Be battle ready and mission ready with FORCE Combat

Article / November 15, 2017 / Project number: 17-0324

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Ottawa, Ontario — The Canadian Army (CA) is adopting a challenging new fitness objective that better reflects the physical requirements of operations.

The new objective is called FORCE Combat and it has been nearly a decade in development drawing on data collected in the field, as well as information from an online survey of more than 800 CA members.

As of October 1, 2017, FORCE Combat serves as the new Individual Battle Task Standard replacing the now obsolete 13-kilometre Load Bearing March (LBM).

To support this initiative, a website, www.forcecombat.ca, for use by Army members, was created to host links to training programs, explanations of the science behind the test, the FORCE Combat operations manual, a list of frequently asked questions, and a link to Canadian Army Order (CAO) 24-02. CAO 24-02 clearly articulates the applicability of FORCE Combat to particular segments of the Army based on operational requirements. 

FORCE Combat is a two-part test separated by a small break. The first phase consists of a five-kilometre march full fighting order, which means while wearing a fragmentation vest, tactical vest, helmet, other personal protective equipment and carrying a rifle, and a backpack, all weighing a total of 35 kilograms. Participants then pause for five minutes after which they conduct the traditional FORCE evaluation circuit as a continuous event wearing full fighting order but without the backpack. This includes 20-metre rushes, a sandbag lift, intermittent loaded shuttles and a sandbag drag. All four must be completed without pausing and in less than 15 minutes.

“Force combat is not harder than the LBM,” said Chief Warrant Officer David Tofts, Sergeant Major of the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre (CADTC). “It is just structured better for what we need. FORCE Combat is a result of real-time experience, backed by science, and is aimed at ensuring soldiers are physically prepared for the whole spectrum of operations.”

“FORCE Combat, in terms of the calibre of the training you go through to do that test, is amazing,” added Major Michael O’Donnell, with CADTC headquarters, who took part in trials. “This is a disciplined fitness program that will take us from wherever we’re at, however proficient we are, and make us better. That appealed to me, and I’m happy to say the program succeeded in getting me to improve my own level of fitness.”

Maj O’Donnell noted that the Canadian Armed Forces Personnel Support Programs (PSP), which managed the FORCE Combat trials, has developed training programs and information resources to fully prepare members for FORCE Combat.

PSP has done an amazing job preparing a program for us,” he said, highlighting PSP’s Defence Fitness website, www.dfit.ca, as a central location for guidance on getting into shape for FORCE Combat.

“The dfit.ca program is, I think, instrumental in getting people ready for that test,” he added. “Unless they’re doing something very similar to what dfit.ca provides, they will find that test particularly demanding. And that’s okay, but I think you need both elements together.”

During their extensive research process, PSP staff found that the vast majority of CA operations now take place in urban environments. In 2010, in collaboration with the CA’s Infantry School at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, an urban operations simulation was developed. Testing indicated the LBM was not relevant to such operations.

“FORCE Combat better represents the physical challenges that the soldiers are going through in training and on the battlefield today,” said CWO Tofts. “Throughout your career you do several physical fitness tests. I’ve gone through quite a few and I personally feel that this is the best structured evaluation I’ve done.”

Maj O’Donnell added that, in addition to taking advantage of dfit.ca and other PSP tools, he recommends training in groups to be ready for the rigours of FORCE Combat.

“Every day our tight-knit group went to the gym and did the program. That got us progressively improving our level of fitness to the point where, with each successive iteration of the FORCE Combat test, our results improved. By the time we did the test for the fourth or fifth time, all of us were leaps and bounds from where we’d started.”

“Some of you may find this challenging in different ways,” said CWO Tofts. “However, by successfully completing FORCE Combat, you will be better prepared for the physical rigours of current and future operations. Being physically ready is battle ready, which comes down to being mission ready.”

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