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The development,iImplementation and validation of a physical employment standard and recommendations for a physical training programme for the RAF Regiment

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

The studies presented in this thesis were conducted to 1) develop a Physical Employment Standard (PES) for the Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment (Regt) 2) determine the effectiveness of a physical training programme focused on improving role-related physical fitness 3) determine differences in responses to the training programme between male and female recruits 4) validate an applicant PES to determine its effectiveness in identifying individuals with the physical ability to pass the incumbent PES having undertaken the physical training programme.

1. A Recommended PES for the RAF Regt
The development of the PES followed an internationally recognised “best practice” approach (Tipton et al., 2013). The recommended “minimum-standard” PES was based on the physically demanding operational job tasks deemed critical for the RAF Regt. The tests that constitute the PES have been designed to ensure that Service personnel of the RAF Regt have, and maintain, a baseline level of fitness that is sufficient to safely perform criterion tasks required in their job-role to a minimum acceptable standard. Eight critical job tasks performed by RAF Regt personnel were identified using questionnaires, observations and focus group meetings:
a. Resupply a Vehicle. Carry multiple items, (max weight of individual item 30 kg
Bergen) from a storage area to load onto the back of a MANSV (military personnel vehicle)
(1.6 m).
b. Tactical Advance to Battle (TAB). Walk, in an 8-man “section”, 16 km at 4.2 km.h-1, with a 10 min break at 6 km and 12 km and a 20 min break at 8 km. Total time 4 hr 28 min.
c. Point of Entry. Climb over/through 1.2 m wall/window unaided.
d. React to Effective Enemy Fire (REEF). Assault and withdraw – conduct fire and movement over 200 m (100 m assault, followed by 100 m withdraw), in 10 m bounds, zigzag movement, prone positions on advance, kneeling on withdrawal.
e. Flight Battle Drills. Move from point of contact to the assault, covering 400 m in 16.5 min, mixing running and crawling, depending on the cover. A crawl element of 30 m should be included. NB: the majority of the movements and fitness requirements of this task represent those demonstrated during the REEF, which is performed at a higher work rate, requiring higher levels of anaerobic fitness and muscular endurance. Thus, if personnel can complete the REEF, they will have the physical capabilities to undertake flight battle drills.f. Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) – one person drag under fire. Sprint to casualty 15 m away then, after removing casualty’s weapon, drag casualty (casualty wearing
Complete Equipment Fighting Order – Combat Order [CEFO-CO]1 minus weapon, approx. 111 kg), for 15 m to a point of cover.
g. CASEVAC – fireman’s carry. After removing the casualty’s daysack, lift with assistance a casualty weighing 95 kg, then fireman carry 100 m out of immediate danger area.
h. CASEVAC – evacuation by stretcher. In a team of four, carry a casualty wearing body armour (BA), webbing, helmet, and weapon, weighing 99.5 kg on an Extract 2 stretcher over difficult terrain for 1 km.
Twenty-nine RAF Regt personnel completed each of the eight critical tasks wearing CEFOCO (31.5 kg) while being monitored for physical and perceptual effort. The PES was developed using direct task simulations, measured on 61 incumbents. The resultant PES consists of two tests: 1) a Multi Stage Fitness Test (MSFT) to level:shuttles 9:10 to assess aerobic fitness to safely complete a Tactical Advance to Battle (TAB); 2) a battlefield test (COMBAT-T) involving six direct task simulations: single lift and point of entry (pass/fail); timed elements (REEF and crawl) set at the 95th performance percentile; CASEVAC casualty drag and CASEVAC simulated stretcher carry, completed without stopping. The COMBAT-T has been agreed by subject matter experts (SMEs) as being representative of the job role and having good face and content validity. Individuals should pass all the tests they are required to undertake. Each test examines a different capability and ensures that individuals are capable of performing at or above the minimum acceptable standard for all the activities associated with their job role. The tests cover the five components of fitness required to perform the job tasks: aerobic fitness; anaerobic fitness; muscular strength; muscular endurance and agility.
