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The CFT; view from the ground

11 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

When some people think of a Marine they picture a lean, mean warrior in top condition, prepared for any challenge they might have to face. Bi-annually, Marines throughout the Corps test their physical abilities during the physical fitness test. The test, comprised of chin-ups, crunches and a three-mile run, is designed to make sure all Marines are maintaining the standards of our beloved Corps.

Marines must always be prepared to complete the mission at hand on a moment’s notice. According to Marine Corps Order 6100.13 the purpose of the CFT is to assess a Marine’s physical capacity in a broad spectrum of combat related tasks. The CFT was specifically designed to evaluate strength, stamina, agility and coordination as well as overall anaerobic capacity. The CFT is a complement to the PFT and measures the functional elements of combat fitness through execution of a series of events that represent every Marine’s combat experience, emphasizing our ethos of “every Marine a rifleman.” Recently I was able to take part in the test hosted by 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

            The elements were against us on this cloudy morning, as rain drops plummeted to the ground. Under other circumstances, possibly even during a PFT, the event might have been postponed.  However, during combat you don’t get to choose the weather conditions.

            The first event was the 880-yard sprint. A half mile may not seem far at all, but by the second lap my thighs were on fire, my chest felt like it was about to explode and I knew I had to pick up the pace as I heard the two minute mark. Splashing through puddles, my boots became heavier and heavier as I used everything left in me to push through the finish line. As I walked to the next station I was still trying to catch my breath and keep my knees from buckling.

            Next was the ammunition can lift, the rain and constant mashing of the ammo cans to the ground turned the grass to mud. The lift started easily and knowing I only needed 45 repetitions for a passing mark, I knew it would be a simple station. However, I also knew I, and every other Marine in the Corps, will eventually need more than 45 reps in order to score well once the CFT becomes more than a pass or fail event.  I kept hoisting the can overhead and felt my shoulders light on fire as the burn became more intense. As the can rolled out of my hands after the two minutes, I didn’t think I would be able to lift anything for the rest of the day. That would soon change as I made my way to the final station.

            The final station was the maneuver under fire course. We started the course, lying on the ground, and as the monitor screamed “Go!” I began to sprint through the course, which was worn to mud by scores of combat boots which preceded mine. This phase proved to be the hardest as Marines slipped, slid and fell while making their way through the course.  

The CFT factors in things the PFT does not; such as helping a wounded brother in battle. Often times in a combat situation, one must sprint to a certain point. Once they reach their destination already exhausted, they need to be confident that they can still carry the fight to the enemy.

            For some this serves as a breaking point like no other. Although Marines who score low on the PFT often realize they need to change their workout routine in order to do better, the CFT can exhaust even the best athlete.

            With the intensity of the CFT being higher than that of the PFT, the CFT proves to be more challenging and better gauges speed, agility and ability to accomplish the mission. The CFT also forges great unit cohesion and helps reinforce the Marine Corps core values, with the honor of giving it your best effort, courage to keep pushing forward, and the commitment to continue to better oneself on and off the battlefield.           


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit