By Jon Dougherty
An esprit de corps and warrior mentality is returning to the American armed forces, thanks in large part to the warfighters POTUS Donald Trump has turned loose at the Pentagon.
The U.S. Army, in particular, is getting a toughness and readiness ‘upgrade,’ which is excellent because our ground pounders make up the military’s largest branch and will be needed post haste to blunt Russian or Chinese formations should the balloon go up for World War III.
Already the Army is introducing a new physical fitness test — the APFT, or Army Physical Fitness Test — that replaces the Cold War-era pushups, situps, and 2-mile run test with a six-event regimen that keeps the run.
Called the Army Combat Fitness Test, it consists of, according to Army Times:
- Deadlift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. You must do three reps in five minutes.
- Two-minute rest.
- Standing power throw. You’ll be required to toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. You’ll have three minutes to make one practice throw and two for a grade. The longest distance is recorded.
- Two-minute rest.
- Hand-release push-ups. You lower your chest to the floor and lift your hands off the ground between each rep. You’ll be required to do the most reps in three minutes.
- Two-minute rest.
- Sprint-drag-carry. In four minutes, you will go 25 meters out and 25 meters back five times. Each iteration will include a different activity: sprint, drag a sled, run a lateral shuffle, carry two 40-pound kettlebells, then sprint again.
- Two-minute rest.
- Leg tuck. You will be required to hang from a pull-up bar and with your body parallel, then pull knees to your elbows for as many reps as possible in two minutes.
- Five-minute rest.
- Two-mile run on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute maximum.
“This is a generational, cultural change in fitness for the United States Army, and will be a cornerstone of individual soldier combat readiness,” Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost said. “That’s how big this is for the Army.”
“We need to look at that ‘band of excellence,’ where we kind of want soldiers to land, but we need them there in every event,” Whitfield East, a Center for Initial Military Training research physiologist, told Army Times in October. “So, what we’ve seen so far is we have individuals who do very well at aerobic events and very well at strength and power events ― we need soldiers to do well in all events.”
What’s more, there will be no more accounting for age or sexual differences; the performance standards will be the same for males and females, for raw 18-year-old recruits and salty 50-year-old sergeants major. As any vet will tell you, that change alone is huge.
So, in addition to fitter soldiers more able to adapt and operate on today’s modern, fast-moving battlefields, the Army needs its personnel to be more lethal as well.
As such, a “shortcut” to standard rifle qualification will also be eliminated, according to Army leaders, because it’s made soldiers far less accurate with their weapons.
The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.
Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.
The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.
The new standards will eliminate the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, which “is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters,” Military.com reported.
The problem is that the 5.56 mm bullet fired by the M-4 carbine and M-16 rifles comes out extremely flat, unaffected by wind or other elements, at just 25 meters. So troops aren’t getting an accurate measure of their true level of marksmanship.
“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, said.
“That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case,” he added.
For the new marksmanship test, troops will still have only 40 rounds to engage 40 targets. But, as Military.com reports:
…[T]he new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.
The president’s generals have taken stock of our military and are fixing areas where problems have been identified. Being ‘PC’ is no longer the priority; being lethal and effective is the new order of the day in POTUS Trump’s military, as evidenced by these and other changes.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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