From ‘Let’s be cautious about lowering IPPT standards’, 5 July 2014, Voices, Today.
(Ben Ong):… I may not be an IPPT Gold award holder, but the logic behind each IPPT station seems clear. The test was designed to gauge soldiers’ fitness in relation to the physical demands placed on our bodies during combat situations.
For example, chin-ups are a good way to gauge whether we can haul ourselves, body armour, weapons et al, across a wall or parapet. The standing broad jump gauges our ability to hurl ourselves across a ditch. The shuttle run measures our ability to sprint short distances — probably useful when dodging bullets or looking for cover.
…What about a special type of IPPT with reduced stations for those unable to pass? It would be bare-bones, but set at a standard established as the minimum required of any soldier. There would be no monetary award, but those who opt for it may have their NS liabilities extended. This makes it fair on other NSmen who do pass the IPPT.
My NS mates and I have concluded that it is not easy, but not impossible, to pass the IPPT. We just have to look after ourselves, eat healthily and do simple exercises as part of our daily lives. We try not to eat chicken rice or char kway teow every other day; we climb stairs to the office instead of taking the lift; we walk to places where we have lunch instead of driving; we do push-ups, tuck-jumps or sit ups at home while watching the news.
If the IPPT were designed to create fighting fit supersoldiers, then we’d have to wear ‘body armour, weapons et al’ AT EVERY STATION in order for it to be a realistic gauge of combat fitness. SBJ is particularly unpopular, with 38% of NSmen polled by ST wanting this station dropped, second only to the murderous 2.4k run. It also happens to be the only station that you can complete in less than 10 seconds if you’re the kind who jumps over longkangs on a daily basis. Yet nobody, full battle order or not, leaps over gaping ditches looking LIKE THIS.
In the event of a real war, I’d take my chances with a running start than standing at the edge of a death drop swinging my arms like I’m doing warm-ups for a ski jump event instead. If it’s jumping over obstacles that you want to test, then why not put our reservist NSmen through SOC (Standard Obstacle Course) instead? It’s IPPT, not Ninja Warrior. SBJ proponents argue that the station emphasises on lower body muscular strength, and strong legs would come in handy should you need to carry the wounded to safety. In that case, why should distance be a critical factor? How about having us do 40 squats instead?
If there’s one ‘proficiency’ that Shuttle Run serves to improve, it’s unlikely to be escaping a rain of bullets. It’ll be more useful for a situation whereby you spot a gleaming 1 dollar coin on a busy road some 10 metres away and you need to dash and grab it before a car runs you over. Escaping bullets is not just about bursts of speed or dumb luck, but agility and lightning reflexes as well. How about replacing the shuttle run with a station called ‘Bullet Duck’ instead, which gives you points based on somersaulting, rolling, bending over and jumping sidewards in slow motion while returning fire.
Today, you can even do your 2.4k run on a TREADMILL in an air-conditioned gym. I can’t think of one ‘combat situation’ where this may relate to. Or perhaps it’s mental preparation for POW capture. Because that’s exactly what running stationary on a treadmill for 10 over minutes feels like. Torture.
In real war, nitty-gritty rules like overstepping the SBJ line, ‘fault jumps’, ‘chin over bar’, ‘no cycling of legs’, ‘elbows touching the knee’ are all rendered irrelevant, yet these are exactly the small things that make the difference between a pass and fail. No NSman should be compelled to do RT(Remedial training) over a trifling technicality. Being an ‘INDIVIDUAL PROFICIENCY’ test, the IPPT also undermines what really counts in the battlefield. Teamwork. If you can’t jump or scale walls for whatever reason, your band of brothers are supposed to be there, hauling you up from the brink of certain death, saving you from a lobbed grenade and taking a bullet for you. Like the SOC, such fitness tests and its incentives encourage a ‘me-first’ mentality where the one who gets the Gold (and money) escapes unscathed, while the less fit fall into bottomless pits and get impaled on barbed wire because they lacked certain ‘techniques’ or physical prowess that some people are naturally gifted with. Or worse, do RT.
As an ex-IPPT sufferer myself, I can tell you maintaining a ‘healthy lifestyle’ alone will not guarantee a pass. I know guys who are professional sportsmen but falter at chin-ups or SBJ. In fact, I may argue that forcing IPPT down our throats may turn us against general exercise for its own enjoyment, to the point that one can’t jog around a stadium track anymore without being reminded of RTs, or manage a chin-up without hallucinating voices shouting ‘No Count. ZERO’. One argument that may make the Government sit up and listen is that RT takes the NSman’s precious time away from family and procreation, which I believe has higher priority over IPPT passes, or an army’s proficiency in jumping over ditches.
UPDATE: When the SAF decided to reduce the number of stations from 5 to 3 (push ups, sit ups and 2.4 km), I suspect the same writer Ben Ong complained allowing more guys to pass the test by removing problematic stations would make us a weaker, ‘strawberry generation’ army. Using the dodgy analogy of removing composition from Mother tongue exams so that more students can pass, he reiterated his point that anyone should be able to pass as long as they ‘watch their diet’ and do basic exercises ’10 to 15 minutes a day’. Another writer griped that the IPPT needs to be a ‘struggle’ to bring out the best in soldiers. All these complaints before the whiners even experiencing the new IPPT themselves. What makes you think it’s easier to run 2.4km after doing BOTH push-ups and sit-ups?
Dudes, the army doesn’t maintain its ‘operational readiness’ based on tough IPPT stations alone, and there are many who pass or even score flying colours in the IPPT but make terrible soldiers who won’t leap over ditches (SBJ) or can’t duck bullets (shuttle run) in a real war situation. Stop preaching your fitness sermon or you’ll be at the receiving end of a blanket party. Now no Gold in IPPT can save you from that.