The U.S. Army has launched a new physical fitness test designed to determine if new recruits and soldiers can meet the physical demands of certain jobs such as infantry and armor specialties.
The Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, will be administered to all recruits as a way to assess their fitness for military occupational specialties, or MOSs.
U.S. Army Recruiting Command estimates the test will be administered each year to about 80,000 recruits and thousands of cadets.
Soldiers moving into a more physically demanding job, such as combat arms, will have to meet the corresponding physical standard, Jim Bragg, Retention and Reclassification Branch chief for U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in a recent Army press release.
Under the new test, job specialties are divided into three physical demand categories: Heavy (Black), Significant (Gray), Moderate (Gold).
The test will be administered to everyone coming into the service -- officer, enlisted, active, Reserve and National Guard, he said. It will be administered by any command responsible for soldier accessions, including Recruiting Command and U.S. Army Cadet Command after the soldier swears in but before he or she begins training.
"OPAT is not designed to turn away or weed out people from the Army," said Brian Sutton, a spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. "It is designed to put the right people in the right jobs and to ensure we keep our recruits safe while doing so."
The scoring is "gender neutral. All soldiers, male and female, must pass the same physical standards for the desired career field," he added.
OPAT measures muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, explosive power and speed. It consists of four individual tests:
- The "Standing Long Jump" is designed to assess lower-body power. Participants stand behind a take-off line with their feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. They jump as far as possible.
- The "Seated Power Throw" is designed to assess upper-body power. Participants sit on the floor with their lower back against a yoga block and upper back against a wall. They hold a 4.4-pound medicine ball with both hands, bring the medicine ball to their chest and then push or throw the medicine ball upward and outward at an approximate 45-degree angle. The throw is scored from the wall to the nearest 10 centimeters from where the ball first contacts the ground.
- The "Strength Deadlift" is designed to assess lower-body strength. Participants stand inside a hex-bar and perform practice lifts to assure good technique. Then they begin a sequence of lifts starting with 120 pounds, and working up to 220 pounds.
- The "Interval Aerobic Run," always performed last, is designed to assess aerobic capacity. The evaluation involves running "shuttles" or laps between two designated points that are spaced 20 meters apart. The running pace is synchronized with "beeps," produced by a loudspeaker, at specific intervals. As the test progresses, the time between beeps gets shorter, requiring recruits to run faster in order to complete the shuttle. Participants are scored by the level they reach and the number of shuttles they complete.
3 Fitness Categories
There are three categories of fitness in the new assessment:
- "Black" for MOSs with heavy physical demands, like those of the combat arms branches that require lifting or moving 99 pounds or more. To attain Black on the OPAT, the recruit or soldier would need to attain a minimum of 5 feet, 3 inches, for the standing long jump; 14 feet, 9 inches, for the seated power throw; 160 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:14 minute mile over the course of 43 shuttles.
- "Gray" for MOSs with significant physical demands that require frequent or constant lifting of 41 to 99 pounds and occasional tasks involving moving up to 100 pounds. To attain Gray on the OPAT, the recruit or soldier would need to attain a minimum of 4 feet, 7 inches, for the standing long jump; 13 feet, 1 inch, for the seated power throw; 140 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:20 minute mile over the course of 40 shuttles.
- "Gold" for MOSs with moderate physical demands, such as cyber, that require frequent or constant lifting of weights up to 40 pounds or when all physical demands are occasional. To attain Gold on the OPAT, the recruit or soldier would need to attain at a minimum, 3 feet, 11 inches, for the standing long jump; 11 feet, 6 inches, for the seated power throw; 120 pounds for the strength deadlift; and, a 10:27 minute mile over the course of 36 shuttles.
When a soldier wishes to reclassify to a new MOS, from the Gray category up to the Black category, then he or she would need to take the OPAT. However, if that soldier's new MOS falls within the same or lower-level category, the soldier will not need to take the OPAT, according to the release.
The soldier's commander is responsible for ensuring the OPAT is administered prior to approval of a reclassification, Bragg said. As with any reclassification action, the battalion- or brigade-level career counselor will administer the OPAT.
If a new recruit fails the OPAT, he or she can request to retake the test. If the recruit cannot eventually pass the OPAT color designator for his or her MOS, it could be possible to renegotiate the contract, allowing the recruit to go into an MOS with a lower physical demand OPAT category, the minimum being Gold, Sutton said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.