It's fair to say that the decades-old Physical Readiness Test isn't a hit with sailors.
With Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens saying it's time for making it more related to sailors' jobs, Navy Times wanted to hear your ideas about ways to improve it. Dozens wrote in with their recommendations and a hundred chimed in with their thoughts online, from calls for more command PT to modeling an occupational fitness test off that taken by the Navy SEALs.
Excerpts from readers' responses:
An obstacle course to be completed in a certain amount of time (age specific).
Honestly, if we're doing job specific, Yoga would be the most reasonable for a CT. Sitting for hours at a computer is nearly mandatory. Yoga and stretching helps. How do you test it? Maybe holding a pose, completing a pose, something along those lines. Weight lifting as well. Squats wouldn't be a bad idea. If they don't want to come up with a system of measurement for that, then basic exercises, like the ones you may have to do in an obstacle course, would be sufficient. Scaling a wall with rope. Fireman carry your buddy. Bear crawl. Over and under logs. Dash at the end. Something like that.
Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) 3rd Class Anna Vanderstouwe
Being a Master-at-Arms. I have done a lot of physical testing for police departments. I think a good operational physical test for my kind of rating would be one of an obstacle course. Here in Oregon we have a test known as the [Oregon Physical Abilities Test], which tests the endurance as well as core and upper body strength all into one test. It includes a dummy drag and a push-pull machine with this testing. A person has five minutes and 30 seconds5:30 to successfully complete this test. I would recommend you to actually look up the video for the ORPAT.
Former Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Micah Ennis
I have always thought the Navy’s PRT/Fitness could always become better. First of many things I think needs to change is the Navy guidelines on PT. I was a CFL at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and can remember how bad the PT was. We only had one mandatory day of PT and that was every Friday. This 1 to 2 mile "run" and pushups/jumping jacks/situps/squats is nowhere near enough to get any sailor ready for the PRT. For some sailors this is their only source of PT because they won’t go out on their own and PT. For this reason I believe the Navy should actually enforce the "3 days a week" PT [mandate]schedule. I personally love how the Marine Corps does their PT schedule. While being stationed with them, we always have PT every morning for at least one hour. The PT would consist of running some days, weight lifting on another, and a variation of other workouts. This is what gets the Marines ready for their annual PFT/CFT. With our PRT having less running then the United States Marine Corps I believe that if we even only had four days of mandatory PT that Sailors would truly benefit from it and become better at PT, their rate, and life in general. The health of our sailors would greatly increases and we would have more motivated and mentally ready sailors for the jobs the Navy needs. The lack of PT at any Navy command is ridiculous and needs to be changed and enforced by all through out the ranks. Once the Navy starts on that, then and only then should they look at changing the PRT and the standards for the "Bi-annual" PRT.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (FMF) Jared Reiber
For corpsmen, a modified Army Combat Field Medical test.
For office personnel, a timed two-man carry or fireman's carry down three flights of stairs.
For quartermasters, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, culinary specialists, electrician's mates and gunner's mates, QM, RM, SM, ET, MS, EM, GMM a timed Stretcher Bearer course resembling a ship's structure.
For commanding officers, executive officers, division officers, a firefighting and damage control exercise aboard a specially constructed ship anchored in port. Scoring to be assessed by damage control specialists not assigned to test takers' commands. Failure to keep ship afloat or to extinguish the fire constitutes a failure.
Retired Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW) Robert Mason
Would changing the fitness test really change the scores appreciably? Is it worth the bureaucratic headache? The current test is meant to be a measure of general fitness and does a good job at identifying "at risk" individuals. While I've seen some unhealthy folks mysteriously pass, I've NEVER seen a fit person fail. While I'd love to see pullups, 500m swim and the "sit and reach" added to the test, I don't think the Navy stands to gain much from monkeying with it. More effort needs to be spent outside of the tests on increasing our Sailors' physical activity so the PRT becomes less of a readiness issue.
Cmdr. Andrew Thaeler
1. If an individual scores an outstanding overall they do not have to take another PRT for 1 year.
2. Let individuals decide how they would like to do the cardio even no matter what with or without a medical waiver such as (use the treadmill, bike, or swim). No limitation on how to pass the cardio portion of the test.
