Every soldier from private to General must possess the physical stamina to fight well past the accepted limits of human endurance. There will be no opportunity to catch a breath. Outstanding physical condition is a necessary state of being for a fighting man.
This quotation was written by an American Infantry General and was taken from a speech by Major General K Spacie OBE, Director of Army Training on 24th September 1985, to the Army Physical Training Corps.
It is accepted that great physical demands will be made upon soldiers in the heat of battle. The test that the British Army uses to determine whether or not a soldier is at a satisfactory level of fitness to carry out his job is the 4.8 km (3 miles) Basic Fitness Test (B.F.T) stagged in two parts.
In light of the various specialist roles in the Army today, and with the integration of females within the service, the efficacy of the current Army Training Directive No. 7 (ATD 7) mandatory biannual BFT shall be critically discussed in this assignment.
One day in the early 1970's the Colonel Commandant of the Army Physical Training Corp (APTC) General Sir Cecil Blacker saw a group of soldiers in Aldershot, he was concerned that the majority looked overweight to the point of obesity, he immediately tasked the Army Personnel Research Centre (APRE) based at Farnborough to carry out an intense survey into physical fitness within the British Army.
This survey was carried out from April 1972 until November 1974 and was broken down into two parts, these consisted of a recruits survey and a cross sectional survey, the results of all these tests concluded that 45% of those tested were classified as physically fit, 16% classified as definitely unfit and 41% classified as obese. (APRE Report)
Due to the above results ATD No.7 was published and basic fitness testing in the Army was founded in the form of an efficiency test carried out annually.
The fit to fight working party was established in 1975 following the emergency in Cyprus where there was a concern for the standard physical fitness within the Army. Large numbers of soldiers were found to be overweight and the physical efficiency test for the under 40's did nothing to motivate the soldiers to maintain a good level of physical fitness. (Captain N J Springell 1977) It was in March 1976 that the biannual BFT was formed consisting of seven different BFTs for military personnel less than 50 years of age. It was decided that for a unit to be classed as physically fit it should have a 90% pass rate of soldiers participating in this test. (Later changed to 95%). It was also recommended that the BFT should be solely a test of endurance.
It was decided that because most military duties were performed in combat boots then the BFT should also be carried out in combat boots. Due to research compiled by APRE the wearing of training shoes was introduced in March 1990 after they had found that too much running in combat boots contributed to lower limb injuries.
Following these changes it was found appropriate to change the timings of the test, these have since changed on numerous occasions over the years and are currently 15 min for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) followed immediately by a timed best individual effort over 1.5 miles. The pass standard today of male soldiers less than 30 years of age is 10 minutes and 30 second and the female pass standard is 12 minutes and 30 seconds.
The BFT is a version of the Cooper 12 minute run test, where the distance is measured after 12 minutes running, depending on the distance covered equates to different levels of fitness it is much easier to run people over a fixed distance and measure the time taken, which is why the Army has adopted this method of testing its soldiers.
The BFT of today is still, what it was recommended it should be back in 1976, a test solely of endurance. It is also said to...
References: Springell NJ 1977 Fit to Fight Working Party APTC Journal 1977
1986 Physiology and Performance National Coaching Foundation
Spacie K 1985 Battle Fitness APTC Journal 1985
Janssen P 1987 Training Lactate Pulse Rate
1994 Sports Injury Clinic Pelham Books
Brook N 1987 Endurance Running
Hazeldine R 1988 Multistage Fitness Test National Coaching Foundation
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