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US Army unveils OPAT

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The new changes in U.S. Army physical fitness test should improve overall system and allow it to determine determine if new recruits and soldiers can meet the physical demands of certain jobs. Especially those such as infantry and armor specialties.

The new test will be referred as the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT. It will be administered to all recruits as a way to assess their fitness for specific military occupational specialties, or MOSs.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command made an assessment and estimated that the the test will be administered each year to about 80,000 recruits and thousands of army cadets.

Soldiers moving into a more physically demanding job, such as combat arms, will have to meet the corresponding physical standard, Jim Bragg, Retention and Reclassification Branch chief for U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in a recent Army press release.

The OPAT, will divide job specialties into three physical demand categories: Heavy (Black), Significant (Gray), Moderate (Gold).

The OPAT will be administered to everyone coming into the service — officer, enlisted, active, Reserve and National Guard, he said in a statement. It will be administered by any command responsible for soldier accessions, including Recruiting Command and U.S. Army Cadet Command after the soldier swears in but before he or she begins training.

“OPAT is not designed to turn away or weed out people from the Army,” said Brian Sutton, a spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. “It is designed to put the right people in the right jobs and to ensure we keep our recruits safe while doing so.”

The scoring is “gender neutral. All soldiers, male and female, must pass the same physical standards for the desired career field,” he added.

4 Tests

OPAT measures muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, explosive power and speed. It consists of four individual tests:

  • The “Standing Long Jump” is designed to assess lower-body power. Participants stand behind a take-off line with their feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. They jump as far as possible.
  • The “Seated Power Throw” is designed to assess upper-body power. Participants sit on the floor with their lower back against a yoga block and upper back against a wall. They hold a 4.4-pound medicine ball with both hands, bring the medicine ball to their chest and then push or throw the medicine ball upward and outward at an approximate 45-degree angle. The throw is scored from the wall to the nearest 10 centimeters from where the ball first contacts the ground.
  • The “Strength Deadlift” is designed to assess lower-body strength. Participants stand inside a hex-bar and perform practice lifts to assure good technique. Then they begin a sequence of lifts starting with 120 pounds, and working up to 220 pounds.
  • The “Interval Aerobic Run,” always performed last, is designed to assess aerobic capacity. The evaluation involves running “shuttles” or laps between two designated points that are spaced 20 meters apart. The running pace is synchronized with “beeps,” produced by a loudspeaker, at specific intervals. As the test progresses, the time between beeps gets shorter, requiring recruits to run faster in order to complete the shuttle. Participants are scored by the level they reach and the number of shuttles they complete.

3 Fitness Categories

There are three categories of fitness in the new assessment:

  • “Black” for MOSs with heavy physical demands, like those of the combat arms branches that require lifting or moving 99 pounds or more. To attain Black on the OPAT, the recruit or soldier would need to attain a minimum of 5 feet, 3 inches, for the standing long jump; 14 feet, 9 inches, for the seated power throw; 160 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:14 minute mile over the course of 43 shuttles.
  • “Gray” for MOSs with significant physical demands that require frequent or constant lifting of 41 to 99 pounds and occasional tasks involving moving up to 100 pounds. To attain Gray on the OPAT, the recruit or soldier would need to attain a minimum of 4 feet, 7 inches, for the standing long jump; 13 feet, 1 inch, for the seated power throw; 140 pounds for the strength deadlift; and a 10:20 minute mile over the course of 40 shuttles.
  • “Gold” for MOSs with moderate physical demands, such as cyber, that require frequent or constant lifting of weights up to 40 pounds or when all physical demands are occasional. To attain Gold on the OPAT, the recruit or soldier would need to attain at a minimum, 3 feet, 11 inches, for the standing long jump; 11 feet, 6 inches, for the seated power throw; 120 pounds for the strength deadlift; and, a 10:27 minute mile over the course of 36 shuttles.

When a soldier wishes to reclassify to a new MOS, from the Gray category up to the Black category, then he or she would need to take the test again. However, if that soldier’s new MOS falls within the same or lower-level category, the soldier will not need to take the test, according to the statement.

