Where will the recruits be tested for the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) and what steps are taken to ensure the recruits' safety?
Recruits must be cleared by medical during Phase 1 (P-days) and declared Fit for Full Duty (FFD) before being permitted to do the PFA and then to begin training.
Freedom Hall is RTC's physical fitness training facility. While ships in the United States Navy are named for famous military people, U.S. presidents, states, and cities, the name Freedom Hall pays homage to the attacks the country suffered September 11, 2001. The American flag on the quarterdeck of Freedom Hall was flown over the Pentagon August 15, 2002 to remember the people lost on 9/11.
During the course of a PFA recruits will undergo at least two hydration breaks and two safety briefs. They are shown the proper way to execute each exercise. The PFA begins with warm up exercises and ends with cool down exercises. Recruits with special medical needs such as prescription inhalers are issued colored belts. The entire facility features a rubber floor for running and the recruits conduct their curl-ups (sit-ups) and push-ups on specially designed mats.
There is more on Freedom Hall in http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=79962. (Please note that the info included there about the baseline PFA is outdated as of January 2018 and the information below is now true.)
The swim portions of the PFA are conducted in the USS Indianapolis (CA-25) Combat Training Pool located in Building 1425. The pool was named in honor of sailors who survived five days at sea following the sinking of the ship on July 30, 1945. The USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in the South Pacific after completing a top-secret mission to deliver parts of the atom bomb "Little Boy," which would be dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, a week later.
Recruits are given a brief instruction for each portion of the Swim Qualification so they know what they are to do. There are at least two life guards in the water to assist any recruit who needs it.
What is the PFA?
The PFA consists of push ups done in 2 minutes, curl ups (sit ups) done in 2 minutes, a 1.5 mile run, and a swim test composed of two modules. Most recruits will be required to pass the third class swim test, which consists of TWO modules. Module one is composed of three separate events, a deep water jump from a 10 foot raised platform using correct form; a 50-yard swim using one of four strokes with proper form: breast stroke, freestyle--some have said this should say crawl instead, side crawl or backstroke; and a 5-minute prone float face down--the recruit can raise his/her head to breathe as needed, but must continue the prone float while doing so and not end up treading water. (The prone float can be done on the back now instead of face down as of 2018.) Swimmers who successfully pass module one may continue on to module two. Module two consists of coverall inflation. The recruits then complete a man overboard drill or abandon ship drill in which 20 to 25 recruits have on a personal flotation device (PFD) and jump into the water and must swim to a life raft and once all have gotten to the raft, then they must help each other to get onto the raft one at a time. Those with a contract for Aircrew or special ops or who wish to be considered for a special ops rating must pass the second class swim test, which has more rigid standards. (See http://usmilitary.about.com/od/navy/l/blnavyswim.htm for more on the Swim Test.) If any part of the PFA is failed, then the entire PFA is failed.
THE BASELINE PFA
On about their fifth business day at RTC (excluding any HOLD days), the new recruits are tested on the 1.5 mile run of the Basline Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) at boot camp. The initial run standard is 16 minutes 10 seconds for male recruits and 18 minutes 7 seconds for female recruits. See Navy Sets New Physical Fitness Standard to Start Boot Camp. Those who pass will send The Form Letter and continue with BC. Remember that the standard to pass the PFA after the baseline PFA is based on your recruit's age and the run time will be less than for this PFA. The recruits are tested on the entire PFA, but the run portion is the part that determines if a recruit will continue with training. See http://www.navy-prt.com/femalestandard/ for the PFA standards for females and http://www.navy-prt.com/malestandard/ for the PFA standards for males.
If any of the recruits fail the initial run, then they are moved to FIT where they do not receive any training since they should have come to RTC with sufficient training to be able to pass the initial test of the 1.5 mile run. Those recruits who pass the run within 48 hours are moved to a division to begin training and will send The Form Letter. It won't necessarily be the division that they were originally assigned to when they arrived at RTC. This is why it is important not to send letters to your recruit if you get an address from your recruit's recruiter since it may not be correct.
Any recruits who fail both the first and the second attempt of the run portion of the PFA are sent to SEPS to be separated and sent home. If this happens to your recruit, join Ship 5 Moms(Formerly Ship 17) and see http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/faq.html#separations and FAQ about SEPS for more information on SEPS. Your recruit will call and let you know that s/he has been ASMO'd to SEPS as soon as the decision is made. Recruits separated for failing the PFA receive a reenlistment code of RE-8 and will require a waiver in order to reenlist.
What if a recruit fails both attempts at the first and second attempt of the run by only a few seconds? There is a third chance for those who failed the initial PFA twice, but only by a wee little bit, thus, there are high hopes that they will pass it in a few days or they will be separated. These recruits are kept in STEP, which is Ship 4 DIV 746.
