SAN ANTONIO — The Army will roll out a new physical fitness test Jan. 3 for recruits and soldiers to reclassify to demanding combat arms jobs, the Army said Wednesday.
After delays this year, the Occupational Physical Assessment Test will be administered to new recruits interested in physically demanding specialties such as the infantry and tank crews, along with soldiers already in the service looking to change their military occupational specialty.
Recruits will take the assessment test before basic combat training, said an Army Training and Doctrine Command spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The test will help predict the ability of a recruit or a soldier to meet physical demands in those jobs.
Officials have pointed to a loss of troops who are fit enough for combat as a concern that drove development of the test. Dr. Whitfield East, a research physiologist with the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, said in a Army.mil story in June that the service loses soldiers in those roles who enter combat arms and fail to physically perform, which can cause manpower and readiness issues. The test was designed to lower attrition in demanding jobs, East said.
The Army originally planned to roll out the test in June, the Army spokesman said.
That implementation date "was pushed back so we could better evaluate and refine the assessment through testing and ensure the proper equipment was available at all testing sites around the country," he said. "Our focus is on getting this right the first time."
The test's four components are the standing long jump, the seated medicine ball power throw, the strength deadlift and the interval aerobic run, according to the Army.mil story. The jump and ball throw will be measured by distance, with the deadlift requiring soldiers to lift between 120 and 220 pounds off the ground. The run tests aerobic capacity by increasing the speed needed to run back and forth between two points that are 20 meters apart, the story stated.
The events were constructed following more than two years of research evaluating physical movement and duties of soldiers in the field, like hauling and loading a 155mm artillery round from an ammunition rack, the story stated.
Test scores are divided into four physical demand categories: heavy (black), significant (gray), moderate (gold) and unprepared (white), according to Army test scoring documents. Combat arms jobs will be restricted to recruits and soldiers who can meet the black standard by scoring high on the test.
Unlike the Army's current physical fitness test required of soldiers, the new test has universal standards and does not alter requirements based on gender and age.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered in December 2015 that all military jobs, including ones in special operations, open to women, clearing the way for female troops to serve in front-line combat roles.
The controversial shift concerned some servicemembers of a lowered standard for women entering combat arms specialties, which number about 220,000 across the military. However, the test began development ahead of Carter's decision.
The Army's first female infantry officers graduated at Fort Benning, Georgia in October, Stars and Stripes has reported. Those 10 women will receive rifle platoon leader positions next year after additional training.
The new fitness assessment test is separate from an Army Center for Initial Military Training initiative to create a physical fitness test designed to measure combat readiness, the Army spokesman said.
That test, which would measure muscular strength, power and speed, is still under development, he said.