Army's fitness testing plans include combat obstacle course

By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 1, 2011

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — In unveiling plans for its new physical fitness test, the Army went a step further on Tuesday, proposing a second test that would judge a soldier’s readiness for the rigors of combat, including carrying heavy ammunition and evacuating a wounded comrade.

The new Army Physical Readiness Test and the Army Combat Readiness Test could be administered starting in the next fiscal year, pending approval by the Army chief of staff.

It is not yet known when or how often the tests will be given, but one possibility is that the readiness test could be given twice a year and the combat test could be done right before soldiers deploy, Army officials said on Tuesday at Fort Jackson.

Both are meant to better simulate battlefield conditions. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy commander of Training and Doctrine Command, noted that soldiers who pass the current physical fitness test may not be able to carry a heavy rucksack or operate at high altitudes.

The physical readiness test would involve a 1½-mile run. That’s half a mile less than the current run, but they must do it at a faster pace, said Kelly Schloesser, a spokeswoman for TRADOC.

The current test, which also includes pushups and situps, has not changed since 1980.

It would also involve a “shuttle run” in which soldiers run five yards, grab a wooden block, return to the starting line, and then repeat at 10- and 15-yard intervals for a total of 60 yards.

Soldiers would also have to complete one minute of an exercise known as “the rower” — a cross between a sit-up and a crunch — one minute of pushups and a long jump.

The combat readiness test would involve a 400-meter run while in uniform and carrying a weapon, as well as a nine-part obstacle course that, among other things, includes high-crawling, simulated shooting, toting 30- to 35-pound ammunition cans and dragging a sled with 180 pounds of weight to simulate dragging a wounded comrade to safety, officials said.

For the next six months, the Army will conduct a pilot study involving between 7,000 and 10,000 soldiers in the United States and possibly Europe to determine what scores soldiers need to score on the tests, Hertling said.

Soldiers who fail the tests would face retraining, reassessment and possible administrative action, said Frank Palkoska, director of the Army Physical Fitness School. It is unclear what failing the combat test could mean for a soldier about to deploy, Hertling said.

When asked if soldiers who wanted to get out of a deployment could do so by failing the combat readiness test, Hertling said: “Our soldiers do what they’re supposed to do for the most part. If you really got a guy, ‘Hey, I’m going to fail the [test] in order to get out of a deployment,’ you’ve got some other things wrong that you’re going to have to look at.”


Staff Sgt. Danica Foster does the standing long jump during the demonstration of a proposed Army Physical Readiness Test Tuesday at Fort Jackson, S.C.


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