Washington, D.C. — Recently the U.S. Army rolled out its newest physical fitness pilot program called the Soldier Readiness Test Pilot Improvement Project across several military installations within the United States. The program better known as the Soldier Readiness Test (SRT) is challenging the extremely out-dated Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) with a more real-world functional combat fitness focus.
The APFT has long been antiquated and useless in judging a unit’s physical combat readiness in regards to the rigorous demands that soldiers will face in combat. But lets face the one glaringly apparent fact here, the Army has an obesity problem.
Yeah I’m gonna say it, the Army is fat.
In 2016 an embarrassing report came out from the Department of Defense (DoD) that 7.8 percent of the military were clinically overweight that’s about one in every 13 soldiers. Of course the immediate excuse was that the lifestyle of today’s recruits prior to and after joining the military was that of video games and copious amounts of time online and on social media. This abject sedentary life choice of new a potential recruits of course fell under the ‘millennial paradigm’ of today. Regardless of lifestyle of our current fighting force, the obesity crisis within the ranks poses a risk to national security.
However, when I was first in the Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division we too had, albeit small, issues with poor physical fitness and obesity within the ranks. If you failed a APFT or came in overweight on your “tape,” you went to the “fat body squad” for remedial physical training or PT. You were then given 30 days to pass either the weight and tape, APFT, or both if that applied. If you didn’t, they de-enlisted , or chaptered you out for failing to meet U.S. Army regulations. That was back in the ancient times of the 1990’s.
Now for some that was an easy way out, I served with a medic that was just “over it” as a service member and intentionally got fat, and I mean he ate like two to three pizzas or gorged on burgers and fries from fast food joints.
Hell, he even bragged about it!
He got his walking papers smiling the whole time, rubbing his rotund belly the whole way home. Then someone who did get chaptered who really wanted to stay in somehow levied a lawsuit against the U.S. military claiming discrimination due to their obesity and won. That, of course changed the policy and units were left to just “deal with it” how they saw fit and changed the rules at most recruitment centers that new recruits had to “make weight” prior to shipping out to basic and that the physical fitness would be the problem of the drill sergeants.
Physical fitness is an individual mindset, you have to want to strive for and understand that your body is apart of the weapon system. Most in the regular Army believe that morning PT is good enough and according to the DoD that’s the mentality in most support units which came in at a whopping 9.8 percent to combat arms obesity percentage coming in at 6.7.
During my time as a Green Beret in 5th Group every one of my teammates did some sort of additional physical training on top of the morning “Team PT” sessions, be it Russian kettlebells, Crossfit, Gym Jones, marathons, or obstacle course racing. We all knew that the body was just as much important to combat readiness as throwing rounds downrange.
That’s why Special Operations Command (SOCOM), saw this data and adhered to one of its core SOF imperatives, “Humans are more important than hardware.” They hired on a bunch of U.S. Olympic strength, nutritionist, and conditioning coaches (I mean let’s be honest, SOCOM has the budget) and created the Tactical Human Optimization Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning program, otherwise known as the THOR3 program, and yes it was named after the mythical Norse God.
The THOR3 program evaluates the team in its fitness and then develops a regime around that to enhance combat readiness and performance, it also brings in nutrition as a major factor in that as well. You go into any dining facility (DFAC) and you will see that healthy options, although there, are not front and center in the chow line. SOCOM unit chow halls are different, they have baked chicken and green leafy bits up front with the mystery meat hamburger “fat pills” and soggy fries also an option but pushed to the back of the serving line.
So what is so different about the Army’s newest physical fitness test compared to the aged APFT.
Well, the APFT goes like this, two-minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups, and culminates with a two-mile run with scoring variants based on the gender of the soldier and for years has never truly been a metric of endurance and combat fitness within the force.
The new Army Physical Readiness Test (APRT) changes all that up and provides a gender neutral assessment of explosive fast twitch strength and endurance needed on the battlefield. Heres the breakdown of the new “PT test”:
- 220-pound tire flips
- 60-yard shuttle run
- 240-lb ‘dummy drag’
- Sand-bag toss and stack
- One-minute of push-ups
- 1.5 mile run on unimproved terrain
All of these events are done with body armor on and have a time cap of 23 minutes, and the U.S. Army Medical Corps believes that these events will be a more accurate measure of a soldier and their unit’s anaerobic and aerobic endurance and will also reduce injuries. The best part about this APRT pilot program is that it levels the playing field by making this test a “pass/fail” criteria and thus making this test a gender-neutral standard across all boards.
The Army has picked four brigades as guinea pigs to run the Soldier Readiness Test Pilot Improvement Project through its paces and then compile data to be sent back to the Army Medical Corps for analysis that will hopefully be complete by December of this year. These events are by no means locked in and more than likely will be changed as the old guard within Army begrudgingly accepts these changes in the PT test. And moreover this could take years to implement if said old guard dig their collective heels in too deep, yet in the timeless words of the American poet, Bob Dylan “The times they are a-changin.”
Image and video courtesy of DoD