Recently the Marine Corps announced some big changes to their physical readiness program. There are some sweeping changes to the standards for the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the to the Body Composition Program (BCP). After reading the new order, I saw some things in there that I think are good and some things that aren’t so good. I won’t comment here on every detail, if you’re interested you can read it all for yourself at: USMC Fitness.
Over my 28 years on active duty, I heard a lot of complaining about the PFT and how it didn’t measure basic fitness (BS) and listened to even more whining about the Hgt/Wgt standards being too strict (more BS). However to try and improve things the Marine Corps added body fat % measurements to take in account different body types, and a few years back the CFT came out in an attempt to better evaluate “Combat” Fitness vs. just Physical fitness. IMO any “Combat” test that doesn’t include a timed forced march with full gear isn’t a real test of combat fitness, but that’s another story.
The real story here is the (under the radar) overall lowering of standards in the new order. I’m sure the Marine Corps would push back hard on that one, but if you read the details (like I’m prone to do), you find a very reveling statement in the Marine Times article on this by Brian McGuire, deputy of fitness branch for TECOM’s standards division. When asked why even have the addition of a new push-up vs. pull-ups option? McGuire said it was because the Marine Corps didn’t “want to create a manpower problem by having some female Marines failing.” If that isn’t a lowering of standards to allow you to keep people in that can’t meet a standard, I don’t know what is? I knew when they started talking about a pull-up requirement for female Marines, something like this was coming. IMO you were never going to be able to enforce a minimum pull-up standard for females. Those of us that were in the ranks knew it wouldn’t work. But since the order came out to open all combat MOS’s to females, you had to now come up with a way to make easier for them to get there. So here you go.
The other bad part of this is, that once you lower a standard for one group (females), to be fair you have to lower it for the guys, who can now also opt out of pull-ups, for the much easier push-ups. Now to be fair, they have put in an incentive that you can’t gain a max score unless you choose pull-ups, but that’s on the high end. The more important part of any test is what the minimum standard is, as not many people will ever achieve the max score, never did and never will.
It just may be the old Master Gunny in me, but my thoughts on this are simple; to maintain a superior fighting force you need high physical fitness standards, that’s high minimum standards. If you do some fancy adjustments to make things look better, but in the end you make it easier for those on the lower end to pass, it’s just a lowering of standards, to me it’s just that simple.
Recently I took a class of International Students up to MCB Quantico, VA for a tour of the base and several of the training units there. TBS, OCS, SNCOA and the Martial Arts Center. My students were impressed by everything they saw, (Especially the Marines themselves). As were leaving the Martial Arts Center there was some discussion about fitness standards and one (older) student made a remark that he didn’t think that it was fair that we would expect older Marines to maintain a high fitness standard, as they wouldn’t be able to do it? As we were passing a set of pull-up bars, I felt I needed to make a point about standards.
I took off my suit coat and challenged the group to a pull-up contest right there (in the 90 degree heat). When it what was over, the score was; old Marine in the tie – 18, next best student; Nigeria – 16. The point was this, either you can do it, or you can’t. If you can’t, then you don’t make the team and age or gender isn’t an excuse, sorry.
This week I’m off to climb some mountains on some well earned leave. Till next month, be safe always, good when you can.