Effective immediately, sailors who were due to take a physical fitness assessment (PFA) in the first half of 2020 will have that requirement waived, the Navy announced Wednesday in guidance to the fleet.
The Navy is the first of the military services to alter fitness testing requirements amid concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, but there are indications other service branches may soon follow suit.
According to an NAVADMINmessage, all sailors will be excused from the PFA in Cycle 1 of 2020, including those who have already taken the test. The cycle runs from Jan. 1 through June 30.
"All official PFA records affected by this policy will be updated by the Physical Readiness Program office," the NAVADMIN states, adding that the office will work with the Bureau of Naval Personnel to excuse all personnel in the cycle from testing. That waiver will be reflected in the Navy's Physical Readiness Information Management System.
Navy commands that have begun testing should stop right away and not take further action, the message adds.
“Ultimately, the intent of the Navy’s PFA and the associated physical readiness standards are to maintain a baseline level of physical fitness for Sailors,” Paul Rosen, acting director of the 21st Century Sailor Office, said in a statement released by the Navy. “This is a unique situation that calls for a unique response. We know the coronavirus is highly contagious, and unnecessarily increasing the risk of infection due to the close physical proximity required to complete the PFA is not in the best interest of our Sailors or our overall mission readiness.”
Meanwhile, Navy-organized and group physical training regimens are also out until further notice, according to the message, although exceptions can be made for mission-necessary training and recruit training by a relevant flag officer.
If sailors are facing the end of their contract and are ineligible to reenlist because of a bad prior PFA, they'll get an extension, officials said. The length of that extension will be determined by their command, but won't continue past Sept. 30 of this year. If a sailor can pass a PFA in the second half of the year, they can then submit reenlistment or extension requests to their commanding officer for processing.
Sailors who were expecting to skip the spring PFA because they had performed well on a prior test, scoring in the "excellent low" range or better, will still have to take a test in the fall, Navy officials said.
As the Defense Department encourages social distancing and works to minimize travel and group events in order to stop the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, it's likely that other services will follow the Navy's lead and take measures to suspend or postpone fitness testing.
On Tuesday, the unofficial Facebook page "Air Force amn/nco/snco" posted photographs of documents appearing to show the cancellation of all Air Force fitness testing until June. According to the documents, those with fitness tests scheduled in March, April or May would see their tests pushed back six months, into the second half of the year.
An Air Force official said that the documents aren't finalized, but the service is expected to release more information in coming days.
The Marine Corps has yet to respond to queries about possible changes to fitness testing.
An official with the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, said they were unaware of any current service-wide move to postpone or suspend fitness testing, but added that individual installation commanders have some authority to make scheduling changes as they deem fit.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional info from the Navy.
-- Gina Harkins contributed to this story.
-- Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this story.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
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