With the implementation of the Occupational Physical Assessment Test and the piloting of the Army Combat Readiness Test, the Army is in the midst of a push toward fitness standards that better reflect the strength and agility needed on the battlefield.
Part of that move, officials say, should start at the unit level, with a holistic approach to fitness that includes nutrition, recovery and preventive physical therapy.
“If we take a look at what professional sports teams do, we have incredible young men and women, and if it’s good enough for the National Football League or professional baseball players,” then it’s something the Army should consider, said Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff.
Army fitness is at a turning point: After decades on the push-up, sit-up and run model, the service is piloting a combat fitness test to measure whether soldiers are up to the physical challenge of battlefield tasks.
The head of the Center for Initial Military Training has floated the idea of having professional trainers and nutritionists available to every soldier, and McConville echoed that.
“They have nutritionists, they have physical trainers. They have all of those type of things,” he said, referring to pro sports teams. “And our soldiers are, in a lot of ways, like professional athletes. So we want to give them all the capability they need to stay on the field and play their position.”
About three months into his tenure as the Army’s vice chief of staff, McConville has determined his wheelhouse.
“I think the big things the chief has asked me to take on, one is the talent management system,” he said. “No. 2 is acquisition reform. With the undersecretary, he and I will lead that effort under the secretary and the chief.”
Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley tasked McConville, who most recently served as the deputy chief of staff for personnel, to stay involved with officer and noncommissioned officer talent management.
The crown jewel of the Army’s push toward talent-based assignments is the Integrated Pay and Personnel System-Army, a program that not only standardizes pay software across the active and reserve components, but compiles a 25-point profile on each soldier.
That will allow community managers to go in and search for the right soldiers to fill open jobs — taking into account each soldier’s past assignments, education, language skills and other details — as well as let soldiers search the system for open billets that would suit their profile.
McConville will also be part of the all-hands effort to revamp the Army’s modernization process, to make it more streamlined and agile.
The Army is establishing a new organization to ensure its modernization programs get the attention, thought and forward movement needed to maintain overmatch against potential adversaries in the future.
“Our process has been pretty linear, and technology is moving so fast that we kind of need to change our industrial age process so we can give soldiers the technology they need as soon as it’s available,” McConville said.