Physical Fitness in Services
In a recent sad incident two trainees of first term at IMA died probably due to dehydration and exhaustion. Physical fitness is an important issue for Defence Services which I would like to discuss in this blog.
Fitness of Fresh Trainees
The fact about the ‘tuition generations’ of India is that 90% of the fresh trainees are physically quite unfit. This problem can be resolved to a great extent by a small change in the selection criteria. When the soldiers were selected when I was in the Army they were required to run one mile inside 5 min & 45 sec and do 8 chin-ups. It is logical to select potential leaders of soldiers who meet the same criteria. Establishment of such criteria will force the potential trainees to measure up and it will greatly facilitate their undergoing the training.
Attitude of Training Staff at Academies
During the course of my training I did the Commando Course, attended training at the High Altitude Warfare School and headed a counter insurgency battle school. There was one common feature in the attitude of the training staff. The staff wanted to scare the trainees at the commencement of the training and wanted them to stay scared, through harassment, illogical methods or whatever it took. Consequently a large percentage of trainees take the physical fitness dimensions of the training with distaste. They take the fitness tests as an evil which has to be somehow overcome.
A cultural change is required in the training staff to not scare the trainees and imbue them with a spirit of keeping themselves physically fit throughout their lives. If a trainee is unfit he can be guided and encouraged to improve gradually rather than giving him a shock treatment.
Fitness Standards in Field Formations
In recent times I had an opportunity to meet or see a large number of senior Defence Services officers. I was very pleased to note that Generals and equivalents were apparently quite fit and unlike some Generals who I saw in my junior service days who were apparently fat and unfit. When the Generals are fit it is taken that they will be ensuring good standards from the soldiers.
Occasionally we have cases of dehydration and even deaths in training in the field formations. The general follow up of such cases is the issue of a medical advisory that in high temperatures and humidity fitness tests and training should not be conducted. I ignored all such advisories throughout my service life to the immense benefit of the troops under my command. One reason against such advisories is that war and terrorists do not obey such advisories and Service personnel have to fight them in all weathers and terrains.
- More stringent physical fitness criteria should be laid down for selection of candidates at SSB.
- At the training academies the physically unfit cadets should be trained to improve gradually and systematically. The training academies must promote the trainees to imbibe the culture of “fitness for life!”
- Medical advisories about conduct of fitness training owing to weather conditions should not be issued in the field formations.