MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, YUMA, Ariz. --
A first-class physical fitness test score won't excuse Marines with extra body fat any more, the Corps' commandant recently directed in a letter outlining big changes to training and personal appearance rules going into effect by June 2008.
Additionally, Gen. James T. Conway announced the creation of a combat-related fitness test and a military appearance program in a Nov. 26 White Letter sent to all Marine commanders.
"Our nation has high expectations of her Marines … Accordingly, our high standards of professional and personal performance, to include our physical fitness and military appearance, must be maintained and adhered to by every Marine," wrote Conway.
Currently, Marines can be overweight as long as they have a body fat index no higher than 22 percent for males and 30 percent for females and earn a first class score on their physical fitness test.
Male Marines who don't achieve a first-class PFT must not exceed 18 percent, while females must not exceed 26 percent.
According to the letter, the new body fat standards will vary depending on a Marine's age.
The new standards are: 18 percent for male Marines and 26 percent for females 17-26 years old; 19 percent and 27 percent for Marines 27-30 years old; 20 and 28 percent between ages 40-45; and 21 and 29 percent for Marines over the age of 46.
In Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron here, for example, 34 of the unit's more than 500 Marines -- 7 percent -- would now be considered overweight despite high PFT scores, said Staff Sgt. Gerald Collins, squadron training chief.
Finally, Conway wrote that war-zone waivers for BCP will be discontinued.
"Combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has revealed the requirement to develop a combat fitness program and evaluation that will better measure the functional elements of combat fitness," Conway wrote.
The combat fitness test will augment the PFT and consist of events that replicate the physical demands of combat.
"The CFT will be a scored event that will influence promotion, retention and assignment," Conway said.
The exact events are in development, but two Iraq veterans here, said there are a few things they would add to the test.
Marines should run in sand with a full combat load on, including body armor, ammunition and a weapon, said Cpl. Ramiro Montemayor, who recently returned from Iraq with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 in October.
"Just walking in the sand wears you out," said Montemayor, who has a first-class PFT.
Cpl. Juan Ramirez, who has deployed three times in support of the Global War on Terrorism, said carrying or dragging a casualty, with both Marines in full combat gear, would be a good test.
Even the Corps' top enlisted man agrees.
"Have you ever seen a Marine carry another Marine in combat wearing running shoes and green 'silkies'? The PFT will not go away; this will just be in addition," said Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps.
Lastly, the commandant's proposed appearance program will give commanders the power to do something about leathernecks who look like Marines on paper but not in uniform. It will give Marines the assistance and guidance they need "to improve their appearance, lifestyle habits and overall wellness," said Conway.
Even though most specifics aren't hashed out, the commandant expects Marines to be ready to comply with the standards when they go into effect in June.
"The time is now to take action," said Conway.