Why is so much emphasis placed on physical fitness in the Marine Corps? If leadership is 50% of your grade at OCS, why should it matter if you can run 3 miles? What does your weight on the scale have to do with your ability to make decisions? If you know the 5 paragraph order back to front and have a proven track record of performance in a leadership position, why is your OSO holding you back from contracting just because your PFT score is a 180?
Physical fitness is synonymous with leadership
Perhaps nowhere more than the Marine Corps, physical fitness is synonymous with leadership. It can be boiled down to one simple phrase: Lead from the front, lead by example.
As a leader of Marines, it is more than just looking good in uniform and getting a high PFT score. Physical strength and endurance translates to carrying your weight – literally and figuratively. A leader who shows up to the rally point 10 minutes after their Marines, breathing too hard to complete a sentence, and having passed their pack off to another Marine because they could not carry it, is no leader at all. Maintaining the fitness standards expected of a Marine Corps Officer requires a level of discipline and self mastery that is also needed to lead Marines. A high PFT score is so much more than just your ability to do pull ups, crunches, and run 3 miles. It is your ability to keep yourself in a state of readiness and set the example for those you lead. It demonstrates discipline and commitment, and an adherence to the high standards Marines are known for.
You are in control of your fate with the PFT
It is frustrating to be in the program for 6+ months, or even a year or more, without getting a class date assigned. But who’s fault is that? Sitting by and watching newer applicants sign their contract and ship to OCS before you isn’t your OSO’s favoritism, or a bias towards “meatheads”. It’s your lack of effort. Everyone is capable of achieving the PFT standards; it only depends on if they are willing to do the work. Expecting your OSO to make an exception on the standard is blatant disrespect for those who have put in the time and sweat to get there. Everything in the Marine Corps is earned, including the opportunity to earn the title.
Getting to that level of fitness and staying at that level requires more than just hitting the gym a few days a week, throwing around some weights, and going for a jog in the morning. Very rarely do people put out a 270+ score without concerted effort. You must really understand what you’re doing.
There are two parts to any exercise – strength and technique. In the beginning, you can rely on your strength; your natural ability to move your own body. From pull-ups to squats to running you can “muscle through it”. You will see progress and improvement. You will get stronger and faster. But eventually you plateau, or worse, you will experience pain and injury. When that happens (or preferably before), you have two choices. You can stagnate, wallow in the pain, become a victim, resign to why you’ll never be good enough, accept mediocrity, and live a life of never quite getting where you wanted to go. Or you can go back to square one, reassess, heal, fix, and utilize the right technique.
Technique isn’t just about foot placement and shoulder rotation. Those are important, but they aren’t the whole story. Technique is about understanding yourself and the world around you. Strength means going to the gym for one hour a day and training to the standards of the PFT. Technique means analyzing the other 23 hours of the day that you are not inside the gym.
Are you sleeping enough to let your body rest and recover and have the energy to do a good work out?
Are you nurturing your personal relationships so that you can spend time really focusing on training without being preoccupied with conflict?
Are you eating and hydrating in such a way that your training progresses, or are you sabotaging yourself with comfort-based decisions?
Your PFT Score is more of a testament to how you spend those 23 hours outside of the gym then it is to the one hour inside it. Candidates have come into the program and doubled their score within 3 months. If you’ve added 15 points in the last 6 months, don’t expect your OSO to believe you when you *promise* you’ll get to where you need to be if only they’ll let you contract now. Your OSO has full faith in your ability, but will not give anything away.
On paper, the PFT is a measure of your ability to do simple body weight calisthenics and aerobic exercise. As a leader of Marines, it’s a litmus test of your commitment to the solemn responsibility bestowed upon you when you raise your right hand.
Be honest with yourself and be honest with your OSO. Are you taking that commitment seriously?
SSgt Seitz from OST Denver is a decorated Marine who recruits and mentors future Marine Corps officers. Technically, she is the Officer Selection Assistant for RS Denver. She earned the title of Marine in June 2012. As a 2641 Cryptologic Linguist she was stationed at 1st Radio Bn and deployed to Bahrain.