NORFOLK, Va. — The Army will stick to its tried-and-true physical fitness test for now while it orders more reviews of a new assessment meant to more accurately gauge combat readiness.
Commanders in charge of Army-wide training announced last year they wanted to replace the three-event exam given twice a year that requires a soldier to run 2 miles and do sit-ups and push-ups within times that vary by age and gender. Instead, they started in 2011 testing a routine with five parts: a 60-yard shuttle run, a standing long jump, push-ups, a 1.5-mile run and a rower, an exercise similar to a sit-up.
But before it makes any changes, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia said this week it would need to conduct further study.
“Emerging factors and changing combat environments demand a thorough understanding before changes are implemented, and thus the decision to retain the current test,” TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Dailey said in a statement. “Whatever the new test looks like, it must accurately evaluate fitness levels for all soldiers to decisively win in combat.”
That decision was based on a recommendation from fitness experts from the Department of Physical Education at U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, and California State University-Fullerton. Those experts also said the Army should consider other events that could better predict a soldier’s physical readiness.
The three-event Army Physical Fitness Test dates back to 1980 and commanders in recent years have criticized it, saying it doesn’t adequately measure components of strength, endurance, or mobility.
It could still change, but the Army isn’t in a rush to do so, said Training and Doctrine Command spokeswoman Stephanie Slater.
“This study that we’re going to do, it may or may not result in a recommendation to change the current APFT,” said Training and Doctrine Command spokeswoman Stephanie Slater. “What we are trying to do right now is to get the Army to follow the principles of physical readiness so that our soldiers are getting in better shape, they’re doing it with less injuries and we’re doing that by reinforcing the tenets that are in our doctrine.”
The new study is expected to begin in October.
The Army decided in 2011 to implement a new training philosophy that said soldiers would be better prepared for combat if they trained in a way that replicates how they fight. That resulted in the development of a combat readiness test as well as the reconfigured, five-event physical readiness test.
More than 10,000 soldiers around the world participated in a pilot program with the new test. The Army said that the new tests appears to accomplish what it is intended to, but that it would be premature to implement it Army-wide without additional study.
As part of efforts to keep soldiers fit, the Army has also started a pilot program for a master fitness training course at Fort Jackson, S.C., just outside of Columbia.
Slater said the intent of the program is to train soldiers who will be dispersed to other commands to aid them in their efforts to keep the troops soldiers in shape in order to meet their unit’s goals. Among other things, students in the course study kinesiology, performance nutrition and endurance training.
“Each day, they’re undergoing physical exercises and routines. The second part of the day is classroom delivered and it’s very, very, very robust,” she said. “It’s no joke. They’re studying subjects like physiology and anatomy.”
The first students will complete the class by the end of September. Slater said there is no specific target date for determining when a decision on whether to implement the five-event fitness test will be made.
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