ARLINGTON, VA -- Although the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test (CFT) won’t officially be implemented until October 2009, training and education command officials are gearing up to educate installations this fall on the new test. The CFT is intended to keep Marines ready for the physical rigors of contemporary combat operations and will be used in addition to the current physical fitness test (PFT).

Instructors from the Martial Arts Center of Excellence in Quantico, VA, will demonstrate how to conduct the CFT at installations around the world. The new test will be measured by requiring Marines in battle dress uniform to sprint a timed 880 yards, lift a 30-pound ammunition can overhead from shoulder height repeatedly for two minutes and perform a maneuver-under-fire event, which is a timed 300-yard shuttle run in which Marines are paired up by size and perform a series of combat-related tasks.

“The CFT shows that you have to train a whole lot more than just preparing for a three-mile run and 20 pull-ups. It is an evaluation that involves so much more,” says Lance Cpl. James T. Hammons in a statement from the military. Hammons is a machinist serving with Weapons Training Battalion who ran a trial CFT at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA.

Testing will begin with an initial phase-in period, in which grading will be pass or fail, until Sept. 30, 2009. Although Marines’ CFT results will be currently recorded in unit diary reports and fitness reports, they will not count toward performance evaluation until the CFT is officially implemented on Oct. 1, 2009, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.

The CFT will be a semi-annual requirement for active-duty Marines and an annual requirement for reserve Marines. However, a CFT and a standard PFT are not to be performed on the same day, according to the military report. Each event will be scored and timed separately. Male and female Marines will perform the same tasks but will be graded on different scales.

“The CFT and PFT are the perfect combination,” says Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, sergeant major for Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, VA.

By implementing the CFT, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent hopes Marines will become well-rounded in terms of their fitness training, instead of just training for the PFT.

“For those who tested [the CFT], from the 18-year-old to the 60-year-old Marine, all of them think this is a great thing to do,” Kent says. “It's challenging, but I'm confident that every Marine will pass.”

In addition to the CFT, body-fat standards are changing. Marines with a first-class score will no longer be afforded a four-percent leniency to body-fat composition as was the previous standard.

“Tendencies toward increased weight have become a dangerous trend over the last decade in our American society," says James Conway, general of the U.S. Marine Corps. “But Marines are different. Even during a period of conflict, we hold ourselves to a higher standard and we must, all of us, maintain that standard.”

Under the new standards, a Marine’s overall appearance of health will be assessed by the individual’s command. If a Marine is thought to have the appearance of an unbalanced body weight distribution, they are subject to an evaluation of their military appearance at the battalion or squadron level following a commander's assessment, according to the statement.

While officials with Training and Education Command have determined a minimum and maximum grading scale, an appropriate point system, similar to the physical fitness test, has yet to be finalized.

To assist Marines in complying with the new standards, a combat conditioning program will also be put in place. As part of the program, units will have combat conditioning instructors, certified by the Martial Arts Center of Excellence, who will serve as command subject-matter experts.

Before deciding on the new test, several variations of the CFT were trialed on more than 2,500 Marines from 18 separate commands since November 2007, says Col. Brian J. McGuire, physical readiness programs officer of training and education command. The CFT is designed to complement the physical fitness program and test a Marine's readiness in an operational environment. All of the events are linked to common combat tasks every Marine has been exposed to, regardless of military occupation. Various groups, including veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, helped shape the CFT by describing their experiences in the war, he says.

“Throughout our 232-year history, the Marine Corps has fulfilled commitments to make Marines and win our nation's battles,” says Conway. “Our fellow Americans recognize that long tradition and expect it to continue. As a fighting force, our ability to fulfill this commitment and accomplish the mission is dependent, in part, upon the fitness of our Marines.”