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Navy Recruits Will Soon Have to Prove They Can Run Before Boot Camp

Recruits run during a physical fitness assessment in the Freedom Hall Physical Fitness Facility at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois. (U.S. Navy/Scott A. Thornbloom)
Recruits run during a physical fitness assessment in the Freedom Hall Physical Fitness Facility at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois. (U.S. Navy/Scott A. Thornbloom)

Enlisting in the Navy is about to get a bit more challenging.

On Wednesday, the service announced it is creating an initial fitness test for prospective sailors on their first day of boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, male recruits must complete a one-and-a-half-mile run within 16 minutes, 10 seconds, and female recruits must complete the same run within 18 minutes, seven seconds.

If recruits can't pass the test, they won't move on to training.

The Navy is the only military service that until now has never had an initial test of fitness prior to recruit training, Lt. Sean Brophy, a spokesman for Naval Service Training Command, told Military.com.

"It's an effort to raise the bar and develop tough, more qualified sailors during basic military training to increase the lethality of the fleet overall," he said.

The change was implemented after Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander of Naval Service Training Command, realized with surprise that the Navy, alone among the services, lacked an entry-level physical standard, an official with knowledge of the process told Military.com.

According to a Navy announcement, recruits who don't make the minimum run time for the new test on first attempt can take the test again within 48 hours. If they still can't pass the test, they will be discharged with an entry-level separation.

That form of discharge allows prospective recruits to obtain a waiver from Navy Recruiting Command and apply again for enlistment if they wish to do so.

While the new standard may keep some people out, it's pretty lenient compared with the other services.

In the Marine Corps, the initial strength test includes pullups, situps, ammo can lifts, and a one-and-a-half-mile run. For male recruits, the run must be completed in 13 minutes, 30 seconds. Female recruits have 15 minutes to finish.

The Air Force requires new recruits to complete a run of the same distance in a recommended 13 minutes, 45 seconds for men and 16 minutes, one second for women. Pushups and situps are also included in the test.

The Army, which also requires pushups and situps, has prospective enlistees complete a one-mile run before they start training. Men have 8 minutes, 30 seconds for the run, while women have 10 minutes, 30 seconds.

Brophy said the Navy's standard for its new initial fitness test is based on a calculation of where recruits need to start in fitness to make a satisfactory medium, or passing, score on the physical readiness test administered at the end of boot camp.

"If recruits push themselves through eight weeks of boot camp, there's a 98 percent chance we can get them to the satisfactory medium," he said.

While challenges with meeting military recruitment quotas have prompted some services to rethink their entry standards and requirements, Brophy said officials expect this change to produce more qualified enlistees, rather than cutting into the eligible recruitment pool.

"We expect attrition due to [physical fitness assessment] failures to drop," he said.

And along with the challenge posed by the new test comes an incentive.

Recruits who achieve an "outstanding high" score on their final physical fitness assessment will be meritoriously advanced to the next rank when they graduate boot camp, officials said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.