Old School……

In the news today, The US Air Force has announced new standards for physical fitness, presumably to accommodate the diversified nature of today’s young airmen and women. It seems the incoming folks can walk, as opposed to run, a mile and a half with other changes such as a planks rather than pushups when demonstrating their physical prowess. Should we be concerned? Hell yes, we absolutely should.

Two times in my lifetime I was required to meet a minimum physical standard necessary to fulfilling the role I was assuming. The first time was in Ft. Polk, Louisiana in the months of July and August, 1969, and the second was upon entering the Missouri State Highway Patrol training academy in July of 1972. In each case my well being was in the hands of folks who understood that preparation to fight a jungle war in Vietnam or a mean drunk on a county road somewhere in the hinterland would require a degree of conditioning exceeding a leisurely walk down a country road or the ability to hold a modified pushup position for a minute or two. Let me explain.

After a rough flight on a Trans Texas Airline puddle jumper, I arrived at scenic Ft. Polk at 1:30 AM. We had not slept since being sworn into the US Army in Kansas City around noon the day preceding. We were assured we had little value as human beings and ushered off to a building that was reminiscent of a cell block in a Southern prison farm. This was the beginning of our transformation from carefree high schoolers to a human being ready to fight for his life in Southeast Asia. The lynch pin in this transformation was one Domonick Petrarca, the Senior Drill Instructor. Sgt. Petrarca hailed from the streets of New Jersey and was as mean as a snake. He was also very effective and after 8 weeks, we had learned the basics of soldiering. Those veterans reading this know what I mean when I say Petrarca could transition from a butt stroke to a parry forward in a millisecond. He was effective and you either left the place conditioned and ready to fight or you got to start over, an experience sanctioned in hell.

My second experience was in the Highway Patrol Academy. This institution has produced many semi legendary physical training officers, and we soon became acquainted with our mentor, Corporal Paul Corbin (later Captain Corbin) who saw to it that every graduating recruit met a rather ambitious physical training standard. We soon realized that conditioning and maintaining control of society’s sociopaths and aberrant souls would, more than occasionally, require strength, stamina and resolve. Police work, like combat, is not for the faint of heart. Although the techniques taught were geared to a civil environment, both occupations require a certain and absolute degree of conditioning.

Captain Paul Corbin
Senior Drill Sergeant Domonick Petrarca

Back to the beginning. I emphatically disagree with the loosening of standards that seems to be the order of the day in occupations where well conditioned men and women are expected to win in a confrontation. I also am at odds with those who somehow believe that a social worker can talk him or herself through a confrontation with a mean drunk or sociopath bent on destruction. There really was a day, folks, when spitting on a police officer would see you launched right out of your brand new looted Nikes. Respect is gone because we no longer expect respect. Sad, really.

Thank you to my two personal mentors, who knew full well what I didn’t know. The number of really mean or otherwise societally challenged people is increasing and we are relaxing rather than enhancing the standards for confronting and dealing with these people. Our military has come to the point where it’s male members are taught how difficult it is to walk in high heels and how horrible it is to be in a minority or protected class where white supremacy reigns supreme. Believe me when I tell you when you are in a fight for your life, the color of the participants makes no difference, whereas your degree of conditioning and stamina mean everything. Don’t pray for a lighter load, instead pray for a stronger back.

This is one time where old school is best.

Have a great 4th of July holiday!


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