A Marine Corps message reaffirming that Marines have until the end of 2020 to complete the combat fitness test despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has raised some concerns from reservists that the test could put them or their family in danger.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger put a halt to the physical fitness test and body composition program in April, when more than 811,000 Americans had tested positive for the virus, according to John Hopkins University.
Six months later more than 7 millions Americans have tested positive for the virus, including President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, along with 5,800 Marines, according to Department of Defense data.
The prospect of performing a CFT during the pandemic caused one reservist to wonder how Marines who lived or took care of people who were at particularly high risk to the virus were expected to handle the situation.
“I’m not going to put my newborn child at risk, because the Marine Corps wants us to do a CFT, that’s just not a thing,” the reservist told Marine Corps Times on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “It’s frankly pretty frustrating and kind of confusing more than anything."
When reservists show up to their unit, whether it is for the CFT or other training, steps are taken to help mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, Marine spokesman Maj. Roger Hollenbeck told Marine Corps Times Friday.
“The protocols have been in place so they fill out the questionnaire and get their temperature checked,” he said in a phone call.
Marines are also expected to wear masks when social distancing is not possible and when they are not conducting physical training. But one event during the CFT requires Marines to buddy drag and fireman carry a comrade, eliminating any chance of social distancing.
“A CFT is like literally your cheek to cheek with people, there’s not like a safe distance to do a fireman carry from,” the Marine said.
Capt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, suggested that waivers would be accepted for Marines or even whole units that feel they cannot safely conduct the CFT.
“(Marine Corps Order) 6100.13A CH 2 provides a process to request a waiver to the PFT or CFT due to short-term situations that temporarily prevent an individual, group, or an entire unit from completing the annual training requirement,” Stephenson said in an email.
“The purpose of granting waivers is to protect individual Marines who are unable to complete the PFT or CFT from being adversely affected,” he added.
Stephenson said Marines who live with individuals in the high-risk group for COVID-19, along with those who live in areas with particularly high infection rates, may request waivers under the Marine Corps order.
“Individuals, groups, or units stationed at geographical locations with an elevated risk of spreading COVID-19 may request a waiver for the PFT or CFT per MCO 6100.13A CH 2,” he said.