To walk at graduation, cadets take one final test
As seen in The Post and Courier, May 4, 2016. Written by Deanna Pan
In the inky, predawn hours Wednesday, four senior cadets waited at the end line of Willson Field for their final exam of the year.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Pamela Barton, The Citadel’s assistant commandant for operations and training, called roll at 5:33 a.m.
“Everybody stays here until I get full accountability,” she barked.
Bright field lights illuminated the end zone, where the grass was moist from the previous night’s storm. As Charleston slept, four young men in blue shirts and shorts mustered
all their strength for their last physical fitness test before graduation on Saturday.
Every repetition matters. Each passing
Senior cadets who fail the Citadel physical fitness test, or CPFT in cadet parlance, are deemed “physically deficient.” They can’t participate in commencement ceremonies or the Long Gray Line parade — a rite of passage for graduating Corps members, their final march across Summerall Field. They will receive their diplomas, but they will miss the pomp, circumstance and pride of graduation at The Citadel.
For these cadets, Wednesday morning was their last chance to pass.
“This is a test you can’t cram for,” said Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Rich of the Commandant’s Physical Readiness Program. “You have to study for it all four years.”
He held a stopwatch in his hand while Sgt. Maj. Andrew Yagle demonstrated proper pushup form: Upper arms parallel to the marching surface. Feet together or up to 12 inches apart. Arms extended but not locked.
The Citadel uses the Army Physical Fitness Test, designed in 1980 to measure soldiers’ cardiorespiratory fitness and local muscle endurance.
Administered twice a year, in the fall and spring semesters, the test consists of three events: Cadets are tasked with performing as many pushups and situps as they can in 2 minutes followed by a timed 2-mile run.
Their scores on the test are calculated based on their age group, gender, the number of repetitions they complete and run time.
To pass, a 22 year-old male, for example, must complete 40 pushups, 50 situps and run two miles in 16 minutes and 36 seconds for a minimum score of 60 points in each event, or 180 out of 300 points total.
Twice a week at 5:30 in the morning, cadets have mandatory physical training to prepare for their biannual test.
But every year, according to Citadel spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth, a handful of senior cadets fail to meet The Citadel’s physical fitness standards, considered one of the four pillars of the military college experience.
This year, 23 senior cadets failed due to their fitness test performance or weight and body-fat measurements.
Ten cadets elected not to retest, relinquishing their privilege of participating in graduation. Eight had the measurements retaken Wednesday morning; only four passed.
At Willson Field, five remaining cadets — one arrived late — started their pushups on Rich’s command: “Get ready. Get set. Begin.” From the sidelines, their friends cheered them on.
“C’mon, keep reppin’ ’em out.”
“C’mon, brother, let’s go.”
“C’mon! Kill it!”
Cadet Devin Taylor, 21, was among them. A rising athletic officer from Iva, Taylor will manage his company’s physical training program next year. After graduation, the majority of cadets don’t join the military, where they may be expected to shoulder injured comrades or sprint across rugged terrain, heavy rucksacks
But the lessons of physical training, Taylor said, are applicable to every cadet, no matter their post-grad plans.
“When you’re out there with your group, your company or your staff, it definitely (teaches you) unit cohesion. It teaches you how to work well with others,” he said. “You’re all trying to accomplish the goal such
as to be physically fit and pass the Citadel’s PT test.”
The 2-mile run began at Seignious Hall and ended at Watts Barracks,
near the infirmary. Only two of the five cadets had moved on to the
last event. Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty, assistant commandant for
leadership programs, ran alongside them.
As the rising sun inched above the horizon, Rich yelled out times
from the clock:
“15:50 ... 16 minutes ... 16:15 ... 16:25.”
Only one cadet crossed the finish line at 16:31, a passing time, with just 5 seconds to spare.
Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.