By Michele Vowell, Fort Campbell Courier assistant editorDecember 24, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Dec. 17, 2015) -- Pfc. Deandre Gamble wants to be an officer in the U.S. Army. It turns out that Fort Campbell is the place to speed up that goal.
Gamble and nearly 60 Soldiers participated in a pilot program titled Rapid Application Completion Exercise, Monday. Conducted by officials with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, the program, also known as RACE, is designed to accelerate the months-long application process for West Point candidates.
Assigned to 39th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Gamble is a motor transport operator, but feels he is meant for something more.
"I would like to do something bigger than what I'm doing now," he said.
Maj. Jason Dupuis, a West Point Soldier admissions officer, supervised the events, along with assistance from Maj. Eddie Porter Jr., Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, who served as the 101st liaison officer for the visit.
"I'm here today because the 101st is the proof of concept for the Army to pilot a new way to help Soldiers navigate the application process for West Point," Dupuis said.
"Fort Campbell was chosen as a pilot because of the unique level of support we have here … It was the right time, the right place, with the right people."
A 2005 West Point graduate, Dupuis said he had gone through the application process as an enlisted Soldier. He said the No. 1 hurdle for Soldiers getting into West Point is finishing their application in a timely manner.
"This new program … is a way where a Soldier can finish the entire application in one day, which is pretty remarkable," he said.
Early Monday morning, Fort Campbell Soldiers tested their strength, agility, speed and endurance during a candidate fitness assessment, or CFA, at the Staff Sgt. Eric B. Shaw Physical Fitness Center.
The examination consisted of a basketball throw from kneeling position, cadence pull-ups or the flexed-arm hang (women's option), shuttle run, modified sit-ups, push-ups and a 1-mile run. The six-test events of the CFA were administered consecutively with specified start, finish and rest times.
"It's different from the standard Army [physical fitness] test. We are not used to doing the entire six events, so it was different for all of the NCOs [noncommissioned officers]. They have never done this before - including myself," Porter said. "It's difficult doing this for the first time. It's kind of organized chaos. Once you get the first and second event done, it goes much smoother."
A half dozen Soldiers were selected as graders for the CFA. Each grader was assigned to between five and seven candidates to evaluate for each event.
With five of the six CFA events complete, Gamble said he beat the standard on the basketball throw (67 feet for males) and the shuttle run (9.1 seconds).
"I think I've done pretty decent," he said. "Everyone's learning, actually, as we go along - so I feel we're doing pretty good and we're setting the standard for people to follow me."
For Spc. Caleb Cox, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division Artillery, the basketball throw yielded the best results for him with a throw of 69 feet - two feet above average.
"Probably the best one so far was the basketball throw, which I would say is the weirdest," he said. "It's just something you're not really used to - throwing a basketball while on your knees is not really something you can be good at, I would think."
Cox said his participation in Monday's RACE pilot program was a testing ground for him.
"[I'm here] just to see where I'm at hopefully," he said. "After I get some training in, I will take the test again and do a little bit better."
Having allowed two hours for the CFA, the physical fitness test portion of the RACE was completed 30 minutes early.
"That's what you get with the 101st - better than the expected standard," Dupuis said.