Last month, the U.S. Army changed
its physical training (PT) to more closely reflect the needs of combat. Instead
of long distance running, sit-ups and push-ups, the new training emphasizes
sprinting, agility and the kind of strength needed to carry weapons and
equipment in combat. The new training also uses a twelve month physical
training cycle that peaks when troops are deploying to a combat zone, or, in
peacetime, doing a year or more of "ready for deployment" status. The
more advanced stages of the new physical training has troops doing the drills
in full combat equipment. That won't be a problem, because the exercises they
will be doing are the same kinds of moves they will make in combat. This month,
the U.S. Marine Corps announced a similar program, and for the same reason.
All this is
not a new idea. It first showed up over sixty years ago, during World War II,
when army surveys of troops showed that combat veterans wish their training had
emphasized more physical training, and more realistic physical training. The
brass didn't get it back then, and after several more attempts, the combat
troops have finally gotten physical training that prepares them for combat.
The new army
physical training manual is being boiled down from 645 pages to a hundred
pages, and will be distributed by mid-2009. The new marine program starts this
year, in the form of a new "combat fitness test" the involves
lifting, running and maneuvering as one would in combat.