RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Combat Fitness Test…

Yesterday I completed my first ever Combat Fitness Test. The CFT. 8 miles in 2 hours with weight. In this case 25 kg of weight split between a bergan rucksack and carrying a rifle.

And it is hard. We are doing it to the Combat Infantryman Standard, as we will be out in Afghan working with the infantry, going on patrols with the infantry, so no matter of service, age or even gender we all carried the same weight and went at the same pace and completed the same distance. And I realised that for me I was carrying a third of my bodyweight. But then a couple of the girls who are on the teams were carrying more than that. Probably close to half their body weight.

It is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done, both physically and mentally. It pushed me to my breaking point, so much that I actually thought I would break. Going up one particularly sharp hill I felt like my lungs were making a break for freedom on their own by heading for one of my body openings – in fact aiming for all of them at the same time. And this was only about 3 miles into it. My feet, by the end, were not just sore but felt like searing hot burning plates each time I placed a foot. My toe on my right foot actually felt numb.

And this was only the physical pain. The mental pain was just as bad. At one stage, when I was literally staggering up a track that had been muddied by a tank or armoured personnel carrier or something, I actually doubted that I could get to the safety vehicle that was following the 40 or so of us, let alone make it up the hill and round to the end of the route. I doubted everything I had ever done. From volunteering for this deployment (and it’s associated training) through to actually joining the RAF.

This is no hyperbole. This is no exaggeration. I though that I would never do it. I thought that the distance, the speed (5.4mph at one stage), the weight, the hills, the mud…everything, would club together and would kill me. When your breathing sounds like a steam train running dry and your leg, back and neck muscles are screaming at you…it takes something to make you carry on.

You see, I am the sort of chap who can quite easily do himself down. Yes, I know I am an NLP practitioner, and I know all about ‘self-limiting beliefs’ and all that, but I honestly, genuinely and completely believed that what I did was beyond me. I have always succumbed to the pain, given in, made it easy, done just enough…but today I gave everything I had, and just about managed to do it. Hell, I did do it.

And yet I don’t feel proud of myself. I have no right to be. Or so I thought. I got to talking to the fantastic and great Lisa Lynch – the real person behind the blog, book (and soon to be film) ‘Alrighttit’. Writer, editor, blogger and breast cancer survivor.

I said to her that I held her in even more awe than before for her going through what she went through, simply because of the pain and struggle it must have been. You see as I said, I went through pain and struggle but I could choose to give up. She had no choice, because if she had given up then, well, she wouldn’t be around right now. In a way I am ashamed of my self when all the people over on Twitter had congratulated me for doing something that is essentially my job. To be fit enough to fight is my job.

In all I just felt, that because others had completed the CFT in better form than I, people who are older, people who are smaller, then I shouldn’t be congratulated.

And Lisa came back with words of wisdom that made me think again. She said she was more proud of doing mundane things than any of the ‘Bullshit’ (as her lovely turn of phrase about the whole Breast Cancer thing is.) And she reminded me that comparisons is a dangerous game and that I should be proud. And proud because I chose to do it and chose to carry on when I could have given up.

And as much as it irks me to say that a Derby fan is right, well, she’s right. Damn her. I shouldn’t compare myself to others. That way leads only to madness. Mine. And it’s not good for me.

The only comparisons we should make is with ourselves. We should gauge ourselves against ourselves. Comparing to others…well, sod that, as there will always be someone faster, stronger, quicker, cleverer than ourselves. So what. There are people on our teams that are fitter. There are people who are brighter. There are people who will always do more and better than we.

But then it doesn’t matter, because that’s why teams exist isn’t it. That’s why we did the CFT as a team. Because not everyone will be stronger and fitter in everything we do. And it’s that balance of talents and skills that makes teams work.

So, having taken the advice of someone who has been through far more than I, I am going to be proud of myself for once. I wasn’t looking forward to the CFT because I thought I wouldn’t get through it, and yet I actually did. I have put in a lot of work over the past 6 months and that has paid off, because despite what the others did, 6 months ago, there is no way on God’s earth that I could have completed it then.

I am proud of myself for completing it, but this is just one more step along the way of the whole Afghan adventure. I will be proud of myself, completely when it is all over and I have come home having completed the full tour out there.

