Capt. Tranay Lashawn Tanner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Physical fitness tests were briefly suspended earlier this week and outdoor cardio testing will be curtailed for the remainder of the summer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, after an airman died Saturday. She had completed her PT test on Friday.

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Airmen assigned to the 1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron perform pushups during a physical training session on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 14, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

The topic of this week's opus is physical fitness, and that is laughably ironic considering this reporter could never meet any of the military services' height and weight standards. (Your humble narrator once considered opening a restaurant called "Pvt. Pyle's Forbidden Fruit," which would only sell jelly donuts.)

As you beloved readers likely already know, at least 31 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to serve in the military. For those young men and women who are physically fit enough to enlist or get commissioned, the rigors of initial training are only the first hurdle.

Once in the military, service members must regularly pass physical fitness tests, and as the Defense Department prepares to fight big wars again, some of the services have made their physical standards more demanding.

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After nearly two decades of grinding low-intensity conflict, the U.S. military is shifting to focus on near-peer competition — and tailoring its physical fitness requirements accordingly.

The Army is currently conducting a two-year assessment and rollout plan scheduled for 2020, with 470,205 soldiers who are currently racing to prepare and train for a dramatically different six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), developed in reaction to both the demands of modern conflict and to the declining health and fitness standards of incoming recruits and soldiers. After all, overweight and physically unfit soldiers degrade readiness, take up time and resources, and burden others.

To meet this lofty goal, the Army must undertake the most significant changes to physical fitness testing since the beginning of the professionalized force in 1973 — one that, unfortunately, it is ill-equipped to tackle for a simple reason: it has no up-to-date training apparatus to support the transition. While the new standard may be important for lethality, the Army must consider innovative ways to prepare both recruits and soldiers to successfully implement this new standard — or else risk a significant impact on readiness as the military enters into strategic competition with China and Russia.

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U.S. Army photo / Gertrud Zach.

Junior leaders have long complained that it has become increasingly difficult to prepare new infantry soldiers for deployment. Now the Army is making sure that soldiers are in better shape and more disciplined by the time they arrive at their first infantry units.

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Jared Keller

While explaining the specifics of the Army’s new Combat Fitness Test recently, Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost turned to a reporter and delivered a subtle challenge to members of the press: “Yes, you can take it if you want.”

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U.S. Army

Good news, green-suiters: The Army is finally admitting that its physical fitness test “in no way helps Soldiers focus on preparing to do their jobs.”

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