An important note: The initial run is on around the fifth business day after arrival if the division that the recruit was tentatively placed in upon arrival has filled. An All Male division will fill faster than an Integrated division, which contains both males and females. The date of the initial run for an All Male division is usually closer to the fifth business day after arrival than for some of those in an Integrated division. Males do not know until arrival if they will be placed in an All Male division or an Integrated division. Females will be placed in an Integrated division. Phase 1 (P-days) can be as short as 4 days to as long as 17 days, but is seldom over 11 days. Arrival and What Happens at RTC will let you know what is happening and what to expect. So far, those receiving the call that their recruit is being sent to SEPS have received that call before or within the 9 to 14 business days after arrival that it now takes to receive The Form Letter.
THE SECOND PFA
The second PFA is conducted midway through training in the fourth week of training. If any recruits fail, then depending on how badly the PFA was failed, they will get ASMO'd to another division in a later TG anywhere from one to four weeks behind their current PIR date. Those who pass the second PFA continue with training and are expected to have PIR on time as indicated in The Form Letter.
If your recruit does not pass, then your recruit will call and let you know that s/he will be sent to a division in a later TG with a new PIR date. Recruits who are moved to a division with a later PIR date usually indicate that they have been pushed back and the number of weeks, but they do not usually know the division number or address when making the call. You will receive that information in the next letter from your recruit. In the meantime, you can continue to write to your recruit at the current address and mail will be forwarded to your recruit, but do use the new address when you have it. The Security Access Form that you sent to your recruit will work even with a change in PIR date. If there is a change in the number of guests, then your recruit will be given a call to let you know who s/he wants to attend PIR.
THE OFFICIAL PFA
The third PFA, the Official PFA, occurs in the sixth week of training and must be passed in order to go on to Battle Stations-21 (BST) and PIR. Regardless of the level of performance on other events, the PFA is failed when the recruit does not achieve "Satisfactory" performance standard or better for any PFA event. http://www.navy-prt.com/femalestandard/ gives the PFA standards for females. http://www.navy-prt.com/malestandard/ gives the PFA standards for males. Recruits who pass the Official PFA go on to complete BST a few days later.
Recruits who do not pass their Official PFA on time MAY be ASMO'd to a division in a later TG anywhere from one to four weeks behind their current PIR date if this has not previously happened for them or they may be ASMO'd to the FIT division or they may be ASMO'd to SEPS if they have already been ASMO'd to a later TG due to not passing a previous PFA. If this affects your recruit, s/he will call you to let you know (usually in a scripted call). They usually make one call no later than a week before PIR to let loved ones know that they will not be having PIR as scheduled, but those calls have come as late as the Tuesday before PIR at times.
INFO FOR THOSE WITH A RECRUIT WHO HAS BEEN ASMO'D TO ANOTHER DIVISION FOLLOWING THE OFFICIAL PFA
If your recruit is ASMO'd to another division in a later TG, then your recruit will call and let you know that s/he will be sent to a division in a later TG with a new PIR date. Recruits who are moved to a division with a later PIR date usually indicate that they have been pushed back and the number of weeks, but they do not usually know the division number or address when making the call. You will receive that information in the next letter from your recruit. In the meantime, you can continue to write to your recruit at the current address and mail will be forwarded to your recruit, but do use the new address when you have it. The Security Access Form that you sent to your recruit will work even with a change in PIR date. If there is a change in the number of guests, then your recruit will be given a call to let you know who s/he wants to attend PIR.
INFO FOR THOSE WITH A RECRUIT WHO HAS BEEN ASMO'D TO FIT FOLLOWING THE OFFICIAL PFA
If your recruit is moved to the FIT division, then your recruit will call and let you know that s/he will not have PIR as scheduled and not to come, but don't cancel your plans immediately. (See the info below.) The RDCs will work with him/her and s/he will be given an opportunity to retest for the run every other day (MWF) when those days do not fall on a holiday if there are other divisions training. (When there is a holiday on a Monday, then the run/PFA is on Tuesday and Thursday instead.) The RDCs or other recruits or Sailors may even run alongside the recruit to encourage him/her so that s/he will pass. Another Sailor or RDC may run in front of the recruit in order to set the pace for the recruit; this is called "chasing the rabbit." Those who are retesting for the swim are given several opportunities each weekday (M-F) when those days do not fall on a holiday if there are other divisions training. Some recruits are able to pass the Official PFA and still have PIR on time, so do not cancel your plans immediately. (You may want to join the group, fit program.)
If a recruit fails only a part of the PFA, does s/he have to redo the entire PFA? Yes, the recruit will be retested over all parts of the PFA, but they will only focus on the part that was failed while in FIT since if the recruit passed the other parts, s/he should be able to do it again. The PFA consists of push ups, curl ups, a 1.5 mile run, and a swim test composed of two modules. Module one is composed of three separate events, a deep water jump from a raised platform using correct form, a 50-yard swim (using any stroke), and a 5-minute prone float face down--the recruit can raise his/her head to breathe as needed (turning the head to the side to breathe works best for most), but must continue the prone float while doing so and not end up treading water. Floating on the back is now permitted for the prone float as of 2018. Either way, the key to passing the prone float is to relax. Swimmers who successfully pass module one may continue on to module two and then the man overboard drill. Module two consists of coverall inflation.
