The PFA is dead. Long live the PFA!

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
RMT 1 ~ Loaded March: Part 1 carrying 40kg over four kilometres in under 50 minutes
I am guessing this is pretty much patrol pace?
???

No. Patrol pace is about 1k an hour on foot. Perhaps up to 2k an hour if it's an insertion / extraction on good terrain, under time pressure and in a low threat environment. Even with all the waffle going on about how the Army and war has changed and nobody will carry weight or whatever anymore, it's still going to be about 1k an hour. That pace is dictated by drills, route planning and tactical movement SOPs, not fitness. It soaks up time to do snap ambushes, map checks, point recces, obstacle crossings, maneuvering multiples and so on. And that's before you get into CIED or urban drills, which slow everything down to a crawl.

Assuming your handle is some sort of reflection of reality, how can you be any kind of NCO without knowing that? Do our private soldiers not do any soldiering anymore?
 
The position could hardly have been made clearer on MODNET and in MoD public statements and media briefings.

PES for GCC units are being introduced now, following the trials, to be complete by April, while the PES for the remainder of the Army and entry standards for new recruits will be introduced later this year and in place in 2020.

That women are already allowed in GCC roles in the RAC is totally irrelevant to whether changes from the old PFA to new PES on promotion courses have to have already taken place as, even for a superstar, none will yet be eligible for those courses.

I can't help being amused by the Major / Army Sergeant Major's clutching at straws claim that “I’ve got plenty of combat experience. I’ve never done a sit-up on the battlefield, but I have dragged casualties. I’ve never done a push-up on the battlefield, but I have been expected to lift and carry repeatedly ...The new stuff is representative of what I need our soldiers to do” and the suggestion that "the new tests are clearly not some “watering down of the old AFT and PFA to suit girls” as some dinosaurs have been ranting on t’internet." when the unavoidable reality is that the tests simply don't "represent" what they're supposed to and while the PES may not have been 'watered down to suit girls' it's beyond any possible doubt they've been watered down to suit everyone, male or female, young or old.

The bar, like it or not, has been put absurdly low, whether some here like to acknowledge that or not, and the tests are a far lower standard than both the AFT and PFA and the tasks they're supposed to represent.

To quantify the tests in detail:

RMT 1 ~ Loaded March: Part 1 carrying 40kg over four kilometres in under 50 minutes and Part 2 carrying 25kg over two kilometres in under 15 minutes.

Part 1: The load is similar to that carried by inf on the AFT / CFT, as the overall weight now includes weapon, weapon ancillaries, helmet and water which were previously carried but excluded from the set weight, but it's less than a third the distance of the AFT / CFT (4 kms instead of 13), over considerably easier terrain (flat easy going instead of mixed) and considerably slower (20%: 4.8 kph instead of 6 kph).

Part 2: The load is considerably less than that carried on the AFT / CFT so effectively little more than 'skeleton order', for a shorter distance than the BFT / PFT (2 kms instead of 2.4 kms) at 8 kph, while the BFT had to be run at 12.5 kph in boots and denims and the CFT at 6 kph for 13 kms carrying over 10 kgs more over considerably harder terrain.

That's a measurable "watering down" of RMT 1 of at least 30%, however it's dressed up, so the equivalent of running a PFA in over 13 minutes instead of ten, or scoring 200 instead of 300.

RMT 2 ~ Fire & Movement: Part 1, cover 150 metres in 7.5 metre bounds in under 5mins20 and Part 2, crawl 15 metres then spring 15 metres in under 55 seconds.

The Maj / ASM may well have plenty of combat experience and never done a sit up or a press up on a battlefield, but I doubt he or any one else has ever done fire and movement on a battlefield that was a sports pitch. Totally unrealistic, and far from physically demanding. A far more realistic and demanding standardised course could have been made very easily with the addition of a mix of benches and boxes.

RMT 3 ~ Casualty Drag: Pull a 110kg for 20 metres in under 35 seconds.

The 110 kg drag-bag simply doesn't represent the weight or difficulty of moving a fully dressed and equipped battlefield casualty with 40 kgs of kit. Another unrealistic test.

