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APFT Procrastinator's Club

J. D. Pendry

"A sense of perspective and a sense of humor brings the most out of a unit."
-General John A. Wickham, Jr.

Well the end of October is here (read it's the second week of November). Like many of my peers, subordinates, and yep, superiors too I have procrastinated till the last possible minute before taking the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The weather here has been great for outdoor physical activity. Last Friday morning it was 68 degrees. This Friday morning, test day, it's 28 degrees.

Like the athlete I am, I have a ritual before I take an APFT. The first part of it is that I worry a lot. I don't know why I fret about 20 minutes of physical activity. If 20 minutes can cause such consternation, tri-athletes must go through living-hell every day. I do daily physical training. The test is no harder than my routine. But, nobody tests my routine.

The ritual requires that I swear off all adult beverages for at least 8 hours before the test. For the benefit of the poor soul who holds my feet for the sit ups I never eat Pinto beans, burritos, bratwurst or pickled hard-boiled eggs the night before. Sometimes that protects him or her, but sometimes it doesn't. Mother nature has a twisted sense of humor. It's not unusual for me to yell out to my foot holder, "Go ahead, blame it on me, they'll think I did it anyway!", at some point during the event.

The ritual continues with me laying out my most worn PT duds. The most worn ones are also the thinnest and lightest. After which, I take my shower then say my APFT prayer to the APFT god. "Get me through this one and I won't bother you again till April or maybe the second week of May and don't forget about that weigh in and tape test thing, Amen."

The ritual resumes the morning of the test. The first thing I do is make some coffee that would make my old first sergeant (the one who used to drop a pack of C-ration instant into his canteen cup full of field kitchen mess-hall coffee) proud. I take a large cup of this caffeine-rich stuff and move out to the vitamin rack. On the vitamin rack I have stacked every supplement I could find in the PX and commissary that had the word energy or energizer somewhere on the bottle. I even bought a couple bottles that were sitting on the shelf next to the energizers. I take a hand full of each. Remembering the tape test, I pop a couple of Super Fat Burners too just to be on the safe side. Feeling the effects of the coffee (a well known diuretic) I move out smartly to resolve that issue. I then stretch, being careful not to unduly stress any muscle that I may need later. This completes the APFT ritual.

However, it's just the beginning of the weigh-in ritual. This is very important. This ritual is done in a head-to-toe sequence so that nothing is left out. First I check out the hair cut. If there is any noticeable fuzz I get out the clippers and take it down to the skin. Then trim eyebrows, mustache and nose hairs. Blow my nose, then shave. Clean the wax from my ears. Cut the hair off my ears too. Brush and floss my teeth, gargle too to make sure no debris is left. Remember, weight is the thing here. Remove the wedding band, sorry honey, and clip my finger nails right down to the meat. Clean the lint from my navel. Trim my toe nails, clean that stuff from between my toes then sand the big calluses off my feet. I then take a shower to get all the dead skin cells off.

Next comes the pose off in front of the full length mirror. There is several critical steps to this. They are absolutely necessary when facing the possibility of a tape test if the other steps of the ritual fail to produce a significant weight loss. Standing in front of the mirror, I suck in my stomach until it feels like my spine is going to puncture my lint-free belly button. Then, I take my own tape measurement mentally recording the results. I have to do this two more times to make sure I can suck it in within a quarter inch of the last measurement each time. Now comes the neck bulge. With practice, your average pencil neck can produce at least a 16 inch neck for tape test purposes. I bulge and measure three times within a quarter inch. After the ritual and being sure that I've dropped five or six pounds, know my measurements and am fully energized, I get dressed and move out to the test.

Like the other members of the APFT procrastinator's club it isn't long before 28 degrees begins to eat through my very thin sweats. We are all beginning to shake a little and jump around as the sergeant starts out.

"This morning you will be administered a record, I REPEAT A RECORD, APFT...."

"No, S*#!*?"

"Anyone having a medical profile against any or all events form a single line here."

"Where?"

"Here."

"There?"

"Yea."

"The rest of you line up in front of a grader. If you don't have your card raise your hand and the grader will prepare one for you."

"Shoot, man, dang! It ain't getting no warmer out here!"

"Let me have your attention please. The first event of your record, I REPEAT, RECORD APFT is the push up event. The push up event measures your ability to do push ups.... watch my demonstrator...."

After about forty minutes, and just before frostbite sets in, the first of the procrastinators begin to test the push up event. And the graders, in harmony, sing the grader's song.

"One, two, lower, lower, three, lower, lower, four, back straight, lower, five..."

And the procrastinators sing the procrastinator's song.

"Shoot, man, dang! I did 312 push ups and he only counted 16. Shoot, man, dang!"

"The next event in your record, I REPEAT, RECORD APFT is the sit-up event. The sit up event measures your ability to do sit ups....watch my demonstrator..."

The procrastinators begin to test and the graders harmonize on the grader's song.

"One, two, all the way up, all the way up, three, all the way up."

And some where a procrastinator yells out.

"Go ahead, blame it on me, they'll think I did it anyway!"

"The next event in your record, I REPEAT, RECORD APFT is the two mile run. The two-mile run measures your ability to run two miles. You can walk but it ain't recommended. If you leave the course, hitch a ride or are otherwise assisted during the course of the run you may be I REPEAT, MAY BE disqualified."

"No demonstrator?"

"Ready, set, go."

And the procrastinators sing.

"I think I can, I think I can..."

And the time keeper replies.

"THIRTY-TWO MINUTES! As you finish the test, move inside for your weigh in."

"Step-up on the scales Sergeant Major, so we can get your height. Yes Sergeant Major, you have to take off your shoes. Sergeant Major, move to your left a little so we can get the height scale on the point of your head."

"Point?"

"The highest point. The Sergeant Major is 64 inches."

"64 inches?" How can that be? I was 65 inches the last time."

"64 Sergeant Major, see, right there on the scale."

"Man, ya'll better get this thing checked. 64 inches? Shoot, man, dang!"

"How much you weigh Sergeant Major?"

"You can set it on 170."

"184 pounds."

"When's the last time you calibrated these scales? 184 pounds? Shoot, man, dang!"

"Step over here Sergeant Major and we'll get your neck and abdomen measurements."

"Neck, 15.5."

"15.5? It was 16.5 last time. You sure you done that right? 15.5. Shoot, man, dang!"

"Abdomen. Sergeant major I think I found those two inches we lost off your height and neck."

"Shoot, man, dang!"

And then comes the fidgety, cotton-mouthed anxiety while waiting for the computer program to calculate the body fat percentage.

"Sergeant major, on behalf of all the graders we'd like to present you with a copy of this certificate showing you are in compliance with the body fat standards. Enjoy your thanksgiving dinner. We'll see you in April or maybe the second week of May."

"April? So soon? Shoot, man, dang!"

Copyright© 1997, J. D. Pendry, All Rights Reserved