OPAT -- Occupational Physical Assessment Test

My recruiters told me to come into the office on Friday in comfortable clothes because we would be “doing some exercises.” Did they think I normally dress up for them? I wondered, as I put on my normal comfy clothes and prepared myself for some more duck walks and bending to touch my toes, etc. All those great MEPS exercises.

I knew little about my recruiters’ plans to try to KILL ME that day. These were no routine MEPS exercises we were talking about! It was an official physical test I had to sign papers to allow them to do, probably in case I died in the process (a distinct possibility). Apparently there are certain physical standards you must meet for your individual MOS. My MOS requires me to be somewhere in what they called the “middle bracket”.

First, they had me do a long jump. So basically, they rolled out a long tape measurer and asked me to jump as far as I could. They let me try three times to get the farthest I could. For all of these exercises I will describe, I was allowed three tries.

Second, they gave me a medicine ball (kind of like a weighted basketball) and had me throw it (like a basketball pass, with both arms) as far as I could. After the medicine ball toss, I had to do a hex bar deadlift. I say that like I know what that is, but I didn’t. I have never hit a gym in my life. (Lest you judge me too much, I do work out at home. Just without equipment.) This is what kind of person I am: When my recruiter asked me, “When was the last time you lifted?” I asked, “Lifted what?”

He indicated this little contraption:

He showed me how to squat in the middle of it and lift it as you stand. “Don’t worry, the max you’re even allowed to lift in here is 220lbs,” he said, as if that was nothing. Flashback to me struggling with a 10 lb. weight during my ladies’ workout video … Last year. (That I haven’t done since.) At my raised eyebrows, he assured me that most people can lift at least their own body weight. I had a feeling I did not fit into that category.

But as it turns out, he was right. I lifted 150 lbs. no problem. I got up to 175 before he told me he wouldn’t let me lift anymore because I needed all my energy for this next event: the shuttle run.

Up until this point, none of the exercises were really a problem. But the shuttle run is what killed me. You have to run back and forth between two cones set 10m apart. You wait until you hear a beep before you run to the other cone. (Like the MEPS beep test on steroids.) At first you are just leisurely jogging along, enjoying life, but the beeps gradually have less and less time between them, until pretty soon, you are running for your life to make it to the other cone on time. It’s hard because you have to fight the instinct to go slower the more tired you get, and instead go faster the more tired you get.

What would be nice to know is, the beeps indicate you are moving on to the next level of the exercise. There is a specific level you must reach to meet your MOS requirement. Instead, what I was told was, “Run until you pass out.” Taking this figuratively, I took this to mean, “Run until you get tired.” That was my mistake.

I stopped when I was exhausted from running and was starting to see spots. “Why did you stop?? If you would have just gone one more lap, you would have passed!” My recruiter told me. Later he remarked, “You didn’t even throw up.”

“Guess I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough,” I joked.

“That’s what I’m saying,” he said. Not joking. 😐

Luckily, I didn’t have to do that test three times. But I do still have three chances, if I need them. (Which I obviously do.) So I made an appointment to come back and try again after the weekend. I had the next two days to train. I ran both evenings for about 45 minutes, incorporating plenty of hills into my route to get my lungs used to working that hard. My recruiter had given me a bunch of things to memorize before Basic Training, like the Army Values, the Three General Orders, and the Soldier’s Creed, so I said them to myself as I ran. Besides making me feel like an epic warrior and motivating me to get up hills, that was a good way of drilling those things into my brain.

I went back to the recruiter’s office this morning and tried the shuttle run again. (You don’t have to redo all the tests unless you fail one all three times.) I still had to push myself to get the score I needed, but I was able to exceed it this time. So yeah, I’m feeling like a million bucks.

My recruiter let me know how unimpressive it was and suggested I make running a regular habit, if I want to survive in the Army. So I went out and bought myself a pair of running shoes. Taking it as a sign from the Universe that they match my blog theme! Guess I’m meant to be a runner. 🤷


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