Lance Cpl. Donald F. Marshall, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron Super Physical Fitness Test competitor, struggles to hold two 30 pound ammunition cans on his shoulders as he walks from the obstacle course to complete a Combat Fitness Test on June 17. (Cpl. Kyle T. Ramirez / Marine Corps)
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Get ready to run faster and push yourself harder on your next Combat Fitness Test or face the consequences next time you're up for promotion.
The highly anticipated CFT scoring system, http://www.marines.mil/news/messages/Pages/MARADMIN0476-09.aspx">outlined in Marine administrative message 476/09, will apply to all tests taken by all Marines from here on out.
The scoring system lets Marines know exactly what they need to succeed, and even lays the foundation for a little friendly competition among the ranks.
Now that it has been implemented, however, Marines will be held to higher standards when it comes to promotions and could face adverse fitness reports if they fail. A failing score also could negatively impact a Marine's selective re-enlistment bonus and other parts of his record, said Brian McGuire, the physical readiness programs analyst for Training and Education Command.
Scoring the CFT
The CFT, implemented in October, is the most significant change to the Corps' physical fitness program since 1972.
It was originally introduced as a pass/fail system where results were marked in a diary entry but did not count toward cutting scores or on fitness reports. Marines who failed the test did not face any negative consequences during the phasing-in period, as officials worked to determine the best scoring method, McGuire said.
That is no longer the case.
The CFT — performed in boots and utility uniforms — is broken down into stages, performed consecutively with brief intermissions for rest and water. It was designed to complement the Physical Fitness Test and better prepare Marines for the rigors of combat.
The CFT will be based on a three-tier, 300-point scoring system that is similar to the PFT.
Most Marines will be required to complete the first event, an 880-yard "movement to contact" sprint, in four minutes and 13 seconds or less to get the minimum points.
Up next is the ammo-can lift, in which Marines lift a 30-pound ammo can from a starting position at chest level to above the head and back down, extending both arms. Participants will be graded on the number completed in two minutes, and most Marines will have to perform at least 33 to pass.
The final stage is the 300-yard "maneuver under fire," considered the toughest part of the test. Maneuver under fire is part obstacle course, part American Gladiators, and includes sprinting, crawling, throwing a grenade and carrying a mock casualty.
Most Marines will need to complete the course in just under four minutes to meet the minimum requirements.
A minimum of 60 points is needed to pass each event, but a total of 190 points is needed overall. McGuire said the 10-point difference is intended to give Marines an incentive to push themselves beyond the minimum requirements. If a Marine fails any event, it means a failure for the entire test, even if the minimum overall requirement is met.
The scoring system for the individual events is broken down by age groups and gender. However, the zones for first, second and third class are the same for all Marines, regardless of age or gender.
For example, in order for a 20-year-old male Marine to get a 300-point perfect score, he must complete the half-mile sprint in two minutes and 45 seconds, lift the ammo can 91 times, and complete the maneuver under fire in two minutes and 14 seconds. A 20-year-old female Marine, on the other hand, must complete the half-mile sprint in three minutes and 23 seconds, do 60 repetitions in the ammo lift and complete the maneuver under fire in three minutes and one second.
Running a perfect CFT is not a requirement, even if it is a goal. All Marines need 270 points to earn a first-class rating.
CFT vs. PFT
About 10 percent of Marines failed the CFT during the six-month phase-in period that ended in March. Those 20,000 Marines caught a break under the pass/fail rules, but the new scoring system and its ties to promotions will turn up the pressure this time around.
In fact, the 190-point minimum is significantly higher than the minimum overall score required for the PFT. Additionally, older Marines won't get as much leeway when it comes to CFT classifications, which determine whether the Marine falls into first, second or third class.
On the PFT, all Marines must perform abdominal crunches and a three-mile run, while men are required to do dead-hang pull-ups and women a flexed-arm hang. The scoring system for the individual PFT events is broken down by age group and gender. The PFT classification system is broken down by age group.
So a 46-year-old Marine needs only 65 points to run a third-class PFT, compared to the 135 points required for 17- to 26-year-old Marines. But that same 46-year-old Marine needs 190 points to run a third-class CFT — the same as his much younger comrade.
The scoring system, likely to cause groans among the least fit Marines, was based on data collected during the phase-in period, McGuire said.
"The decision was made to put the 100-point mark at the 95 percentile. We can expect initially that 5 percent of Marines will max in each of the events. That's a pretty high standard," he said. "Most Marines will be on the border between first and second class. That's really all we can say now."
The CFT scoring system is effective immediately, but there will be some Marines who have not taken the test by the Aug. 20 cutoff date for the October-to-December promotion quarter. According to the message, the composite score for those corporals and junior Marines will be calculated using the old formula and they will not be penalized because they do not have a CFT score.
Those Marines with a CFT score in the books will have it included in their composite scores, manpower officials said.
As of Nov. 20 — the cutoff date for the January-to-March promotion quarter — all composite scores will be calculated using the new formula.
Beginning in January, Marines will take the PFT during the first half of the year and the CFT during the second half.
However, if Marines have already taken an official PFT before Aug. 10 for the second semiannual period, that score will be included in their composite score, officials said.
The reserve staff noncommissioned officer board will be the first to convene after the calendar year 2009 CFT reporting period ends. The fiscal 2009 staff sergeant board — already in session — and the fiscal 2010 sergeant major through master sergeant board will be conducted before the CFT is required to be completed, according to Manpower officials.
Officer promotions will follow a similar path. For the most part, very few officer fitness reports will include a CFT annotation because the most recent reporting period ended May 30, officials said.
"Those few that may have a CFT annotated in the Section I will not provide an advantage to an officer; however, a failing score may reduce the competitiveness of the officer," manpower officials said in an e-mail to Marine Corps Times. "The largest effect will be that the score is not automatically displayed in the digital board room until all electronic systems are adjusted to record the scores."
Most fiscal 2011 officer promotion selection boards will not be affected by the CFT because they will be conducted before the end of this calendar year. The active-duty captain and reserve lieutenant colonel, major, captain and chief warrant officer boards, however, will take into account the CFT because they convene after the start of the new year.
Another MarAdmin detailing how the CFT will be included in fitreps is expected out in the near future, manpower spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney said.
Manpower officials say they hope the fitness report format will be updated by early next year. In the meantime, reporting officials will still use Section I to record the class, score and date run.
McGuire said some of the changes to the way the CFT, and eventually the PFT, will be recorded will help officials analyze the data over time. For example, in the future, individual events will be recorded on fitreps instead of just the final score. The intention is to make it easier for officials to keep track of how Marines are doing on the test, he said.
"Marines will get better on this test as they do with others," McGuire said. "Over time, we'll be able to make recommendations to leadership to adjust standards to what we believe will be better performances so the challenges will remain relevant."