In contrast to incumbent RAF Regt personnel, applicants will not be expected to possess the skills or fitness required to successfully perform RAF Regt tasks, whilst carrying load, thus separate test criteria have been developed for applicants. The applicant PES requires participants to complete the task simulations without load and at a lower standard, to allow for expected improvements in fitness with training. The applicant PES should provide evidence that they have the fitness to do these tasks safely and therefore complete competency-based training without being limited by physical capability.
2. A 12-Week Strength-Based Training Programme for Recruits in Preparation for
the RAF Regt PES
Fifty-three RAF recruits (44 males [33 RAF Regt and 11 RAF police] and 9 female RAF police) completed a bespoke 12-week physical training (PT) programme (70 % strength training, 25 % loaded marching and 5 % aerobic training), as part of their Phase 2 course. Measures of body size and composition, grip strength, MSFT, press-ups and sit-ups were taken at weeks 0, 4, 8 and 12 of the training programme. Participants attempted the RAF Regt applicant PES at the start and end of training, and the RAF Regt incumbent PES at the end of training only.
Females were found to be 16.5 % lighter (t(21) = -4.286, p < .001, d = 1.59), had 10 % more body fat (t(21) = -8.059, p < .001, d = 3.58) and 32.2 % less lean body mass (LBM) (t(21) = - 9.295, p < .001, d = 3.76) than males at the start of training. The magnitude of difference did not change significantly post-training. Males and females increased LBM by 3.5 % (p < .05) and 5.3 % (p < .05), respectively. Male grip strength increased from 42.7 kg to 46.9 kg (t(44) = 4.8; p < .001) and 42.5 kg to 44.9 kg (Z(44) = 4.0; p < .001) in the right and left hand respectively. Female grip strength increased from 31.3 kg to 34.8 kg (t(8) = 2.8; p = .024) and 29.0 kg to 33.7 kg (Z(8) = 2.2; p = .028) in the right and left hand respectively. Male right and left grip strength was 36.4 % (t(21) = -5.992, p < .001, d = 2.48) and 46.6 % (Z = -3.598, p < .001, d = 2.27) greater than females respectively, pre-training, and 34.8 % (t(18) = -4.050, p < .001, d = 1.83) and 33.2 % (Z = -3.761, p < .001, d = 3.12) greater, post training. Males increased their maximal single lift to 1.6 m from 45.3 kg to 49.6 kg (t(43) = 4.0; p < .001). Females did not improve their single lift (30 kg pre and post training). Females increased their number of press-ups completed in a minute from 25 to 35 (Z(8) = 2.0; p = .04); males made no improvement pre-post training. Males completed 40.7 % more press-ups than females pre-training (Z = -3.049, p = .002, d = 1.76) and by the end of training completed 22.9 % more (t(17) = 3.331, p = .004, d = 1.47). There were no statistically significant differences in sit-ups between males and females and there were no changes in number of sit-ups completed by any group after training. There was no change in predicted VO2maxVׄO2max pre and post training in males or females. Males’ VׄO2max was 28.1 % higher (Z = - 4.042, p < .001, d = 3.13) than females at the start of the study and 23.1 % higher (t(17) = 7.364, p < .001, d = 2.86), post training. All participants passed the applicant PES. Thirty-five males (26 RAF Regt and nine RAF police) passed the incumbent PES (78.8 % and 81.8 % pass rate respectively), 11 withdrew during the course (nine RAF Regt and two RAF police), nine males (seven RAF Regt and two RAF police) and all females failed the incumbent PES. All females successfully completed at least one element of the incumbent PES. Males and females that failed were shorter, lighter, had lower grip strength, maximal single lift and MSFT scores, compared to males that passed, and females had lower scores compared to males that failed. The 12-week strength-based training programme increased the strength of male and female recruits but not their aerobic fitness. Increases in female strength were not sufficient to enable a pass in the incumbent PES. Future physical training programmes should focus on high intensity aerobic and strength training, tailored to specific individual requirements. Changes to the applicant PES are recommended to reduce the number of false positives (recruits passing the applicant PES but failing the incumbent PES).
In conclusion, a scientifically robust PES will help to ensure personnel have the physical fitness required to operate effectively in the RAF Regt. The applicant test will allow only those candidates with the necessary physical fitness components to be selected. Key fitness requirements of combat tasks including strength, power and endurance, will be developed within scheduled PT lessons, which will improve the probability of success in the incumbent
PES.
Original languageEnglish
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    Award date2020
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    ID: 21227269