RMT 4 ~ Water Carry: Move two 22kg jerrycans, as a pair and not individually, a total of 240 metres in under four minutes.

The test is supposed to represent carrying "half an 88 kg stretcher for evacuation". It doesn't, even remotely, and even an infantry recruit is required to carry the same two jerrycans 150 m in two minutes, so less distance but at a faster speed, before doing any physical training at all. Carrying two jerry cans is nothing like carrying a casualty on a stretcher, particularly when you can put the jerrycans down every few metres and still easily pass the test.

RMT 5 ~ Vehicle Casualty Extraction: Lift a 70kg dead weight and hold for three seconds.

70 kgs is below the average weight, even without uniform and kit, and the lift is effectively nothing more than a deadlift. Anyone who could only pass that as a maximum would never be able to extract an average casualty from a vehicle roof hatch. The test is inadequate.

RMT 6 ~ Repeated Lift & Carry: Move twenty 20kg burdens, without handles, over 30 metres each and lift over 1.4 metres vertically in under 14 minutes.

The "burdens" are 20 kg powerbags, supposed to represent sandbags or ammunition boxes. These are lighter than the power bags lifted for initial recruit assessment, which start at 15 kgs and increase in 5 kg increments to 40 kgs (a 40 kg lift is required for an infantry recruit), and which have to be lifted slightly higher (1.45m instead of 1.4m), so this is no harder than a recruit is required to do before even starting training. While 20 kgs is a similar weight to sandbags or ammunition boxes, powerbags are far easier to lift and carry and sandbags and ammunition boxes are readily available. Another totally unrealistic test, for which there is no excuse as sandbags and ammunition boxes are more readily available than powerbags.

I'm not a dinosaur blaming women for the watering down of standards, but I'm happy to be a dinosaur ranting about the watering down of fitness standards which women are inevitably being used as the excuse for. The standards are simply unacceptly and absurdly low, with some barely above infantry recruit standard, and some tests don't even test to the level they're supposed to.

Equally disappointing and equally important, although no-one's mentioned it here, is that while the Army's happy to make fitness the individual soldier's personal responsibility it's now removed the major incentive for anyone to train for and do more than the minimum. While the BFT, PFT, PFA, Step Test, Beep Test, etc, all gave soldiers the incentive to compete, to train harder and do better, to get a faster run time or a higher score, the new PES doesn't just not give that incentive but it doesn't even allow for anything more than the minimum to be measured. The tests should, and could, have been a major step forward in measuring fitness and setting realistic standards; instead, they're just window dressing.
I don't disagree with you at all, but I do think this is a step in the right direction- the old 8 miler could be argued to be a similarly pointless (and dull) test. It really only tested 1 thing. The PFA was so basic that it was also pointless.
As someone else has said, times have changed and the Army must move on, the first edition may not be perfect but it can be changed.
 
I don't disagree with you at all, but I do think this is a step in the right direction- the old 8 miler could be argued to be a similarly pointless (and dull) test. It really only tested 1 thing. The PFA was so basic that it was also pointless.
As someone else has said, times have changed and the Army must move on, the first edition may not be perfect but it can be changed.
I think I've said that - repeatedly!

All I'd disagree with is that "times have changed" as if that justifies not having had relevant tests for half a century and as if there's some sort of recent change to GCC that has made the change necessary. There isn't.

Development of these tests, though, has taken three years of studies by internal and external experts and extensive trials. It's one thing to get the tests so absurdly wrong, using powerbags to represent sandbags and ammunition boxes, etc, but it's a very different thing to set the standard so abysmally low that it makes the whole exercise not just pointless but counter-productive.
 
For once I'm with John.

The key is what standard the assessments are set at. Technically RAPTC said that the initial standards were there to be monitored and were provisional until set standards could be agreed but I don't know anyone who reckons they will increase as a result of rolling PES across all of GCC.

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I think I've said that - repeatedly!

All I'd disagree with is that "times have changed" as if that justifies not having had relevant tests for half a century and as if there's some sort of recent change to GCC that has made the change necessary. There isn't.

