For many years, We the People out on the fruited plain have been hearing grumblings from the Armed Forces that new recruits just are not fit enough to serve. Anything and everything from the rise in obesity to sitting in front of a computer far more than is good for anyone has been blamed for the lack of physical rigor in America’s youth.
(For good measure, it might be worth throwing in the changes in the food supply to include food that is “safe and fortified” but otherwise is manufactured.)
One branch of the military, the Army, has had field commanders report that soldiers coming out of basic training are not fit for combat. That being the case, the powers that be have decided to make the basic fitness test more rigorous, and are currently experimenting with what they really need to test, and what soldiers need to be able to do, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
In addition, there has long been a sense among many senior officials that the existing fitness test does not adequately measure the physical attributes needed for the battlefield, said Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The new test, “may be harder, but it is necessary,” Townsend said.
Reaching the new fitness levels will be challenging. Unlike the old fitness test, which graded soldiers differently based on age and gender, the new one will be far more physically demanding and will not adjust the passing scores for older or female soldiers.
For example, in the current test — two minutes of situps, two minutes of pushups, a 2-mile run — younger soldiers must do more repetitions and run faster to pass and get maximum scores than those who are older or female.
Townsend said the new test was designed based on scientific research that matched specific exercises to tasks that soldiers in combat must do: sprint away from fire, carry a wounded comrade on a stretcher, haul cans of fuel to a truck.
The scoring is divided into three levels that require soldiers with more physically demanding jobs, such as infantry or armor, to score higher.
So, the Army is no longer going for “one size fits all” with exceptions for the aging and for the fairer sex. In the end, the men in uniform will be better prepared for combat, but that still does not solve the American youth fitness problem.