AUSA panel discusses pilot Army physical readiness test
October 12, 2011
"There is no new PT test -- yet," said Initial Military Training Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena to a gathering of Soldiers at a noncommissioned officer professional development forum Oct. 11 at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Calpena engaged in a lively exchange about the proposed Army physical readiness test, or APRT, where he emphasized that nothing has been set in place yet, and said experts in the Physical Readiness Division may do some tweaking after the data is analyzed.
The Physical Readiness Division has collected and analyzed data from trial test groups worldwide, which will number nearly 10,000 Soldiers when complete. The results will be presented to Army leadership in early 2012 and implemented by October 2012 if approved.
The pilot APRT was developed to relate to combat performance, capitalizing on lessons learned throughout the last 10 years at war. The proposed APRT events relate to combat tasks, measuring Soldiers' ability to physically adapt to complex environments. Calpena likened the pilot test to sports training.
"You have to train for your sport," Calpena said. "If a boxer trains with a marathoner's routine, probably not going to fare too well. Our job is to train for our sport. Our sport is to wear heavy loads; mostly in high altitude … We have not done this in a vacuum, and doing it scientifically."
The events will provide a more accurate representation of a Soldier's muscular endurance, muscular power, speed and agility. The current physical readiness test only measures muscular endurance.
"The pilot test is progressive in nature and designed not to injure you," Calpena said.
For example, sit ups may no longer be a test event, an event that poses a high risk for back injuries. However, three additional events are being tested for relevance: 60-yard shuttle run, rower and long jump. The current two-mile run may be decreased to one-and-a-half miles, and the time to execute push-ups may be reduced to one minute but movements and rest times will be more restrictive.
"I enjoyed the test -- it was a nice change of pace," said Staff Sgt. John Heslin, 2011 Drill Sergeant of the Year. "It's not easier, and it's still getting the same effects across," he said, referring to how winded he felt after he took it for the first time during the DSOY competition.
Heslin also shared some of the initial findings with the audience, stating Soldiers who participated in the test groups liked the pilot test. However, there are some concerns.
For example, there is unease about the lack of score variance in the shuttle-run and long-jump events. Soldiers are having difficulty relating the long-jump to combat tasks. Many leaders prefer pull-ups over push-ups, and many want to keep the run at the current two miles.
Also, many are concerned with the time needed to administer the test and that the surfaced used to test on makes a difference, whether it's grass, concrete, pavement or track. And age may be less of a factor than motivation and training.
Regardless of how the pilot test will look when it's presented for approval, it will be in line with the Army of 2020 requirement for a readiness-focused force.
"The test measures the Army's new level of fitness, and the point of testing is to achieve maximum performance," Calpena said.