Thursday of last week marked the beginning of a series of exercises to test our combat fitness referred to as Combat Fitness Tests or CFTs. These tests consist of; an 8 mile run with 35 pounds in your rucksack in 1 hour and 50 minutes, range shooting to a desired accuracy and timed situps/pushups and are conducted at minimum once a year if you meet expectations.
We’ve heard that in previous years, if you didn’t complete these CFTs you wouldn’t get paid for the year, however this has changed for at least this year’s group. This year we will get paid regardless of how well we perform and those who achieve the desired results on their first try will earn an extra $200 bonus for each exercise.
My platoon was first to be tasked with the 8 mile run. The 8 mile run is one of those instances where I wonder what the value is in the grand scheme of things. While it is certainly reasonable for soldiers in a combat situation to be expected to be able to run for 8 miles with a fully packed rucksack, Regiment soldiers are not legally obligated to ever serve in a war scenario as the Regiments primary objective is to support the local police. Individuals would only enter a war scenario off island if they were to volunteer for it.
My own experience with the 8 mile run was a grueling one. If you’d ask those who know me from camp, most would agree that while I may not have the most positive things to say of what we’re asked to do, when it comes to actually doing what we’re asked, I usually give it all I can. The 8 mile run was no exception and I took it as a personal challenge like any other. Overall, I was pleased with my results, I set a comfortable pace and ended up finishing 3rd or 4th overall in my platoon at a time of 1 hour and 40 min. However, the most grueling part of the run didn’t come during, it came after due to my flat feet.
Waking the day following the 8 mile run I quickly realized that it was painful to move. Even just climbing out of bed was a struggle as I grasped the vision of what daily life would be like as an old man with dihabilitating arthritis. Many of my fellow recruits had talked of taking the day off, though I have always been too stubborn to use up my sick days when I really may need them later so I made a decision I’d later regret and figured I could push through it.
Making it through the day was a struggle and gave a clear glimpse of a future I likely shall face again as I get older. Hobbling at the pace of an old man with bad arthritis, I avoided every stair possible and took a pace of less then half a foot per step. Sitting down was difficult given my knee pain and helped me gain an honest appreciation for what it is like to be handicapped with the realization that most bathrooms are ill-equipped for such individuals.
Guilt was a feeling that ran through my mind as I worked at a very slow pace throughout the day. It didn’t seem right that I should be allowing regiment to affect my ability to get my job done, though I had little to no choice in the matter. The day ticked by more quickly as I loaded up on excedrin and avoided movement any more then absolutely necessary. The bulk of my weekend was spent laying on my couch as I was unwilling to overexert myself and quite disappointed that I was unable to take advantage of the windy weekend to pursue my passion for kiteboarding.
The 8 mile run is one circumstance where I really do wish to ask the question of why are we doing this? What is the goal and purpose of having regiment soldiers run for 8 miles with 35 pounds on our backs if we’re never going to find ourselves in a combat situation? Of course I can understand and respect that such tasks are typical with armies around the world who face combat situations, however, by mandate the Bermuda Regiment won’t ever be asked to face a combat situation external to Bermuda and where when we ever need to run 8 miles in Bermuda?
For that matter, if the Bermuda Regiment truly is trying to emanate a semblance of foreign armies, then why accept people with flat feet when they have been known to have been turned away by the US Army? That brings me back to my ongoing question of why an army for an island, to which I am still not certain of the answer. Is there a purpose and goal of having Bermuda Regiment recruits run 8 miles with 35 pounds on their back each year? If so, what is it? If our primary role is to support the police, do they also perform such tasks each year? If not, why are we doing it? What is it’s purpose?
Thankfully my 8 mile run is finished as I met the desired mark for this year. I don’t envy those who have had to complete the run prior to this weekend’s camp nor those who didn’t meet the mark and have to try again later on in the year. For the time being, I’m not going to think about when I have to do it again next year and plan to make a trip to visit my ortheopedic practitioner to get his advice on what I can do to get around my own difficulties in preparation for next time.