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Readiness over fitness

Army evaluates readiness test

A soldier assigned to the Army Center for Initial Military Training demonstrates one of the challenges in the Combat Readiness Test. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) may give way to the Combat Readiness Test (CRT).

"The key difference is between ‘readiness' and ‘fitness,'" Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy-commanding general for initial training, wrote in a press release.

The APFT focuses on a soldier's ability to do push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile timed run.  The CRT emphasizes shuttle runs, balance beam walks, casualty drags and a 1.5-mile run to more accurately test a soldier's anaerobic and aerobic endurance while reducing the risk of injury.

"It's one thing to be fit; it's quite another thing to be ready for the things we are being asked to do," Hertling added.

Put differently, the CRT takes the stress level up, forcing soldiers through a series of obstacles that show whether they can perform in the heat of battle.

Work on the proposed CRT began in 2013 when Gen. Raymond Odierno, then Chief of Staff of the Army, ordered the development of a new combat-focused fitness metric.

If implemented, the CRT will be a gender-neutral test for all active, Reserve and National Guard soldiers in all military occupation specialties, or MOSs.

In last week's heat, about 40 soldiers in the Washington Army National Guard took the test. Standing by to evaluate and note results of the CRT were a research physiologist, a physical therapist, two fitness trainers, a representative from West Point's Department of Physical Education and several others from the Army Public Health Command.

"I enjoyed it," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Sherman, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, as he stood sweating on the parade field at Camp Murray.

Surrounding him were some weights, pull-up bars and orange cones laid out to create 25-meter lanes.

"It is a stressful test," continued Sherman, "but the Army is changing its physical requirements, and it is up to us to meet the challenge of being ready to deploy."

In addition to Camp Murray, selected soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; Fort Lee, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Army Forces Command have taken the test as the Army tests its value.

The CRT zeroes in on six areas of physical readiness:  muscular strength, aerobic ability, explosive power, muscular endurance, and speed and agility.

To arrive at a good measure of a soldier's fitness, the CRT is comprised of a 1.5-mile run, a 250-yard sprint/drag/carry, deadlifts, leg tucks, standing power throw and T push-ups.

A decision on whether the Army will adopt the CRT is scheduled for 2018.

"It's a good test," commented Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Lapse, an observer from the Center for Initial Military Training, as he prepared to drag several large weights simulating a casualty drag. "This is all about readiness and meeting the challenges on the battlefield."

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