Just as the Army has been saying for almost thirty years, they are finally working out the details of what will be the replacement for the current push-ups/sit-ups/2-mile-run version of the Army Physical Fitness Test. For a quick primer on what the new test will entail, read our previous article — but know that, if implemented, this new test is going to fundamentally change how the Army operates.
Obviously, the Army Combat Readiness Test (this is what they're calling the new test) will demand new capability from troops, but it's more than that. Everything from how the test is conducted to the way it's graded and the overall logistical nightmares that it will bring are going to have wide-reaching ramifications.
Now, that's not to say that the new test is a bad thing — but this one small change will ripple into the rest of life in the Army. Here's how:
1. New PT schedules
The current APFT makes sure that three elements of a soldier's fitness are up to standard: upper body, core, and endurance. Morning PT schedules created by NCOs reflect these requirements. Regardless of your unit, you'll almost always go on a long run on Mondays, work your upper body on Tuesdays, do sprints on Wednesdays, enjoy core or leg days on Thursdays, and finally, have unit "fun runs" on Fridays.
The new test will include a two-mile run, so you can expect to keep logging the "fun run" alongside the officers who want to claim they work out with their guys. The other five events required by the ACRT, however, will have to be worked into the other four days, which may mean cutting down on Monday runs.
Fridays will always be run days. How else is the commander going to listen to 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC?
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lopez)
2. A considerable amount of training
Mark my words: This new PT test is going to be the sole cause of some serious injuries to good soldiers.
Soldiers will likely blow out their backs by improperly deadlifting, toss a medicine ball on someone's head, jack up their wrists by doing the "hand release push-up" wrong, or incur some type of injury during sprint-drag-carry mishaps — with so many technically demanding events, it's going to be impossible to ensure that nobody gets hurt.
The fact is that deadlifts aren't something that beginners or overly cocky soldiers can just pick up. If the powers that be insist on inserting deadlifts into the PT test and younger soldiers aren't given the training required to do them properly, well... Expect many more visits to sick call among soldiers with bad backs.
Let's play a game: Spot all the problems in this picture that make it unsafe...
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)
3. How we view sick call
That being said, there is no way to mitigate the risk of injury entirely. No amount of training can eliminate the possibility of unintentionally harming oneself. Training and the initial adjustment period will likely see most of the accidents, but there will be soldiers years from now who bend in a way the human body isn't meant to be bent.
The Army is fairly good at putting precautions in place to mitigate risks, but there will need to be an overhaul in the way that aid stations see and treat soldiers. As of right now, countless soldiers "suck it up" and deal with the pain instead of visiting sick call, but one can only stoically endure so much before being truly broken.
A major problem that vets run into when they seek help from the VA stems from a lack of kept records. In the absence of documentation specifically referencing an ailment, the VA often asserts that a given problem "wasn't military related." Unless there's a major change in how sick call is viewed by soldiers, the many accidents that will likely befall takers of the new ACRT will cause unaddressed problems down the line.
Motrin and a bottle of water isn't going to solve this problem, doc.
(U.S. Army photo)
4. Logistics behind the equipment
The new test makes use of plenty of specialized equipment. To successfully administer a PT test, units will need:
- Deadlift bars plus weights,
- 10-lbs medicine balls,
- Weighted sleds,
- 40-lbs kettle bells,
- Pull-up bars,
- and a steady track on which to do the run.
From here, things will go one of two ways: Either the Army is going to have to shell out a load of cash to get every unit enough equipment to facilitate the test in an organized manner (and pay for somewhere to store all that equipment and someone to maintain it) or there will be a dedicated gym for every Brigade-level that contains the equipment and sends it out on request.
In either case, there will be an entirely new level of logistics involved in connecting troops with the gear.
Supply NCOs are wizards, but you can't expect the impossible from them all the time.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)
5. PT on deployments
As it stands at this instant, PT tests are a required for active duty soldiers twice per year. There are rare exceptions, but in most cases, your commander will insist that tests be administered, even if you're overseas. All you need is ground to do the test on.
Much to the dismay of that sergeant with muscles so big that he can't stand at parade rest, this, too, will change. All that equipment won't be making its way into a shipping container since the Army needs to send mission-relevant gear (and the test would be null and void without the previously-mentioned steady track anyway).
Without the need to maintain fitness standards in order to pass PT tests administered during deployments, soldiers just won't. That negates the entire purpose of fielding a "combat-oriented" PT test — unless, you know, the Army is willing to stubbornly handle that insane logistical nightmare just to prove a point.
There are some running tracks on bigger installations in the Kuwait and Afghanistan, but installing one on FOB Out-in-the-middle-of-f*ck-nowhere just won't happen.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Lorden)
6. Promotion points
The current version of the PT test is simple. Your performance in each event gives you a certain amount of points. Max out at a perfect 300 and you've netted yourself 180 promotion points — which comes in handy if you're looking to be a sergeant. It's stupid simple math that can be easily printed out and posted in any training room.
But the new test isn't like that at all. It's now a "Go/No Go" system. Each event is simply measured: You can either do it or you can't. You can either run a 2-mile in 20 minutes or you can't (which, by today's standards, would award just 3 points to a 17-year-old male but 85 points to a 47-year-old female). Ripping these potential 180 points out of the current promotion system means that soldiers in a lower-demand MOS will lose the easiest way to pad their points.
Which basically means the only way lower-demand MOS's will get close to 798 points is if they spend all their time outside work doing college courses.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona)
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