In an effort to implement more effective talent acquisition and management, and to improve combat readiness, the U.S. Army opened all occupations to qualified personnel, regardless of gender, per Executive Order 097-16 to the U.S. Army Implementation plan 2016-01. This change went into effect 1st April 2016.
Starting October 1st 2016, both new recruits and Soldiers who want to move into a more physically demanding military occupational specialty (MOS), will be required to take a new test. The Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) is an age/ gender neutral test that consists of four events: a medicine-ball throw, standing long jump, dead-lift and interval run. The events are designed to gauge a Soldier’s ability to meet job demands after leaving the training environment.
The Army’s Mission is to build a stronger Army through readiness. The goal is to match the right Soldiers to the right jobs that best corresponds to their abilities. The OPAT will measure each recruit’s physical aptitude against validated physical demands and tasks in each MOS to help ensure the Soldiers are being placed in the right job positions.
OPAT scores are divided into four categories, based off of physical demand: heavy (black), significant (gray), moderate (gold), and unprepared (white). Most MOSs will fall into the moderate/gold category. The Gold category is also the minimum that is required of all Soldiers. Soldiers who meet the standards for the heavy/black category will qualify for all MOSs.
Jobs such as infantry, armor, and combat engineer, are examples of the black category. Tank and helicopter mechanics would be included the gray category. Logistics- based jobs would be included in the gold category. The Army is continuing to further finalize which military occupational specialties fall under each tier.
Currently, Soldiers entering the Army will be tested in three areas: mental aptitude and ability, social (non-cognitive) skills, and physical fitness/health. The OPAT will be used to test the physical fitness/health aptitude for each Soldier.
Anticipated Strengths and Weakness
Some of the potential strengths of the OPAT include, but are not limited to, improved performance/training, job satisfaction, and overall health of Soldiers, as well as a greater retention rate, and reduced instances of injury.
As with implementing any new program, there are some areas of concern. One possible weakness of the OPAT is that Soldiers who exceed the standards of the OPAT may tend to be clustered together into more physically demanding MOSs. While at the same time, Soldiers who scored lower on the OPAT may dominate less physically challenging MOSs. This could lead to MOSs in the gold category (i.e. logistics based jobs) being less physically fit as a whole, when compared to MOSs in the black category.
The OPAT will now be used to determine a Soldier’s career path based on their individual fitness level. Soldiers who want to serve in a specific branch will have to be able to meet the standard or they would be recommended to a branch that better fits their capabilities. This could lead to fewer recruits for certain MOSs.
The OPAT is designed to be gender-neutral, allowing for women to attain positions that were closed to them in the past. It is a test that will establish a baseline fitness profile for recruits that doesn’t discriminate based on age and gender.
For more information and guidance on how the OPAT will be conducted and scored, click here.