The soldier’s commander is responsible for ensuring the test is administered prior to approval of a reclassification, Bragg added. As with any reclassification action, the battalion- or brigade-level career counselor will administer the test.

If a new recruit fails the test, he or she can request to retake the test. If the recruit cannot eventually pass the OPAT color designator for his or her MOS, it could be possible to renegotiate the contract, allowing the recruit to go into an MOS with a lower physical demand OPAT category, the minimum being Gold, Sutton said.

For sure, this will be a major change in overall recruitment process and should provide more reliable results and details about newcomers.

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Army

US Army tests more breathable hot weather uniforms

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USAF Pararescue Jumbers (PJs) men on IED response

US Army uniform officials will begin evaluating a new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform (IHWC) in January 2018 by issuing troops in Hawaii thousands of lighter uniforms that are more suited to the Pacific theater’s sweltering environment.

The development of new, more breathable uniforms follows another Army effort when between March and August the service fielded 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to combat teams with the 2nd and 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.

Until now, troops with the 25th Infantry trained in tropical environs wearing Hot Weather Combat Boots and Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) that were designed for a desert climate.

Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, an assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear, told Military.com that this January “is going to be huge,” explaining that soldiers “are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”

Made by Source America, the new uniforms will have a 57 percent nylon/ 43 percent cotton blend, which Ferenczy says will give them “greater airflow” and make them dry faster than the ACU’s 50/50 nylon blend.

He noted, “It adds a little bit more strength which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave… so it should dry a little quicker” and that “there are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.

Ferenczy described the forthcoming uniforms as having less layers of fabric, which helps it dry quicker since it can’t hold much moisture, with better flexibility as well. He also said there will be no breast pockets since the soldier’s gear usually covers the uniform when they’re in the field, so the Army decided to remove that extra layer as it winds up retaining heat and moisture.

The service removed back pockets from the uniform pants for the same reason, and a pocket for identification cards has been added inside the waistband. Instead of a zipper, the IHWC’s blouse will have a button-down front, and a button-down flap at the top of the pocket will replace the side zipper that’s usually placed on the shoulder.

Ferenczy said, “Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” and that the designers have worked closely with Hawaii’s Jungle Operations Training Center. In January, the $14 million program expects to issue about 20,000 sets of uniforms to Hawaii’s 2nd and 3rd BCTs with another 10-12,000 sets coming in March.

Once troop from the 25th have trained in the new Jungle Uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team will are planning to return in April or May to get feedback and make whatever necessary adjustments are required.

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Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta just gave away his Medal of Honor

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Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta just gave away the highest valor award a soldier can receive. So he clearly doesn’t need another medal in any form. Nevertheless, the Medal of Honor recipient deserves a salute for presenting his award to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team during an event in early July.

The commander in chief bestowed Giunta with the MOH in 2010 for his actions three years earlier during an enemy ambush while serving with the 173rd in Afghanistan. Giunta received the Medal of Honor in 2010 for his actions in October 2007 when he was a team leader with Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Then a specialist, Giunta was conducting a patrol with his team in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan when they were ambushed by the enemy, according to his citation for the medal. Giunta exposed himself to enemy fire to help his injured squad leader find cover. His body armor and secondary weapon were struck with enemy fire as he performed first aid on the squad leader.

Using grenades to provide cover, Giunta and his team made it to other wounded soldiers who had been separated from the squad. Giunta then realized one soldier was still missing. He discovered two insurgents carrying the wounded soldier away. He engaged the enemy, killing one insurgent and wounding the other. Then he gave medical aid to the wounded U.S. soldier he had rescued.

Since 2010, the award weighed heavily on his shoulders. When troops receive the Medal of Honor for acts of valor, they usually credit their fellow service members. No recipient in recent times has been more adamant that the award wasn’t his alone:

“The medal [Medal of Honor] should go to the guy on the right of me and the guy on the left of me,” he said after he received it.

Soldiers praised him for showing true military leadership. This act is more than an NCO’s leadership. It is a legacy. It is Giunta’s legacy to the soldiers to the right of him, to the left of him, and to all those at the 173rd who will follow after him, and see what one humble man can do.

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