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thedrifter
12-13-08, 08:16 AM
Showing Marines a Taste of Combat

December 12, 2008
Marine Corps News|by Cpl. Aaron Rooks

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — For roughly two to three minutes while the rainfall poured down and the humidity constantly rose, the Marines saw a taste of what combat fitness is like. Within a split second of hearing the word go, every thought was solely about when it would come to an end. Exhaustion immediately kicked in, muscles quickly began to cramp and cringe, and keeping a breath became an afterthought.

Although the Marine Corps’ new Combat Fitness Test cannot truly show its men and women what combat is really like, it’s definitely a good start. The test, which is currently implemented as a pass or fail event until Sept. 30, 2009, is designed to measure the physical fitness of Marines using tests that reflect operational demands.

The CFT did just that for the Marines of Headquarters and Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), here, Dec. 10. The test not only served as a good measurement for the new exam’s quality, but it measured how prepared these individuals are for their upcoming yearlong deployment to Iraq.

“It’s a good benchmark for them to test themselves to see where they’re at physically before going into a deployed environment,” said Capt. George Camia, the H&S Company (Fwd) commanding officer. “This tests all their core strength that they’ll need when they go into harms way.”

ALMAR 032/08 identifies the changes to the Marine Corps physical fitness program. The message, released Aug. 8, states that the CFT is a three-part test with universal application developed around operational vignettes that may represent a Marine’s combat experience.

The three parts consist of an 880-yard boots and utilities run to contact, a 30-pound ammunition can lift for two minutes and a 300-yard maneuver under fire course. In this final segment, which is commonly identified as the toughest, Marines perform a series of combat related tasks to include a combat low and high crawl, an ammunition re-supply, a body drag, a casualty carry and a grenade throw.

The only words that 21-year-old disbursing clerk Cpl. Matthew Nagel could say when he completed the CFT was “tired,” repetitively. A few minutes later, the Coventry, R.I. native said this was the third time he negotiated the course. He added that the course has only become tougher each time.

“I was dying at about the middle of the fireman’s carry,” Nagel said, still struggling to catch his breath. “You get this severe burn feeling in your thighs and your feet. By the time you pick up those ammo cans, you feel like collapsing.”

Nagel is approaching his first deployment in the Marine Corps. Even though he has yet to step foot outside the states into a combat environment, he is sure the pain he felt is something that can be compared to what Marines must feel in combat.

Cpl. Katherine Meyer, a landing support specialist from Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd MLG (Fwd), brought a different perspective to the CFT. The native of Cleveland is nearing her second combat deployment to Iraq. She experienced multiple combat engagements while serving as a 240-G medium machine gun operator for convoys throughout her previous tour from August 2007 to March 2008.

Remembering her experiences in Iraq, she said the CFT is an accurate gauge for combat. She said a Marine who can’t move fast enough and has little core endurance could possibly lose their life.

“We spent all day lifting and running, and this is a good way to train for that,” Meyer said. “The fact is that anyone can be engaged in combat, so everyone needs this level of physical conditioning.”

The common opinion of the CFT matched that of Lance Cpl. Alex Fuller, a 27-year-old disbursing clerk with 2nd MLG. The Virginia Beach, Va. native said the test “clearly shows where Marines need to improve before they go to Iraq or anywhere else.

Nagel pointed out another aspect that makes the CFT even tougher for Marines to conquer. Just like in combat, the CFT forces Marines to think quickly on their feet. They have to determine when the right time is to drop to the ground, how much strength they must put into their throw and when and what direction to move from point to point. He said the test also forces Marines to remember proper technique for many of the movements.

He also added that if any of the Marines fail to correctly perform the movements stated above, they will lose time on their scores, but more importantly, they could lose their life in a real world scenario.

“The CFT is a good way to show Marines that they have to keep a calm, clear mind through combat,” Nagel explained. “In order to reach success, they have to be fully aware.”

The Marines agreed that the test will help level the promotion field as well. Common thought says that the smaller Marines always perform better in the original physical fitness test, consisting of pull-ups, crunches and a 3-mile run, than more muscular Marines.
In contrast, that thought says those same muscular Marines would usually perform better at the CFT events. The CFT fails to discriminate in size or weight classes, proving that every Marine has to reach the common goal of being combat ready.


“You’re never going to run three miles in PT gear when you’re in combat,” Meyer proclaimed. “This is more realistic.”

Camia said the results of the CFT clearly show that the Marine Corps is moving into more of a combat ready mindset, something Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway is looking for.

“You combine the CFT with the Combat Marksmanship Program, Combat Hunter, the Predeployment Training Program … This will help make a more well-rounded Marine and get them ready for combat,” Camia said, looking on as the Marines continued to negotiate the obstacles.

The Marines agreed. Meyer said the CFT will continue to push fellow comrades toward the standard that Marines have always lived to. She said in time, she hopes the Corps will beef up the CFT, suggesting that adding a rifle, then flak jackets will add more positive results and combat effectiveness.

Ellie