I’ll be the first to admit I hate PT (Physical Training). I was never particularly good at it, and in my case a “runner’s high” seemed to always consist of cramps, difficulty breathing, lots of snot pouring out my nose, muscular twitching, blurry vision, headaches and vomiting. Kinda like nerve agent poisoning.
But the simple fact is, being physically fit is a core competency of soldiering. For an infantryman, that’s obvious. But even Fobbits need to be fit. There’s no telling when those guys will be called upon to fight (at least in the infantry, you generally have an idea that you’ll either be attacking, or be attacked- Fobbits being attacked is almost by definition a surprise).
Jim Gourley has a guest post up at Thomas Rick’s “Best Defense” blog at FP that focuses on Army Physical Fitness.
Nearly one in every three service members are overweight. That includes some officers and senior NCOs. You think the Army doesn’t want to talk about negligent discharges? Let’s talk about officers that don’t pass tape. The “system” that is meant to hold everyone accountable is rife with favoritism toward officers. Officers simply get away with it, because it’s an NCO that usually conducts the PT and weight/tape tests. The pressure to avoid giving an officer a failing grade is intense, and there’s a good deal of back-scratching for NCOs that don’t pull the tape so snug around the waist. I was recently at a party where several NCOs in a unit remarked about a LTC I know here in Vicenza, who is obviously obese. The dirty secret is that he shows up for the unit PT test (he takes the walking option for the run due to a profile for something) and then ducks out of the tape test. There’s a Major in the same unit with a 42-inch waist who would have failed if it wasn’t for his buddy the NCO that fudged the numbers.
Go read the whole thing. I don’t agree with some of his conclusions, particularly about the role of NCOs in a fitness program. But I think he’s on the right track.
One of the big challenges facing the Army however, is that it has to recruit huge numbers of people every year from the general population. And frankly, the health status of the population as a whole sucks. When you start with poor raw material, you’re gonna have a poor end product. Now, someone is gonna chime in about the Marines and fitness. Yes, their culture does place more emphasis on fitness. But they also have much smaller numbers of people to recruit, so they can be somewhat more selective in the people they actually enlist.
I don’t really have a good answer for the problem. Commanders have an incredible laundry list of skills they must train their troops to master, and never enough time to do it.
I’ll tell you this, though. The Army end strength is going to go down very shortly. Fatboys are gonna be the low hanging fruit that gets picked when it comes time to separate people.