Development of these tests, though, has taken three years of studies by internal and external experts and extensive trials. It's one thing to get the tests so absurdly wrong, using powerbags to represent sandbags and ammunition boxes, etc, but it's a very different thing to set the standard so abysmally low that it makes the whole exercise not just pointless but counter-productive.
You probs have said that repeatedly, I'm cutting in at page 30 and fcuked if I'm reading every post!
I agree that it isn't perfect, but neither was the old system. How would you change the new tests? Add a stretcher carry for example? Up the weights on each test?
 
???

No. Patrol pace is about 1k an hour on foot. Perhaps up to 2k an hour if it's an insertion / extraction on good terrain, under time pressure and in a low threat environment. Even with all the waffle going on about how the Army and war has changed and nobody will carry weight or whatever anymore, it's still going to be about 1k an hour. That pace is dictated by drills, route planning and tactical movement SOPs, not fitness. It soaks up time to do snap ambushes, map checks, point recces, obstacle crossings, maneuvering multiples and so on. And that's before you get into CIED or urban drills, which slow everything down to a crawl.

Assuming your handle is some sort of reflection of reality, how can you be any kind of NCO without knowing that? Do our private soldiers not do any soldiering anymore?
In @lrlsgt's defence, I think you and he may be talking about different things, as the CFT / AFT / RMT 1, etc were never meant to be at 'patrol pace' in open terrain, which is what I'd suggest your 1 - 2 kms an hour is about, but it's the pace for an unopposed advance to battle, nothing more.

As for the suggestion that there's any sort of 'standard' patrol pace of 1 - 2 kms an hour, I'd disagree with that and could take you to task over it as strongly as you have @lrlsgt, asking you exactly the same sort of questions. I've done operational patrols on Banner in Belfast, Londonderry and Armagh where it would have been inviting trouble and casualties to go at any less than 4 or 5 kph; I've done others in the desert where movement was only possible at night, and we had to move at a similar speed to cover the ground; and I've done others in the jungle in the Far East where, however fit you were, you may be lucky to cover more than 1 or 2 k's in a day, not an hour.

There can't be any rules about speed, and the PES should be seen as a test of fitness, nothing more.
 
You probs have said that repeatedly, I'm cutting in at page 30 and fcuked if I'm reading every post!
I agree that it isn't perfect, but neither was the old system. How would you change the new tests? Add a stretcher carry for example? Up the weights on each test?
I think you've already answered your own question on the relevance of the tests by your example - there already is a stretcher carry, but it's absurdly 'represented' not by carrying a stretcher but by carrying a couple of jerrycans of water 240m in 4 mins, putting them down as often as you like on the way.

No connection with what it 'represents' at all, requiring very different skills and strengths. What's wrong with two men carrying a stretcher with 4x20kg sandbags on it? Limited to putting the stretcher down once? One or both fail and drop the stretcher and after 5 minutes you get another try with a different partner, carrying a different end of the stretcher. Three fails and you fail the test. This isn't complicated, FFS!

Ditto for lifting and carrying ammo boxes and sandbags - why use powerbags to 'represent' sandbags and ammo boxes when the Army has plenty of each? It's just absurd!

... and why do fire and manoeuvre across a football pitch? You could at least add some benches and boxes to give some physical challenge while keeping the test standardised and minimising specialist equipment.

It's not complicated!

My biggest issue with the PES, though, is the standard set by distance / speed / time / weight / etc which is just absurdly low. Most recruits could pass most of it at the selection stage (and I mean 'most' as 95% of male recruits pass at infantry recruit standard). Is that really the standard fully trained infantry should be at? Little better than day 1 recruits?

... and if those standards represent what the infantry are expected to do in the field, where's the incentive for them to do any better, particularly when fitness is a personal responsibility and that's all they have to aim for?

Women and 'snowflakes' will be blamed, but the blame can only lie with those who set the standard and commanders (at all levels) who accept it. The PES, combined with the changes in training methods from Thor, should have been not just a step in the right direction but a massive leap to get away from the mistakes the Army's made for the last few decades but the opportunity's been wasted.
 
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