Military & Aerospace

A Reasoned And Well Thought Out Approach Towards Fitness In The Army - Musings From A Veterans' Mental Library
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 26 Feb , 2024

Backgrounds

A recent story in the print media, made a very caustic observation on the physical fitness standards of the Army and lifestyle diseases, which is whittling its human capital. To arrest this trend , of falling standards and diseases it has been reported that, in a knee jerk response to the situation, the higher authorities have instituted measures, in terms of two additional tests of 10 kms Speed March and 32 kms Endurance March over and above the existing battery of Physical Proficieny and Battle Physical Efficiency Tests. These will be conducted biannually and those who fail the tests will be meted out with certain administrative restrictions and professional actions like stoppage of authorised leave, not allowed to attend Army courses or else proceed on any Temporary Duty ( TD) and failure to pass tests will also get reflected in the Annual Confidential Report ( ACR) of concerned persons. This, more as a punitive action and as a deterrence for not keeping fit. It is also mentioned that all personnel who are eligible to take these tests , in terms of their age and health profile (SHAPE) will maintain a personal health record, Army Physical Assessment Card (APAC). The reportfurther informs that, all physical assessment tests will be assessed by a Board of Officers (BOO) comprising a Brigadier ,two Colonels, other than the CO of the personnel being tested and a Medical Office (MO). The Army is taking a feedback from Commands on its proposal and once received, will thereafter decide on its course of action based on the same and if required review, amend , and course correct the proposal and finally implement it, mutatis mutandis. 

Proposal 

However, it is my personal view and which is backed by my professional experience of more than 25 years in the field of fitness is that there is a need to revisit the issue as reported by the print media, and undertake a holistic review of our Physical Training (PT) system, to meet the needs of the Army both in peace and war alike. There is a crying need to overhaul things and make fitness a habit , not by punitive and excessive actions, and knee jerk responses to meet the challenges which get thrown up from time to time; but instead by well thought out and deliberated measures by strategising for the philosophy and psychology of fitness.  

The Army Physical Training Corps (APTC) needs to lead in this at the conceptual , directional, institutional, and supervisory levels, without impinging and encroaching into the commanding officers turf of responsibility towards training his command. 

It is with this purpose that, I put forth the following for consideration, to make things better.

Vision Statement for APTC:

To be the premier Army Service driving excellence in physical training; forging robust, resilient and physically fit warriors for the Indian Army, prepared for any challenge, anywhere, anytime.

Mission Statement for APTC:

The APTC is committed to developing and implementing cutting edge physical training programmes that, enhance the physical and mental capabilities of our soldiers. Through innovation, adaptability, and a focus on individual and collective fitness, it aims to cultivate a culture of peak performance, mental aggressiveness, and camaraderie, ensuring the readiness of the Indian Army in the face of evolving operational requirements.

Road Map for Implementing Changes:

Comprehensive Fitness Assessment:

Conduct a thorough review of the existing fitness assessment standards to align with contemporary military requirements.

Research and Innovation:

Invest in research to . incorporate the latest advancements in sports science and physical training methodologies.

Explore emerging technologies for tracking and improving individual and unit fitness levels.

Individualized Training Plans:

Develop personalized training plans based on the roles and responsibilities of different Army Commands keeping in mind the regions and its climate, topographical features, employment and deployment of troops.

Tailor programmes to address specific fitness needs and challenges faced by various specialized units/ staff/ HQ/ establishment and stand alone mode.

Leadership Development: Implement leadership training within the APTC to ensure officers are well-equipped to lead and inspire soldiers in their physical fitness evolution

Integration of Mental Resilience Training:

Integrate mental toughness and resilience training into physical training programmes to enhance the overall well-being of soldiers.

International Collaboration: Establish partnerships with international military training institutions to exchange best practices and stay abreast of global advancements in physical training.

Modern Training Facilities: Invest in state of the art training facilities equipped with modern fitness equipment, obstacle courses, and simulation tools.

Continuous Improvement and Feedback Mechanisms:

Implement a system for ongoing evaluation and improvement of training programmes based on feedback from soldiers and commanders.

Community Engagement: Foster a culture of fitness beyond formal training by encouraging soldiers to engage in recreational sports and fitness activities. Promote health and fitness through knowledge empowerment, personal example and a modicum of discipline to help soldiers psychologically internalize the fitness habit.

Promotion of Healthy Lifestyle:

Develop campaigns promoting healthy living, nutrition, and fitness as a holistic approach to overall well-being.

Regular Training Audits:

Conduct regular audits of training programmess to ensure they align with the evolving needs of the Indian Army. This should be strictly applied for all ranks of APTC personnel and should they not meet the mandated standards articulated and fixed for them, then a system of remedial/ punitive action must be put in place to address the failings.

This road map outlines a strategic approach to enhance the effectiveness of the APTC, ensuring it remains at the forefront of physical training for the Indian Army.

Conclusion

By combining these strategies, military leaders can create an environment where fitness is not just a requirement but an ingrained habit that contributes to overall well-being and operational readiness. Internalizing fitness as a positive and integral part of military life enhances the likelihood of sustained adherence.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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