WEST POINT, N.Y. – In 1852, the U.S. Military Academy implemented the first Army fitness test, a program that included gymnastics, calisthenics, swimming and fencing. Fast forward to 1980 when the Army Physical Fitness Test, including push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, became the standard.
Depending on your age and gender, a Soldier would qualify by achieving a passing score out of 300 possible points; a standard which most Soldiers and officers are all too familiar.
The Present and Future Army
Today, the Army is progressing at rapid rates. Within the last year, the first female Rangers were introduced and all Military Occupational Specialties have become open to everyone.
As the evolution of the Army continues, the standards must do so as well.
Thirty-six years after the implementation of the APFT, the Occupational Physical Assessment Test has been added in order to effectively screen prospective Soldiers.
Soldiers entering the Army and first-class cadets are required to complete the OPAT to join the Army and to help determine their MOSs.
In addition to completing the OPAT, they must still perform the APFT yearly as a measurement of their muscular and aerobic endurance.
“The OPAT is a series of physical performance tests used to assess a Soldier’s physical capabilities to serve in different branches,” Maj. Russ Nowels, deputy director of the Department of Physical Education at the U.S. Military Academy, said. “It provides measurements of upper- and lower-body muscular strength, endurance, power output and aerobic capacity.”
Specifically, the test includes the Standing Long Jump, Seated Power Throw, Strength Deadlift and the Interval Aerobic Run (beep test).
“The intent is that the standards will be gender and age neutral, so any new recruit whether they’re 18 or 28 coming in, same with officers, they’ll be assessed on the same criteria, same standards, ” Nowels said. “I think it’s a much more complete measure of an individual’s skills or physical fitness.”
“The APFT is a long-term test that has been good for measuring muscular and aerobic endurance but (the OPAT) provides upper and lower body assessment for power, strength and endurance all in one test,” Nowels said.
The OPAT will act as a physical Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and because the OPAT is linked to Army readiness, the hope is that testing like this will help improve Soldier 2020.
“Soldier 2020 is about a standards-based Army,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey said when he was the Training and Doctrine Command senior advisor in 2013. “Our work will allow us to match the right Soldiers– regardless of whether they are men or women–to jobs that best correspond to their abilities. This makes for a stronger Army and allows all Soldiers to best reach their full potential.”
The United States Military Academy
The Department of Physical Education (DPE) has taken the lead to help cadets mold into Soldier 2020.
DPE is continually inviting staff, faculty and cadets to participate in the OPAT testing practice to familiarize everyone with the standards of Soldier 2020.
In fact, the Class of 2017 will likely be the first class to use the OPAT testing for branching purposes.
“TRADOC is interested in applying this test to officer accessions,” Nowels said. “So USMA is conducting pilot tests to groups of cadets as part of the overall Army effort to exercise and refine the OPAT process prior to the final decision to implement beginning on June 1, 2016.”
As of right now, the specific standards have not been released.