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New test to gauge combat readiness of Marine 'warrior athletes'

14 Aug 2008 | Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon

In order to measure physical fitness reflective of combat demands, the Corps' commandant signed the order Aug. 1 that added a second semiannual test to Marines' already tough standards.

The combat fitness test, which will be required of all Marines beginning Oct. 1, is among several changes overhauling the Corps' fitness program.

"Recognizing that Marines are 'warrior athletes,' our fitness program was modified to reflect the same collaboration of effort found at the collegiate and professional sports level," said commandant Gen. James T. Conway, in a message to all Marines explaining Marine Corps Order 6100.13.

Combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed the need to develop a physical training program to prepare for and test combat fitness, said Conway in a November 2007 letter to commanders.

The combat fitness test is characterized by anaerobic, or "short burst," energy demands. The three-part test was "developed around operational vignettes that may represent a Marine's combat experience," said Conway in All Marine Message 032/08.

The test consists of three events, dubbed with the combat-related names "movement to contact," "ammunition lift" and "maneuver under fire."

The first event requires a Marine to run 880 yards while wearing boots and camouflage utilities in a limited amount of time based on their age. For example, male Marines aged 17-26 have 3 minutes, 48 seconds, to complete the run, while females in the same age group have 4 minutes, 34 seconds.

For the second event, a Marine repeatedly lifts a 30-pound ammunition can from below his chin to above his head as many times as possible in 2 minutes. To pass, male Marines aged 17-26 need to complete 45 reps. Females in the same age group need 20 reps.

The final event combines a complicated series of tasks across a 300-yard course that a Marine must finish in a limited amount of time.

First, Marines dash for 25 yards. Then, they drop to the ground and high crawl for 10 yards with their elbows, knees and torso touching the ground. For another 15 yards, Marines modify the crawl, keeping their hands, knees and feet in contact with the ground.

For the next 25 yards, Marines run, zig-zagging through markers, such as cones or pylons, every five yards to complete the first of four legs of the event.

For the second leg, a Marine begins by dragging a simulated casualty for 10 yards, then picks him up and carries the casualty across the Marine's shoulders in a "fireman's carry," hauling him 65 yards back to the starting line.

After dropping off the casualty, the Marine picks up two 30-pound ammunition cans to begin the third leg of the event. For the first 50 yards, the Marine runs with the cans in a straight line, but for the last 25 yards, the Marine zig-zags through the markers. Then, a Marine sets down the cans, picks up an inert practice grenade and lobs it toward a 5-by-5 yard target area 20 yards away. Immediately after tossing the grenade, the Marine drops to the ground and performs three pushups, completing the third leg.

The final leg nearly mirrors the third, with the Marine carrying the ammunition cans through the markers for 25 yards and straight across the final 50 yards to complete the test.

Male Marines aged 17-26 have 3 minutes, 29 seconds, to complete the course; females in the same age group have 4 minutes, 57 seconds. As a reward for accuracy, 5 seconds will be deducted from the time if the Marine hits the target area with the grenade. However, failing to hit the target area means adding 5 seconds to the Marine's time.

For the first year, no score is tabulated; a Marine either finishes all three events with the minimum standards to pass, or they don't and fail.

As of Oct. 1, 2009, however, the test is scheduled to convert to a 300-point scoring system, similar to the existing physical fitness test. A Marine could earn up to 100 points in each event.

Additionally, the score would be incorporated into fitness reports and cutting scores making performance on the test a weighty part of a Marines' promotion potential.

An instructional video on the combat fitness test, layout diagrams and the new order on the physical fitness program can be found at https://www.tecom.usmc.mil.

In November 2007, Conway issued a letter advising commanders that fitness and appearance standards would get tougher.

In addition to a combat fitness test, the body composition program and a new military appearance program would define or clarify the way a Marine must look.

"Our ability to fulfill the commitment and accomplish the mission is dependent, in part, upon the fitness of our Marines," said Conway.

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