3. No push-up and sit-ups and incorporate. (Planks for the push-ups and side planks or leg raises for sit-up portion of the test).
4.The running portion I would like to see go to 2 miles and extend the time to complete, as 1.5-mile run does not test your cardio like it should.
5. Lastly, I would like to see changed would be incentives for getting either an excellent or outstanding score on the PRT like 24 hour special liberty for an excellent or a 48 to 72 hour special liberty for an Outstanding score. This will push individuals to score better because they will know if they score good they will get time off, which is a highly motivating thing for Sailors.
Yeoman 1st Class (SW/AW) Jason Kent
Sailors said they'd like to see a test that featured the fireman's carry or one that's more modeled off the multi-part SEAL physical standards test, but with lower scoring standards. Here, sailors from various regional commands participate in a workout at Gator Beach, Coronado. Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
Photo Credit: MC2 Timothy M. Black/Navy
Do a non-PRT one time and do the PRT the next time for a one year cycle but if applicable use the Navy SEAL version, called the [physical standards test] PST which includes: 500-yards swim, Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5-mile run.
Base it near or around the current standards, but do not keep them so low that it is simple. Make it a challenge. Keep the same weight/height [body composition assessment] BCA standards, I do not agree with raising the ceiling. It only lets some one have that comfortability if they are too close.
I myself am working to get in better shape, but I feel by 2018 these changes should be made. And if [a sailor is] not able to do the swim due to medical reasons or a reasonable waiver, then do the regular PRT.
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Justin Green
While job- specific PRT's would be ideal, how can we go about deciding which job needs more or less physical conditioning than others with regards to shipboard life? In general we can say that a majority of the rates do not need much physical conditioning at all to perform their duties ( e.g. culinary specialists, yeoman, personnel specialists, religious programs specialists, operations specialists and so on) ie...CS,YN,PS,RP,OS,and so on). What do we do for these sailors, just a baseline PRT like we have now?
That seems reasonable, I suppose. But I do believe that having any shipboard personnel should be capable of performing the equivalent to a firefighters' physical fitness test as the civilians have; after all, "every sailor is a firefighter." But I'd bet most shipboard personnel couldn't perform a cardio event of carrying a coiled firehose up five decks in [firefighting ensemble] an FFE like they may have to do in a real situation. REAL SITUATION!
There isn't an "alternative cardio event" during a shipboard fire or general quarters. People's lives and the ship itself could be at stake! And speaking of "alternative cardio events," I think that the alternative cardio events are absolutely abused and should not be allowed for anyone who doesn't have a documented injury or condition. Everyone in the Navy knows that if you're overweight or out of shape you can jump on the bicycle or elliptical without any training and pass your PRT.
Are we really to believe that someone who can't pass the run time which is a snail's pace magically gets in the equivalent cardiovascular
shape when they jump on the bike or elliptical? Not a chance. There's a reason why the alternative cardio events are full of people that can barely pass the BCA. I guarantee the statistics support that.
Another important concern I have with the PRT is that the Navy has essentially allowed their sailors to perform to the minimum standard and said they are "OK" with it. These are pass/fail events. There is no incentive for doing well. A person with no self-motivation that gets one of his friends to lie about his numbers and barely passes the test is essentially an equal sailor to someone who takes the extra time and effort to get an excellent, outstanding, or maximum. How does that make sense in any legitimate company or organization? It doesn't.
Instead of a ridiculous ribbon, why not make how well you do on the PRT part of the evaluation grading process, or perhaps test taking? Put the PRT as an individual block on the eval on the 1.0-5.0 scale and have it reflect on the summary group average, or you could also award points on the test. Nothing for "good" or below. One point for an excellent, two points for an outstanding, three for a maximum, or something similar to that.
The most important issue with the PRT unfortunately is the widespread cheating that goes on during the tests. Range of motion is too subjective and too many friends get to count for each other, not only that but the pressure on junior sailors who are counting for E7 and above results in the senior sailors getting extra room for error we'll call it. But I can almost guarantee that if you were to make objective standards for pushups and sit ups and filmed everyone and counted after the fact, over 50% of the Navy wouldn't pass the minimum standard.
I appreciate your taking the time to read this and if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further I would be more than happy too!
NOTE: NAME AND RANK NEEDED/SF
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (DV) Christopher Ward