In the past few months, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) has generated controversy with his skills/job based physical fitness test proposals. I would like to provide some background and suggested tests that might apply not only to military jobs, but the civilian world as well.
A little background is in order. While I am currently fatter than two of you put together (*in many cases*) I was once a young man with an abundance of muscle and an enormous neck. I could lift more weight, pass cases of goods from the helicopter, tote heavy seabags long distances, and generally out-goon almost anybody you knew. I was strong.
Alas, I was also very slow. I was a man designed to provide strength, not swiftness. As a result, I failed the annual triple event physical fitness test on a few occasions. The events were run, jump, puke. Not always in that order. Seriously, it was pushups, sit-ups, and a run. I could hammer out the sit-ups and pushups, but the run was a huge challenge. Mental as much as phsyical, I hated running. All of this frivolity was followed by a neck and waist measurement so that skinny little admin weasels could tell me that I was a fat blob. (I may be remembering that from a skewed perspective…)
I hated the PRT (Physical Readiness Test) and all that it meant: my not getting promoted if I kept failing the stupid thing. This lead to some, er, a lot of cheating on my part. I think the statute of limitations on this is now past it’s enforcement date. I hereby admit that I cheated like a drunken card-shark in Vegas on a losing streak. Anything to pass that test. My proudest moment of dishonesty was when the base at Rota, Spain, put in a track. There wasn’t enough room to make it a full 1/4 mile oval. Thankfully some genius decided that a figure 8 shaped track would do just as well. I liked that track. I could easily merge with the herd entering the bottom half and skip the top half if I gave a glance toward the monitors before “blending.” The trick was to only do it once or twice during the test lest I be too fast. I was always close, within 30 seconds to two minutes of making the run in the allotted time. That 1/2 a loop made all the difference.
My favorite excuse was that I was deployed, or just coming back from a deployment, when they had the test. Nobody expected me to get out in the Spanish sun and run after spending the last 30 days cooped up on a submarine. By the time they could reschedule the test, I was back out at sea. That worked for a couple of tests. Kept me out of jail (remedial physical fitness) which was just an excuse for some sadistic clown that was up for Chief lording it over all of the “fat bodies” for 45 minutes twice a week. The good thing was that they were so busy tormenting some soul that they never noticed me slipping out for a smoke after ten minutes and returning just in time for a shower.
I’ll admit I didn’t play by the rules, but I always contended that I didn’t have very far to run on a Los Angeles class submarine. Secondly, when it came to the fun-filled event known as replenishment, I was a superstar. This is an activity that consists of several helicopter crews, and a ship next to you, dropping cargo on your deck at an ever increasing pace. Usually conducted in such a manner as to make the Captain of the ship a raving Ahab because of potential collision with the fueling ship, and the great chance that one of those escaped lunatics piloting the helicopter will catch their pallet and sling on the ship and consequently crash into the poor fools waiting to carry the cargo away like a trail of hungry ants.
I could handle that all day. It was strength work. More than once I worked some other sailor who had a perfect PRT score into a coma by handing them boxes. They had to quit. I stuck it out until we were done. Never failed. Strong like bull.
Finally, before I propose the tests, I could never see the relationship between my very nerdy job (Cryptoligic Linguist) and running. Unless somebody was trying to abduct me, I was going to stand and fight it out. Kidnap teams of my nightmares might provoke a run. But that was about it.
On to the tests:
Cryptologic Technician Interpretive – climb a ship’s ladder while holding 4 cups of hot coffee, spilling none when the ladder is tilted to simulate the submarine changing depth. This is a timed event, because you are actually supposed to be manning your equipment. Add 1 second to the time for each drop of coffee spilled.
Author: this is a combination test. You must carry three reams of paper in one hand while balancing a pastry and a cup of tea on top of the pile. During the 10 meter event, you have to tap the blue-tooth for your phone, step over the dog, and mute the television.
Electronics Technician: while complaining that nobody appreciates you, you have to stick your hand into an energized cabinet and be mildly electrocuted. After the shock wears off, you must spring to your feet and declare, “That’s nothing. One time…” without any evidence of tardive dyskinesia.
Editor: in this test, the individual must curse under their breath for three hours while scrolling through a document on the computer. Every 18 seconds they MUST find an error, or insert a comment bound to make the author cry. During this test, they must pace back and forth, cover a minimum of 1/3 mile during the thirty minute evolution.
Cryptologic Technician Collection: in this event you must sit rigidly in your chair, glare at the computer screen in front of you while listening to static on the headphones you wear at a high level of volume. Every minute, without fail, you must leap to your feet, knocking the chair over and proclaim: “I could have been an “I” brancher but my recruiter was a moron!” Pickup chair, regain your seat, and repeat. Duration of test is 2 hours.
Ship’s Serviceman: This is the most demanding of the tests by far. You must give a shipmate a bad haircut, do his laundry, “lose” 1 expensive watch from the ship’s store, and collect bribes from the rest of the crew for stocking “their” brands of soda pop and snacks in the store. All of these events are combined with running up and down ladders with a clipboard and an urgent sense of purpose and declaring, “Chief, honest: that cash balanced when I left the register.” This is a timed event as well, all events must be completed in 1 hour, including 8 trips from the bowels of the ship to the combat center. It is permissible to fake the ladder event, and instead hide in a fan closet drinking scotch.
I would like to describe some other events, but I’m pretty sure I’ve ticked off most of the Navy by now, so I’ll just call it a day.
We all had jobs to do: but only the SEABEES and the SEALS had to run. The rest of us had our own crosses to bear.
Have a great, Navy day.
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