Service personnel physical fitness as core element of combat fitness for antiterrorist missions

Dr.Hab., Professor V.L. Pashuta1
PhD, Associate Professor V.А. Belyaev1
1Military Institute of Physical Culture, St. Petersburg

Keywords: physical fitness, antiterrorist mission, combat fitness, physicality, combat skills

Background. Terrorism is now ranked among the greatest risks for the national security of many countries and global peace on the whole, with the armed forces being commonly and increasingly used for the antiterrorist missions. Sergey Shoygu, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, in his speech on November 9, 2013 mentioned the global terrorism and NATO expansion as the “major enemies” for the Russian Federation today. This means that one of the top priority missions of the national Armed Forces is to control the global terrorism.

The valid legislation of the Russian Federation entitles the Russian Armed Forces to use force from the Russian territory to destroy terrorists and/or their locations; and entitles the relevant special troops of the Armed Forces to control the foreign terrorist activity beyond the territory of the Russian Federation.

Practical experience of the antiterrorist missions of special troops of the Russian Federation has shown that the key role in the combat missions is played today by the motorized infantry, parachute infantry, marines and logistical units. Combat missions in Chechnya, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria have demonstrated the need for regular troops to be wider used to suppress large terrorist groups and paramilitary bands when the special antiterrorist units/ squads are not efficient enough.

Having accumulated the valuable practical experience of the combat missions against different terrorist units, the Armed Forces have developed an antiterrorist operation as the new model for a special combat mission. Such operations have demonstrated that the antiterrorist military tactics and strategy shall be much different from the classical military doctrine for success. This is the reason why the relevant adjustments need to be made to the combat personnel training systems including their physical training components [4].

Objective of the study was to provide theoretical grounds for update of the professional physical fitness building component for the service personnel engaged in the antiterrorist missions.

Methods and structure of the study. Antiterrorist operation may be defined as a combination of special logistical, combat, military and other actions with military machinery, weaponry and other special equipment to prevent an act of terror, neutralize terrorists, protect relevant individuals, organizations and institutions; and minimize the negative effects of the act of terror [8].

Presently a special priority is being given to the service personnel fitness/ skills for success of the antiterrorist operation albeit the individual fitness rating criteria still need to be agreed upon, categorized and standardized. Analysis of the practical provisions for and actual personnel performance in the antiterrorist operations gives the grounds for the provisional conclusion that a success in the combat mission depends on a variety of personality qualities including: perfect combat skills; high mental control ability; high physical fitness; and practical skills and abilities for combat missions in a wide range of climatic and geographic conditions [5]. These qualities and skills may be formed and improved, within certain individual limits, by special physical training systems [6] designed to make a serviceman physically and mentally fit for the combat missions in the antiterrorist operations: see Figure 1 hereunder.

Figure 1. Components of the service personnel fitness for combat missions in the antiterrorist operations

In the context of the above structure of the service personnel combat fitness, it is beneficial to design the physical fitness building component of a few sequential modules (stages) to secure focused formation of the special individual and team qualities to secure success of the combat missions in the antiterrorist operations. The physical fitness building component may be described as composed of the basic and special skills building modules as follows.

The basic skills building module includes a set of special exercises as provided by the valid Physical Training Instruction (PTI-2009) for the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation [6]. These basic skills building exercises shall be mastered on a compulsory basis by every military serviceman.  

The special skills building module basically includes the following: parachute infantry training component; mountaineering component; diving component; combat survival component; and other special skills training components. The practical content of the special skills building module depends on the specific requirements to one or another combat mission/ specialty as spelled out by the relevant regulations and commandments [6].

On the whole, the necessary combat skills shall be mastered in the physical training practices and other combat training practices governed by the ‘master what you need for warfare’ logics. In the tactical perspective, the training practices are designed to secure basic physical fitness standards for the trainees by the natural bodily adaptation processes being effectively mobilized for success.

