This Marine is determined to get first-class Combat Fitness Test score

My Marine Corps career began in 2000, when I stepped onto the legendary yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. Since then, I’ve run the Corps’ physical fitness test, or PFT, twice a year.
Now, Marines must knock out one PFT and a CFT — or combat fitness test — each year.
During my first nine years as a Marine, I never once scored below first class on the PFT. I came close to getting a second class — one time by a mere pull-up — but never had to utter those dreaded words: “second class.”
My biggest challenge during a PFT? Crunches. I have never been good at them. Crunches bust my body and my PFT scores. Maybe it’s because, as my wife says, I don’t “practice” them enough.
In December, I had to undergo the CFT. It has more challenges than just crunches and is supposed to replicate the physical trials in the real world scenario of a war zone.
The CFT is comprised of an 880-yard sprint, an ammo-can lift, and a maneuver-under-fire course, which includes a dummy-grenade throw, casualty carry, ammo-can carry, high crawl and low crawl.
The ammo-can lift involves lifting a 30-pound ammunition can at a standing position from the chest and raising it above your head until your arms extend out and then bring it back down to your chest for a count of one.
I ran the CFT in March at my last duty station and was surprised at how well I thought I’d done — “thought” being the crucial word.
That test was merely pass or fail. And in my head, I had passed with flying colors.
So, it was with a sense of confidence that I strode onto the combat fitness test field on Camp Foster two weeks ago to take the CFT for score.
With my glow belt securely fastened around my waist, I began the test. I started swiftly and was toward the front of the pack for most of the run.
The test went well — I thought. My 880-yard sprint was respectable; my ammo-can lift slightly less so, but still good in my mind; and my maneuver under fire was good as well.
And my 35-year-old body held up well compared to my younger counterparts who completed the CFT that morning.
I felt confident that I would receive a first-class score on the CFT. Just like I always have for the PFT.
One week later, when my score was posted, I was snapped back to reality.
“Second class,” I mouthed in disbelief as I stared at my score on my Marine Online account.
There it was in black and white:


That can’t be right, I thought to myself.
My wife, a teacher, later mockingly compared it to a grade “B.”
I searched online to find a score calculator that would add up my times for each individual event, including those excellent ammo-can lifts. Sure enough, when I entered my times and scores, I came out with 260 points.
I have begun going to a TRX group class at 5 a.m. twice a week. TRX stands for total body resistance training, and it totally kicks my butt. It’s led by a Marine who looks like he would have no problem getting a perfect score on either fitness test. I’m also about to undergo a 12-week training regime that is part of the TRX suspension training system I purchased online and am eagerly awaiting in the mail.
Maybe this CFT was just the wake-up call I needed. Believe me, I’m going to do all I can to make sure that’s the last time I have to mumble those words: “second class.”