Recruits have 10 opportunities to pass the PFA once they are placed in FIT. A small percentage of those who are placed in FIT are unable to pass the PFA and end up being separated. Most of those in FIT do go on to be US Navy Sailors.
Once the recruit passes the Official PFA, then the recruit will have BST with another division. The recruit might complete BST on the same night that s/he passed the PFA if the test was passed in the morning, but most do it the following night or later depending on when an opening is available for the recruit. If your recruit passes the PFA and has BST prior to PIR, then the new Sailor will have PIR. If the recruit has BST on the night before PIR, this new Sailor will have to sit in the balcony during PIR since it would be dangerous for him/her to march and to stand during the ceremony after being up all night.
If your recruit does not pass the PFA prior to PIR or if there is not a chance for your recruit to have BST before PIR (this happens if there is no PIR the next week and the last divisions in the TG have had BST), then s/he will not be allowed to PIR. Once the PFA is passed, s/he will complete BST and then be moved to the THU immediately and will be allowed a short Liberty and head straight to "A" School when transportation can be arranged, usually following the next PIR.
There has been a waiting list for BST at times depending on the number of recruits in FIT who have passed the Official PFA. Females sometimes have a longer wait to go to BST since they must complete BST with an integrated division and males are able to complete BST with an all male division or an integrated division. With the changes that allow the second chance to have PIR by being ASMO'd to a division with a later PIR date, hopefully there are fewer recruits in FIT and there should no longer be long waiting lists for those in FIT to have BST after passing the Official PFA.
You will only receive a call when his/her status changes. That means that s/he has passed the PFA and/or has had BST. Sometimes the recruit is able to call after passing the PFA before having BST and other times, the Sailor does not call until after BST. Some of those who get to call prior to BST are those who should be able to have PIR on time, but they are not always allowed to call until after BST and some have been at PIR in the balcony without having made a call so their loved ones did not know that they could have had time with them.
If you do not get a second call by the day before you plan to leave for GL for PIR, then call or email the PAO to check on your recruit's status. This is usually Wednesday afternoon for those with a Friday PIR. Wednesday is the last opportunity to pass the PFA and have (or at least attend) PIR if there is an opportunity to have BST Thursday night/Friday morning, but there is not always BST on Thursday night, so even if your recruit does pass on Wednesday s/he may not be able to have PIR. (You can contact RTC Public Affairs Office at 847-688-2405 or via e-mail at email@example.com.) Do not call them before that because it would be a waste of time for both you and the PAO and please do not call unless you have received a call indicating that your recruit is in FIT because if you have not received a call to indicate that there is a problem, then everything is on track for your recruit to have PIR on the scheduled date. Some have cancelled their plans upon receiving the first call only to find out that they did have a Sailor who was able to have (or at least attend) PIR. You will not be able to see your recruit on the day of PIR if s/he has not passed BST and is a Sailor.
The important thing to remember is that they work with them in FIT and your recruit will most likely pass and be a Sailor at some point and no one will care later that it took longer to get to that point. The address to write to your recruit in FIT is Ship 4, 3600 Ohio Street, Great Lakes, IL 60088-7103. Put "FIT Division- Male" or "FIT Division-Female" in place of the Division Number until you are given a different address.
Recruits who remain in FIT for more than 2 weeks call about every other week in order to boost morale, but calls are random and can occur at any time between 8 am and 8 pm Central Time, so have your phone available. They may get online instead if the phone banks are too busy to call and a computer is available. The RDC's in FIT use down time to answer questions, share stories, and give solid career advice to the recruits, often one-on-one, which not only boosts the recruits' morale, but will help them once they are Sailors.
Your recruit may be given a deadline in which to pass and continue with the same contract. If your recruit doesn't pass before the scheduled contract date, then s/he will be given a deadline to pass and receive a new contract, which may be for the same "A" School or for a different one or for one of the PACT programs, or be separated.
INFO FOR THOSE WITH A RECRUIT WHO HAS BEEN ASMO'D TO SEPS FOLLOWING THE OFFICIAL PFA
If your recruit is ASMO'd to SEPS, join Ship 5 Moms(Formerly Ship 17) and see http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/faq.html#separations and FAQ about SEPS for more information on SEPS. The separation process takes a minimum of 10 to 20 business days, but can be up to 7 weeks or more now due to the number of recruits in SEPS, so do not expect your recruit to be home right away. Recruits separated for failing the PFA receive a reenlistment code of RE-8 and will require a waiver in order to reenlist.
If I have used any terms that are unfamiliar to you, then check out What does ??? mean? (A Guide to Navy Abbreviations and Terminology).
The above information is provided by lemonelephant, the mom of a retired Sailor.