Friday, March 11, 2011

Teaching to the Test

The U.S. Army is in the process of revamping its physical fitness tests. Sit ups are to be replaced by "rowers" and the 2 mile run with 1.5 mile run.  Also, the push up test is to be shortened from 2 minutes to 1 minute and an obstacle course with hurdles, an ammunition can carry and wounded soldier drag will be added. Army officials explained that the aim is to focus on "readiness" over simple fitness.

Regardless of the specific training program a more fit soldier, as defined by cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and strength, is more ready to deploy than a less fit soldier. However, the duties of soldiers are too broad and diverse to use the specificity principle to train all soldiers with the same program.

Perhaps all soldiers should be treated as infantry from the moment they begin boot camp: this job entails specific demands including long foot patrols with heavy packs and then being ready to sprint behind a boulder ready to return fire. This is where the value of the wounded soldier drag would prove its worth and is the best change made to the tests. Even so, do they need to be tested on this or simply be strong enough to do it when called upon?

It would not be easy, but I suppose I am arguing that it would be more effective to make boot camp and all subsequent training more like infantry school to help prepare soldiers physically for how they will be truly tested during deployments. Two questions to consider here: Is the Army saying infantry units are not fit enough? Is this more of an issue among the more sedentary combat units?

Another change is that the scoring scales will be the same for men and women. This raises an alarm because if a lot of young women can score well on the tests it means they are too easy for the young men and are not useful. I do not think our politically correct military would design a fitness test that would have  women post poor scores. Would it design tests that demonstrate women are capable of performing in combat units?

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