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Marines get three more months to take initial CFT

25 Sep 2008 | Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon

The Marine Corps recently extended the time Marines have to complete an initial combat fitness test by three months as well as clarified that there will be no adverse consequences for those who fail it.

Although Marines now have until March 31, 2009, to complete an initial CFT, official testing for active duty and reserve Marines is scheduled to begin July 1, 2009, three months earlier than previously announced.

Results from the initial test will determine the CFT's scoring system for official tests in the future, according to a Corpswide message released Sept. 17.

"The sooner Marines participate in the initial CFT, the better able they will be to meet or exceed standards once official scoring begins," stated Marine Administrative Message 521/08.

The message also clarified that individual results on the initial pass/fail test will not be held against Marines. The new Marine Corps order outlining the CFT, released Aug. 1, did not specify whether adverse effects for failing a CFT applied to the initial tests.

The Marine Corps recently rewrote its orders on body composition, military appearance and physical fitness. This included adding a second semiannual test to measure physical fitness reflective of combat demands.

Now physical fitness and appearance regulations are defined in two separate Marine Corps orders, MCO 6110.3 titled "Marine Corps Body Composition and Military Appearance Program" and MCO 6100.13 titled "Marine Corps Physical 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.

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."

In July 2009, 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

On Sept. 8, the Corps directed units to immediately evaluate any Marines currently assigned to the Body Composition Program, and reset any still out of standards back to Day One, according to implementation guidance in Marine Administrative Message 501/08.

Marines currently on their first BCP assignment who are back within the Corps' height and weight standards must still remain in the program until the mandatory six-month term is over.

Those on second or subsequent assignment who now meet standards may be removed from the program immediately.

Marines currently being processed for administrative separation due to BCP failure won't catch any breaks, even if they now fall within standards. Commands will continue separation procedures for those individuals.

Administrative and disciplinary measures related to previous assignments to the BCP, such as adverse fitness reports, remain valid.

Previously, Marines were permitted a higher body fat percentage as long as they earned a first-class score on their PFT.

"Tendencies toward increased weight have become a dangerous trend over the last decade in out American society," said Conway. "But Marines are different."

In one order, Conway warned that failure to meet and enforce standards could not only jeopardize operational readiness, but "erode American confidence" in the Corps.

"Selective compliance with the Marine Corps orders on weight control is over," the commandant said.

Previous standards defining maximum and minimum weight based on a Marine's height still apply. However, those who fall outside those standards must not exceed a certain percentage of body fat.

Men between 17-26 years old are allowed a maximum 18 percent body fat. Men 27-39 years old are allowed 19 percent. Men 40-45 years old are allowed 20 percent and those 46 years and older are allowed 21 percent.

Females 17-26 years old are allowed 26 percent body fat. Women 27-39 years old are allowed 27 percent. Women 40-45 years old are allowed 28 percent and those 46 years old and up are allowed 29 percent body fat.

Previously, Marines with a first-class PFT score could have an additional 4 percent of body fat.

Marines who failed to meet body composition standards where placed on a corrective program for at least six months. With the new order, the Corps will allow a grace period of up to 120 days after weighing in before formal action is taken.

The first 60 days are known as the notification period. During this time, the unit's senior enlisted advisor for enlisted personnel or executive officer for officers will issue an informal letter of concern and a 60-day action plan.

The actions during this stage are determined by the individual unit.

If a Marine does not meet standards after the notification period, the 60-day cautionary period begins immediately. The unit will again be in charge of setting up a plan to assist the Marine in getting to regulation.

A letter of caution will inform the unsatisfactory Marine that if they do not comply with set standards they will be placed on a formal program following the 60-day cautionary period.

After 120 days, Marines who still do not meet the height/weight or body fat standards will immediately be assigned to the formal BCP by the unit's commanding officer.

"Admittedly, decisions to assign Marines to the body composition and military appearance programs are difficult, and sometimes involve Marines who are otherwise solid performers," said Conway. "It is, however, the right thing to do for the individual and the institution."

Assignment to the program restricts promotion, prevents re-enlistment, results in adverse fitness reports and lower conduct marks, and could force the Marine to leave the Corps.

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