Military Fitness Test Ritual

Informant E was born in Korea and moved to El Centro California when she was 4. Before she came to USC she found that she was accepted into the school but also enlisted in the military. She put school on hold and deferred for a semester and went to training at the age of 17, and was one of the youngest soldiers to graduate. And after her experience with boot camp she came back to USC and started school and contracted to army ROTC. She has been deployed over the summers to Korea. She studies Psychology and Linguistics as a double major and a Forensics Criminality minor combined with dance as well. She wants to use her schooling and military experience to be in the FBI one day.

So in the army we have an APFT which stands for Army Physical Fitness Test. It consists of 2 minutes of pushups, 2 minutes of sit-ups, and a 2 mile run. And the standards are slightly different for male and female but they’re supposed to be set for what you should be able to do like capability wise. As ROTC cadets, we take one every month. So in a way its kind of a ritual you could say. We have a specific way of taking the test. Because I’m in the army as well as ROTC I can see kind of the comparisons. For ROTC everyone comes 10 minutes before the test. And were not told to do this but everyone does. And everyone puts their headphones in, sips on some water, stretches, and gets like pumped up and this is kind of a ritual within USC. It’s just kind of taken its own life as this tradition. So after that we’ll all get up and do like 10 of these calisthenics exercises which are standardized throughout the entire army. And that’s kind of like a ritual as well, we do it every single time. It’s supposed to stretch and prepare you for the fitness test. And then everyone will line up and fold their clothes; everything is very specific you know in the military. And this is a ritual through the entire military too. And then we’ll go pushups sit-ups and run. But in between the sit-ups and the run, they give us about 10 minutes to allow our bodies to recover from doing the other 2 exercises. And during that time, it’s so strange, almost everybody will sit down and talk. They’ll talk to get the anxiety off their mind. Its kind of a nerve racking test for ROTC because if you fail APFT you can lose your scholarship. You would think that people would be freaking out but everyone just kind of sits down and talks. They talk about everything, mostly non-ROTC related stuff to ease their minds. Then you take the exam and most everyone passes every single time. It’s almost a superstition that you have to do this. Ever since I’ve been in the program for 3 years, we do this every APFT which is every month so it’s interesting how that’s formed on its own. It’s this student mentality to be really prepared here at USC. When you put high achieving students here together, they want to do really well, they want to be really early. I know that having these specific steps and rituals help to calm some people down. People have found that it helps to do it specifically. It’s almost like an OCD person, they do things specifically to help calm their nerves so we can take this intense test. The military puts you in these high stress environments, but these rituals and superstitions and community kind of comes out of these environments.



Here the informant talks about some of the rituals and superstitions in the military surrounding their physical test. Many of the rituals she says is to calm anxiety and continue to foster unity and support within the group. Unity is extremely important for the military because they need that support in order to do their job effectively.  They will do these rituals so exactly that they almost turn into superstitions that they must do them.  Even how the military training is set up with these stressful tests breeds community and support because they can all help each other and cheer each other on, and they all understand what each person is going through.