When designing and managing the tactical-level group-specific (skill-level-customized) training sessions (for example, for the groups different in the service terms), the commander/ sports instructor shall secure the training loads and timing being reasonably customized to the group skills and fitness levels. The group-specific training loads shall be calculated based on the actual group performance data and analyses for the practical mission reports. The tactical-level training sessions are commonly acknowledged to be highly beneficial and informative for the tests to rate the bodily/ physiologic responses to variable physical and mental loads and stresses [5].

The primary/ entry health examination and rating data versus the physical and mental progress test data obtainable in the combat training process make it possible to put together a ‘health pattern’ for every serviceman. These data shall be complemented with the extreme physiological responses rating test data obtained in and after extreme physical and mental stresses – for instance, straight after a forced march or a short-term rest break in the march. These extreme stress tolerance data are rather important for the detailed ‘health pattern” as they indicate the individual stress tolerance limits, accounts and relevant rehabilitation periods.

Based on the above health monitoring, examinations and bodily response tests, the analysts may draft the correlation diagrams of the physiological response rates versus physical and mental loads/ stresses to complement the basic ‘health patterns’ of the service personnel. These health patterns are indispensable for express tests to rate the service staff’s health, particularly straight after combat missions, to decide on the rehabilitation scope and terms on an individualized basis [3].

Practical experience of the combat missions in the antiterrorist operations shows that physicality of the service staff often falls down after the missions to the absolutely unacceptable levels. Generally, such serious burnouts need to be cured by long-term rehabilitation services including a variety of special health services, rehabilitative physical trainings, mental conditioning tools etc. [3].

Due mental fitness of the service personnel shall be secured by the relevant combat training tools with the reasonably managed risks and hazards in the training process strictly customized to the progress as verified by the physical and mental fitness test rates, combat skills test rates, practical experiences and fear-control skills.

Study results and discussion. Modern war challenges need to be addressed by a variety of new combat strategies and tactics including antiterrorist operations that require the personnel physical training models to be updated in compliance with new goals and missions. In the rapidly changing combat environments, a growing priority shall be given to the physical training standards of the service personnel –  to make the staff capable of standing extreme stresses and at the same time fast recovering upon the extreme physical and mental loads and stresses, with the efficient rehabilitation secured by the modern versatile and highly effective health and rehabilitation services.

On the whole, the physical training component of the traditional combat training system needs to be updated and expanded. It would be beneficial to complement the standard set of physical exercises – as spelled out by the valid instructions [6] – with the practices geared to build up the following: versatile combat skills in a wide range of climatic and geographic environments; due individual and team combat skills and mental mindsets for specific combat missions; and body and mind rehabilitation skills for post-mission periods.

Conclusion. The new challenges, goals and missions of the modern military service require the relevant updates to be made to the combat fitness building systems including their physical fitness building components – that are recommended to be revised to effectively build up the following:

  • Physical fitness of the service personnel as required by the valid Physical Training Instruction (PTI-2009) for the RF Armed Forces; and
  • Due combat skills and mental fitness secured by the new sets of applied combat exercises customizable to standard combat missions, actions and models.


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The study analyzes a few critical issues of the military service personnel physical fitness for antiterrorist missions. The antiterrorist missions of the RF Armed Forces generally include the operations to: encircle the target zone; block the key objects/ areas in the zone; detect illegal paramilitary units (IPU) within the encircled zone; locate, disarm them and destroy their bases; neutralize the IPU; take control of the IPU territory; establish security, raiding and checkpoint systems in the conflict zone; establish security and defense systems at the key objects; defend the target area on the national/ regional frontier; secure the communications system in the zone including the transport convoy security system; establish a law-enforcement and communal security system within the zone; disarm the local communities; reinforce the public security systems and checkpoints; establish a special access regime in the conflict zone etc.

Practical experience of the antiterrorist missions has demonstrated that success of a mission largely depends on how physically and mentally fit and balanced the service personnel for the mission is, since every mission requires the personnel to be highly tolerant to physical and mental loads and stresses.