The British Army's new Physical Employment Standards come into effect from April 1 2019. Said to haul fitness assessments into the 21st century, the new tests have been developed to reflect the reality of the demands placed on modern soldiers.
The new holistic approach to physical training assessments means there are a lot of changes coming into force, and multiple new elements for soldiers to tackle.
In British Forces Cyprus, Physical Training staff have been getting to grips with the Soldier Conditioning Review (SCR) which will replace the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) as the gym based testing.
All Field Army personnel will be introduced to the new Soldier Conditioning Review from April 1, and WO1 Colin Suffield spoke to Jade Callaway about the elements within it and what we know about the required standards at this stage.
The standards and testing battery are still under review for the Soldier Conditioning Review, but when decided upon they will form a whole new scoring system. WO1 Suffield said:
"It won't be as simple as a pass/fail. There won't be a, in old money, 10.39 you've failed.
"There'll be a range of scores that you're gonna get. There is still a cutoff, and that range will go from a score of 1 up to 15."
It is a lot to get to grips with, but the Soldier Conditioning Review isn't the only new test coming in on April 1.
Ground Close Combat (GCC) Troops will see the biggest changes under the new physical employment standards, as the traditional eight-miler annual fitness test (AFT) is also being replaced by multiple role-related tests.
The new elements that GCC troops will face include a casualty drag weighing in at 110Kg, fire & movement simulation and a loaded march with slower pace but heavier load than current standards.
WO1 Suffield talked Jade through the Role Fitness Test (soldier) and crucially explained the rationale behind the changes: He said:
"We needed a legally defensible testing battery that we could hang a hat on for a gender-free assessment moving forward."
The Training Pipeline
ALL new British Army recruits will undertake the Role Fitness Test (Entry) [RFT(E)] prior to undertaking basic training. Beyond the point of recruitment, the standards required to pass each stage in a soldier’s career will vary depending on their role:
The Basic Training output standard will be as follows:
- Ground Close Combat (GCC) troops will need to meet Role Fitness Test (Alternative) [RFT(A)] which is roughly the same test as RFT(E) but with different standards to reflect the improved fitness gained during basic training.
- Non-Ground Close Combat (Non-GCC) troops will need to meet the existing 6-mile Annual Fitness Test standards
The Initial Trade Training output standard will be as follows:
- Ground Close Combat (GCC) troops will need to meet Role Fitness Test (Soldier) which is an advancement on RFT(A) and will represent the standards which are to be maintained throughout a soldier’s Field Army career or during subsequent trade training.
- Non-Ground Close Combat (Non-GCC) troops will need to meet the existing Annual Fitness Test standards.
During Field Army service or Subsequent Trade Training:
- Ground Close Combat (GCC) troops will need to meet Role Fitness Test (Soldier) and Soldier Conditioning Review. There will be a period of grace for the introduction of the new tests to current Field Army service personnel. From April – October 19 there will be a transition period for units to implement training of RFT(S). From October 19 - April 20 a formal testing period is introduced with all GCC to undergo testing. The failure policy will be waivered during this transitional year to April 2020, after which scores will be formally recorded and the failure policy introduced.
In the clip below WO1 Suffield gives Jade the background to how the standards are being determined, and how they might evolve further in the future.
WO1 Suffield has lots of advice on how to get prepared and what allowances are being made while you get to grips with the new system.
The new tests are coming from April 1, but WO1 Suffield says don't panic:
"From April through to October there's gonna be an open time, alright, it's gonna be a chance for you to transition, attempt the tests with no sort of failure policy."
Further Changes Are Coming
- Updated role-specific assessments are expected for Non-Ground Close Combat troops too. Underpinning research to determine what the Non-GCC test will consist of is underway and as with the RFT(S) it is being designed to be representative of military tasks. The delivery is expected in 2021 which will complete the Army-wide replacement of the current Annual Fitness Test.
- While many of the standards for the new tests have already been decided, some are yet to go firm as data is still being collected ahead of April 1. Following their implementation, it is also expected that there will be periodic reviews which could result in changes to the standards down the line.
The Reaction In Cyprus
The Physical Training staff in Cyprus experienced the new testing first-hand, so what did they make of it?
SO2 Physical Development, Major "Dougie" Douglas, says they were put through the mill but came away smiling. He said:
"If you're doing the training, you're training right, you're moving right, you're training smarter then the test will be good.
"I was sceptical of it, yes I've ached a little bit but actually it's good training and it's developing you as the athlete soldier."
After all that training, what better way to reward themselves than with fish & chips?