Soldiers work to stay in shape

Armies may march on their stomachs, but the bodies those stomachs energize have to be fit for the task.

Armies may march on their stomachs, but the bodies those stomachs energize have to be fit for the task.

Being fit for battle, by Department of National Defence standards, means being able to march 13 kilometres wearing their normal kit, including a 25-kilogram backpack and carrying a C-7 automatic weapon, and then hoist and pack a fellow soldier for 100 metres to simulate an emergency evacuation, says Lt. Harold Lowe of 749 Communication Squadron.

Sixteen members of the Red Deer-based reserve unit were given their annual test on Saturday to determine whether they could meet muster.

They all passed, including Cpl. Maria Cappis, who stands a little over 1.52 metres tall and weighs in at a little more than 50 kgs.

That means Cappis, a parts technician, carried more than half her own weight for the full distance of the test.

“You get used to it. I don’t know how much we do that’s actually that easy, but it was fun and worth doing. It’s challenging.”

The standard is the same for everyone, regardless of size, age and gender and regardless of whether they’re in the regular or reserve forces, said Lowe.

Reservists have to be able to fill in where required and they have to be able to do the same job as their counterparts in the regular forces, he said.

Communications teams provide support to all levels of the service and must be able to pack up and move on the battlefield, he said.

What’s different for the reservists is that they do not have the advantage of physical training that’s part of the daily routine for full-time soldiers.

Members of the Red Deer squad have been building up for the test over the past few weeks, starting with shorter marches and gradually building up to meet the 13-kilometre test, run on Saturday morning on section of trail that loops around the Clearwater Meadows detention pond.

Incentive to do well comes from each reservist’s desire to meet the standards, said Lowe.

It’s a job requirement. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“It’s you proving to the system that you’re meeting that standard. It’s proving to yourself that you meet that standard,” said Lowe.

Everybody makes it over the year. People who don’t pass the first test have two more opportunities to meet the standard.

If people can’t pass the final or express test, then there are problems, said Lowe.

In general, members of 749 Communication Squadron have passed the test, said their commanding officer, Capt. Sam Fasullo.

On strength, the unit has 40 to 45 members on paper, said Fasullo. With transfers, time off and other factors, there are usually 25 to 30 active members at any one time, he said.