Tuesday, April 25, 2006

PT Test in a Combat Environment

Summary: With all the extracurricular activity going on in a combat environment, it's been about a year since we've taken a PT test. I'm sure 11-B's don't have to worry much about lagging physical fitness, but for a 13-D like me, it's good to know that I'm still in shape.

It's been about a year since the last PT test we took in Camp Shelby, Mississippi before we deployed to Iraq. Since then I've stood in a guard tower for four months, drove around in a patrol humvee for four months, and I'm now sitting in an artillery fire direction center. You might expect I was a little worried when it was announced that our firing battery would be taking a PT test while in country.

Whether it's boredom or stress that I've had to deal with, a little bit of physical activity goes a long way to keeping me mentally sane. But so has a spike in Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper consumption on many late nights doing such things as waiting to see whether that tanker filled with TNT actually will come for our Forward Operating Base (FOB).

Like cramming for a college test, the last couple of weeks I got a little bit more serious about getting ready for the test, because I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and would hate to do worse than I did last time. I think my score would have been about the same as last year,but since I'm 42 now, I moved up a bracket and my maximums dropped by about 6 pushups, 6 situps, and 30 seconds on the run. So I actually got a better score than a year ago. I did 1 more pushup than my new maximum, missed maxing the situps by 5, and missed maxing the run by 1 minute 14 seconds.

There are certain differences about running 2 miles in a combat environment. Our artillery got off a couple of counterfire rounds during my 2-mile test run--when my heart rate was already above my suggested age-max of 160 beats per minute, so that can't be good. And there are certain places on the FOB that you can't run because they are good avenues of fire for any snipers that might be lurking.

I've heard, but haven't seen it, that somewhere there is an exemption from doing the PT test while you're in a combat zone. I'm glad we did it, because I like to know where I stand. But there are a couple guys in my unit who made it very clear that they were extremely put out by not being granted the exemption, and they did a 'protest test' of sorts by doing only 1 pushup and 1 situp. I think one of the guys' protest was a weakly disguised attempt to hide miserable PT failure, because his boredom/stress reduction regimen has included (1) hitting the rack (laying in his bunk) and (2) eating snacks.

I guess it looks like my boredom/stress reduction visits to the gym have been paying off. There is another incentive, too: I'm in a contest with my wife to see who looks the most fit and trim when I get back to the States. My opinion is there's no question that she'll win, by the way. It's nice to think, though, that she has the same opinion about me.

Like after every of of the 40 or so PT tests I've done over the years, I again pledge that I will do more pushups, more situps, and run farther than any soldier has ever done or run before. Time will tell: we'll see whether I meet my objectives when the next PT test rolls around in 6 months.


Matt said...

Even if I was used to the sound of artilery fire, I must say, hearing it go off when doing PT (like running, even though I am thin but out of shape) might cause me to have a heart attack. I'm glad it didn't happen to you.

Frank Staheli said...

Twenty years ago I had a hard time with it, especially trying to sleep through it, but I've even gotten able to determine if the boom I just heard is our guns shooting versus incoming rockets.

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mark2 said...

1st...i enjoyed the sound of artillery,but as i am extremely younger i don't have too much to worry about the heart as you do.
2nd....i do have a problem with pt as every time i run my heart will go over 200 and i've been told its bad and i'm sure it is as i'm only 25...
3rd is there any proof of it not being mandatory to do pt in a combat zone?i am asking not only for myself but for every e-5 in my unit as we are all irr called back to duty,so in all reality,when we get back to the states we are out of the army again.if you have found the source stating such would you please help us?

Frank Staheli said...

I don't really know the official story. I suspect that the exemption was a rumor that got started by some of the guys in my unit. I didn't find anything with a google search (military "physical fitness" test "combat exception").