually fire just fine while wet.
But condoms, in addition to keeping out some of the moisture, also kept out most of the mud or wet sand that could get jammed in the barrel. And while water can cause a round to move to slowly through the barrel, causing the sustained pressure buildup to damage the barrel, wet sand or mud is nearly guaranteed to cause the barrel to burst.
Members of a naval combat demolition unit hit the beach during training.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
The Navy’s underwater demolition teams, meanwhile, reportedly used condoms to protect the fuses of their underwater explosives. Most of the fuses proved to be water resistant instead of waterproof, so they had to be kept dry until just before the big show. The commandos kept the sensitive little bombs in condoms until it was time to slide them into their holes. Then, remove the love glove and initiate the fireworks.
But, the condom’s debut as a tool for the D-Day landings actually came before the real operation. Gunners training for the big day are thought to have filled condoms with helium to make field-expedient targets for firing practice.
But it’s not all history — U.S. grunts and friendly forces have their own modern uses for condoms, too. For instance, a condom makes a great waterproof pouch, though you have to tie and untie it to retrieve items while maintaining a proper seal. Condoms are especially good in this role since they’re so elastic. They can expand to be large enough to cover nearly anything a soldier is carrying, though, again, you still have to be able to tie it for perfect effectiveness.
Stretch your condoms out first, ladies and gentleman. This is not enough water to keep you going.
(ClaudiaM1FLERéunion CC BY-SA 3.0)
In fact, if the condom is properly stretched and then placed into a fabric sleeve, like a sock, it can be used to hold additional water. Non-lubricated condoms are surprisingly strong and elastic, but they need a good fabric layer to protect against pinpricks which would cause them to burst. And, they need to be stretched first. Why? Because there’s no real water pressure in most survival situations, so the condom can only hold as much water as its current shape will allow.
So, yes. Bring condoms, whether you’re there to fight or fornicate. But, if you’re there to fight, opt for the non-lubricated, non-flavored ones.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.
I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!
There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:
• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation • the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments • the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go • the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better • (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments • (finally) the coffee press
But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.
(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will
A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.
(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)
Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.
The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.
(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)
Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).
(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)
We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.
Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…
(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)
It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”
The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.
The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.
Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.
“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.
‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’
“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.
In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.
“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.
“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.
“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.
The ACRT is made up of six events:
This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.
Standing Power Throw:
Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.
As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.
Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.
“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”
There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.
“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.
The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.
If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.
“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”
Soldier Performance Training Centers
As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.
The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.
The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.
A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.
“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.
“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”
But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.
“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”
There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.
“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”
Squads are the most fundamental part of the military. While you can generally get by with having an issue with someone else in the company, a squad can’t function unless everyone is on the same level.
It takes years to earn someone’s trust to the point of knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that they have your back. To get the new guys in the squad up to speed, they’ll have to be given a crash course in earning it.
There is a difference between impressing the squad and impressing the platoon sergeant. Choose wisely.
(Photo by Spc. Noel Williams)
PT as well in the morning
the uninitiated may think that the fastest way to earn respect is to out-hustle, out-perform, and outlast the rest. The problem here is that morning PT isn’t designed to improve — it’s for sustaining one’s assumed peak performance. If you’re looking to improve, it’ll probably happen off-duty.
With that in mind, many troops who’ve been in for years won’t be impressed by the new kid smoking everyone on the pull-up bar. They’re probably hungover from drinking the night before. During morning PT, there’s no way to improve your standing with the guys, but making everyone else look bad will definitely cost you some points.
This also means don’t ever miss the 50m target — you will be justifiably ridiculed.
(Photo by Sgt. Maj. Peter Breuer)
Shoot as good at the range
This rings especially true with line units. It’s also assumed that by the time a Drill Instructor hands off a boot to the unit, they’re ready to be hardened killing machines. Taking time to train someone to shoot perfectly is no longer in the training schedule, there’re still guys who’ve been in the unit for ages rocking a “pizza box,” or Marksman badge.
If you can show everyone that you’re not some kid, but rather someone who’s ready to train with the big boys, the squad will take notice and use you to belittle the guy who missed the 50m target. That’s a good thing for you.
Or keep an eye out for staff duty and keep them occupied so they don’t crash the party.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Party as hard in the barracks
Barracks parties are very tight-knit. There may be some cross-over with other platoons or companies that are cool with whomever is hosting, so don’t fret and be cool. It’s a real sign of trust if someone is willing to show you to the others off-duty.
Chances are that most boots are fresh out of high school. No one wants to party with the kid who’s going to get them arrested by the MPs for underage drinking. For all the legal reasons, you really shouldn’t be drinking if you’re under 21 (even though we all know what happens in the barracks). You can still play a part, however, by being the designated driver or helping others who’ve drank too much by grabbing water, junk food, and sports drinks.
Chances are that the joke, just like your first time, will be quickly forgotten by most people involved.
(Photo by Pfc. Vaniah Temple)
Joke as witty off-duty
As odd as it sounds, the surefire way to make everyone in the squad trust you is to get them to like you. They’ll overlook a lot of your flaws if you’re not quite “grunt enough” if you can make them laugh.
No one wants to be around the guy who’s telling the same unfunny story that ends with getting yelled at by the drill sergeant. No matter how mind-blowing it was to you back then, I assure you that it’s nothing special. Dig deep and find that real humor. Joke about something personal, like the first time you got intimate with someone. There’s definitely an awkward moment in there that’s funny to reflect on.
I’m just sayin’. Nearly every friendship is sealed in the smoke pit.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
Be as loyal when the time comes
There’s no concrete way to know when this time will come, but it will. At some point, everything will be on the line and you need to swoop in with the clutch. When it happens, you’ll know.
This is when you’ll show the squad that you’re one of them — that you value the rest of the guys above your own well-being. It could be as large as saving everyone’s ass from an enraged first sergeant to just bringing an extra pack of cigarettes to the field. Get to know your squad and you’ll know what it takes.
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.