Combat Fitness (Part 2): Performance Evaluations


This second installment in our three-part article on combat fitness provides some examples and suggestions for how to develop “combat performance evaluations.” The article is drawn from Special Tactics’ upcoming book Comprehensive Combat Fitness Training which is now available for preorder. If you have not yet read PART 1 of this three-part article, we suggest you do so since it provides the context for this second article.

In PART 1, we discussed the importance of adopting a “mission focused approach” to fitness training. This entails building a fitness routine that develops the physical attributes most important for your job. For example, if your mission is to control prison riots, muscle mass and physical strength are critical. If your mission is long range reconnaissance, muscle mass is less important than cross-country endurance.

The first critical step in the mission focused approach is to develop a combat performance evaluation that replicates the mission requirements you are likely to face in real life. As discussed in PART 1, most performance evaluations in military and LE units test only one skill/attribute at a time (marksmanship, fitness, casualty care) in an isolated environment. An effective combat performance evaluation tests multiple skills/attributes simultaneously under realistic conditions, with little or no warning provided to those being evaluated. What follows are a few examples for how to design and implement a combat performance evaluation.


This is an example of how you might design a combat performance evaluation if your organization has unlimited resources and no external restrictions. We understand that this is virtually never the case, but it is still useful to know what the “dream scenario” would look like so you have an ideal to aim for.

The less warning your people have the better. You might have an alarm in your facility/compound to signal the start of the test. You might have different codes or alarms to allow you to test only select groups at a time. Once the alarm goes off, all those being tested must drop what they are doing, don their combat equipment and move as quickly as possible to a predetermined rally point. Once they arrive, the tester will reveal the first event. For example, the tester might point to a casualty or dummy and tell the group that they must treat the casualty, move the casualty to a helicopter landing zone and call for evacuation. Ideally, the test will include live fire or non-lethal (simmunition) weapons engagements, forcing the group to seek cover, identify and engage targets while they are dealing with the casualty.

The tester should unexpectedly introduce changes into the scenario, testing different skills and making the events as physically demanding as possible. The group might have to move the casualty upstairs, send a radio message from the roof, but then lower the casualty out of a window using a rope system because the lower floors of the building catch fire. There is essentially no limit to the amount of stress you can introduce. It is also important to remember that the skills testing should not get in the way of fitness testing. You should intersperse physical challenges (like climbing, spiriting and negotiating obstacles) between the skills tests so that your people never get to recover completely.


Even without the resources and freedom of action described in the previous example, you can still design an outstanding combat performance evaluation with very few resources. You will still use the same basic principles and structure from the ideal example, you will just have to be more resourceful.

You will use the same surprise alert method. Officers must don their equipment and move to a rally point, maybe the top floor of your office building. Once there they will receive instructions for their first event. For example, they must run down to the bottom floor to another rally point where they find a heavy bag of equipment that they must carry back up to the top floor. Once on the top floor they open the bag to find a mass of disassembled weapons, radios and other equipment that they must reassemble as quickly as possible.

Once complete, they are instructed to take the equipment with them and move as quickly as possible to the garage or parking lot where they are to get into their car and drive to an emergency call. When they arrive in the garage they are told that they are taking fire from a heavily armed active shooter (deadly attacker) on the opposite side of the garage. While there will be no live fire shooting, you can use speakers to replicate the sounds of gunfire and increase stress. The deadly attacker will be a role-player and the officers must take cover and use the radio to report the attacker’s description and location. From here, you might incorporate a casualty scenario where the officers must drag a casualty to safety, report status and provide medical aid.

For the next event, you might report that the deadly attacker has fled to the gym or a room where you have set up grappling mats. The officers might have to run up and down stairs (or sprint across the parking lot) two more times and then enter the room to arrest the subject. The officers must use verbal commands and physical contact to control the subject but then another attacker will emerge unexpectedly and both officers will need to use defensive tactics/combatives to control and restrain both attackers.

Once again, this is just an example and there is no limit to how creative you can be when designing these scenarios. You can also choose to have the officers run through the course individually, with their partner, or as a larger team. It is also important to focus on skills and abilities that are most relevant to your mission requirements. For example, park police in a rural area might want to incorporate longer movements, simulating pursuit of a suspect over rough terrain.


A low-budget military version of the test would look very similar to the previous example but the skill and fitness focus would be different. A military unit might include tasks like map reading and cross-country navigation, or moving as quickly as possible carrying a crew-served weapon and then putting that weapon into operation. A military test might also incorporate maintenance tasks like changing a tire or track on an armored vehicle. It is important to remember that tests can be short and intense, but they can also be longer and last several hours or even days. It all depends on your mission requirements.


Any individual citizen or organization can benefit from a combat performance evaluation. The key is to analyze what your real life combat requirements might be and design your tests accordingly. The examples above are only a few options for creating a combat performance evaluation. By being creative and sharing ideas with your peers, you should have no difficulties coming up with many effective test options that fit your mission requirements. It is also ideal if you time every event and track performance over an extended period. Most importantly, it is critical that every test be a surprise. If you know when the test is coming and know what will be on it, that does not measure true readiness. In PART 3 of this three-part article we will discuss how to measure the results of your combat performance evaluation to drive the creation of a larger fitness program.

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