Unfit soldiers will be among the first to face the ax as the service begins to cut 80,000 soldiers over the next five years. (Army)
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The Army is trimming the fat.
Beginning Nov. 1, soldiers attending Professional Military Education must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test and meet height/weight standards. Those who fail will be given a second chance within seven to 24 days. Soldiers who fail a second time will be:
• Ineligible for re-enlistment and promotion.
• Booted from the course.
• Subject of a letter to the first general in their chain of command.
• Identified as a course failure on DA Form 1059.
• Banned from PME for six months. If a soldier fails again, he will be banned for a year.
The new rules are contained in Army Directive 2012-20.
Army leadership for the past year has repeated the warning that unfit soldiers would be among the first to face the ax as the service begins to cut 80,000 soldiers over the next five years. Officials are unapologetic in their plans to retain only those soldiers with the greatest potential.
As operations diminish, the Army is recommitting itself to retaining and promoting soldiers who are fit to fight and project a professional appearance.
"This is about the Army profession," said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, command sergeant major of Training and Doctrine Command. "TRADOC led a study of our profession over the last year and a half, and we consistently heard from soldiers that the Army must enforce the standard at all times — not just when it's convenient. This policy change is a big step forward for the profession."
Brig. Gen. Todd McCaffrey, director of Army Training, was more to the point.
"In 2007, when the Army was fighting two simultaneous conflicts, we instituted a physical fitness waiver for institutional training courses … regardless of temporary fitness issues or post-deployment recovery and reset cycles," he said. "We accepted this risk, rather than send an untrained or unschooled soldier back to their units."
With the war winding down, he said the Army enforces standards at the unit level and requires soldiers attending PME to meet Army Physical Fitness Test and Height/Weight standards for graduation.
That same focus was in force in the decade following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Nearly 20,000 soldiers were discharged from 1992 to 2001 for failing to meet weight standards, according to the 2009 Military Services Fitness Database report.
It is not clear how many soldiers will be affected by the new rules, but the pickings are anything but slim. More than one-third of soldiers do not meet height/weight standards, according to a 2009 report, "Military Services Fitness Database: Development of a Computerized Physical Fitness and Weight Management Database for the U.S. Army."
"PT may not be the most important thing a soldier does in a day, but it is the most important thing a soldier does every day," Dailey said.
Fat and unfit soldiers are not the only ones in jeopardy.
Soldiers with patterns of misconduct will not be retained, top leaders have said. This includes 4,877 soldiers who have committed multiple felonies while on active duty.
The Army also is taking a hard look at 78,262 criminal offenses committed by active-duty soldiers in fiscal 2011 — specifically, the 2,811 violent felonies and 28,289 nonviolent felonies.
Roughly 13,800 junior soldiers (E-1 to E-4) were responsible for 68 percent of violent felonies and 78 percent of nonviolent felonies. Noncommissioned officers (E-5 to E-6) committed 24 percent of violent felonies and 16 percent of nonviolent felonies.