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14 thoughts on “Combat Fitness Test…

  1. You know, I figure bravery isn’t about doing something hard that you have no choice about – it’s doing something hard when you could easily walk away. That’s what you just did – you found the strength within yourself even though you doubted it. Take the time to be proud of yourself… you deserve it.

  2. Your first CFT?? Aren’t you supposed to do it every year? Or is it different for RAF?

    I’ve done about 5 in my two years in the army, each more painful than the last.

    • Yeah, our annual fitness test is to tun up and down a gym in the Beep test. Far to easy, and we should do more and harder tests.

      • Mark Dewbery on said:

        Don’t think all RAF personel don’t train hard day in,day out. The Rockapes in the RAF Regiment do this on a regular basis, Battle fitness tests, combat fitness tests assault course, it’s a regular part of their training and routine. I did my first CFT when i was 17 in 1983, as part of my RAF Regiment training, was damm hard then, even at that age lol. Good luck in Afghanistan, you will be in safe hands, as the Rockapes provide Force protection at Camp Bastion and have lost good gunners in doing that job…

  3. We have to do a combat fitness test and a 1.5mile run w/ press ups and sit ups (used to be called a personal fitness test but they changed it to something fancy now).

  4. Primary Andy on said:

    “But then it doesn’t matter, because that’s why teams exist isn’t it. That’s why we did the CFT as a team. Because not everyone will be stronger and fitter in everything we do. And it’s that balance of talents and skills that makes teams work.”

    Every RAF Sqn you have been on is “team work” and putting one team up against another to be the best,otherwise you’d just have say for example RAF station Leeming and this load of Tornado’s in the stations’ hangars.

    But you still should feel good yourself at achieving, what you said in your own words, something you would not have been able to do 6 months ago and you should accept other peoples congratulations for yourself without any preconditions.

    Well done you 🙂

  5. Well done you, rather you than me, I was one of the guinea pigs for the fitness test, and I always passed, not sure such a stringent test is required by the ‘normal’ RAF, but doing what you are about to do I can see it will benefit!

  6. You are to be admired Sir!!!

  7. Kjell Hansen on said:

    Aye, it will make you think twice about your physical and your mental ‘being.’ When I did mine, I found myself thinking of Canadian, British and Norwegian Land and Sea forces and the hell they endured. There’s a film on HBO right now about the hard-won Canadian victory at Passchendaele that defined Canada as a nation; the incessant muck and rain made me really think about what was required of me and where I had to dig down deep in my soul to find it: the devastation of the U-boats on Canadian convoys defending British merchant vessels with vital supplies for the Motherland; how many souls went down to the deep for King and Country; and the bravery of the Norwegian Navy, sometimes fishing boats, taking on a formidable enemy. A mistake would send an entire village to it’s death in revenge. My point; I found that thinking about those who went before me, who undertook conditions without the modern equipment we have today…somehow I got through it all. And if I can do it so can you! Broken and banged up as I am, I can still safely move about 40% of my bodyweight in the gym as long as I don’t compress my spinal column. The same fortitude that got me through training and all that came after gets me through each day, one day at a time.

    “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” Words I live by.

    Be well; Skåll!

  8. Chris Spencer on said:

    No wonder everyone makes a joke about the RAF’s poor standard of fitness.

    The CFT or AFT now, should not be hard, its a 2 hour stroll!!

  9. rick wilson on said:

    i use to find cft easier than bft, but i was a bigger build so had endurance and not speed. Ashamed to say i’d fail both now miserably. You’ve set me thetarget of being able to do equivelant of cft in 6 months

  10. Well done on completing your CFT. I did 5 yrs in the British Army and they have now got the ICFT which is infantry combat fitness test which comprises of 24 miles over 2 days 12 miles in 3 hours on each day with more weight on the 1st day than the 2nd but with 2 tests at the end of the 2nd day such as carrying a man with rifle over your shoulder for 100 metres that was hard don’t know if they will eventually bring that test in across the board but if they do you’ll know about it when you finish

    • The next one we have to do is the IFT. This is 3miles, 25Kg (same weight as above) but in 38mins 30secs. Then 1 minute rest. Then a drag of someone same height/weight for 50m.

      NOT looking forward to that at all.

  11. Stevie Rennie on said:

    Well done mate I know how you felt. The hardest CFT I ever done was on my junior Brecon section commanders cader. I thaught I was about to die but felt bloody great afterwords.

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