In the six months since launching as a pilot program, the Be Military Fit program improved the candidate training success rate from 63% to 93% on the first attempt.
Approximately 20,000 women apply to join the British Army each year, a figure which has increased slightly following rule changes which now allow them to join frontline infantry regiments.
But senior officers and planners at Capita, the army’s recruiting company, struggled to minimize the number of candidates who did not pass the initial physical assessment or phases 1 and 2 of the training due to pelvic and hip flexion injuries. and leg injuries.
“There was growing frustration that some female candidates, who we knew would make excellent soldiers, simply did not succeed,” an army source said last night.
“Since it was never about lowering standards or organizing gender-specific assessments, we had to think outside the box.”
The solution was Be Military Fit, a company co-founded by former SAS soldier Bear Grylls that offers free 6 and 12 week physical and mental packages for applicants who have already passed their Army medicals to fight. for real life.
And it works, said rookie Eleanor Peace, who spent several months training with BMF before taking her formal assessment and moving into Phase 1 training.
Recruit Eleanor Peace, 23, who is still in training and wants to join the Army Air Corps
“I always wanted to join the army. I’m not someone who wants a 9-5 job and the travel and lifestyle opportunities really appeal to me, ”said the 23-year-old from Huddersfield, who hopes to join the Army Air Corps afterwards. have completed their training.
“I first applied when I was 18, but I only scratched the surface of my assessment and then suffered several injuries.
“This time I wanted to do more than scratch and learn to avoid these injuries. And I’m doing really well.
“I carry all of the BMF lessons with myself now, in the first phase. It’s really difficult, but I like it.
All candidates with an assessment date can apply for free to the BMF system.
After being divided into beginner, intermediate or advanced groups, they have access to sports psychologists, nutritionists and fitness experts who use virtual sessions to explain tips and tricks to them to develop their strength, flexibility and their basic stability so that they do not suffer injury. .
The sessions, which are slowly increasing in intensity, include at least one run per week, a series of 30-40 minute workouts, and weekly seminars focused on the mental resilience needed to keep going.
Although the course is designed by fitness guru Tommy Mathews, it is supervised by veterans, and few are more skilled than Kate Lord, who spent 15 years in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps.
She is no stranger to mental battles. As a Staff Sergeant in 2015, she received the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service for her fight against sexism in Afghanistan, after persuading male members of the Afghan National Army to accept her as coach.
“It was just a matter of determination,” she said last night. “I came every day, whether they listened to me or not because I was a woman. It took about a month, but I think I convinced them because they realized I was here to stay.
“That kind of mental resilience that applies just as much to BMF.
“In the past, candidates saw what was required for the assessment and tried to practice it on their own without any real direction.
“By giving them direction, we increased the success rate of women for the first time by 30 percent. Almost all of the candidates passed the assessment center, and for men the pass rate has increased from seven percent to 100 percent now. “
One of those who succeeded is Private Rebecca Bjorkman, who has a degree in animal welfare and wants to work with bomb detection dogs in dangerous areas.
“I loved my job as a kennel supervisor even though there was little chance of advancement. When during the pandemic my boss told me I had to start looking for another job, I decided to join the military, ”said Rebecca, 26, born in South Africa.
Like many, however, Rebecca had no idea how to begin her training.
Private Rebecca Bjorkman, 26, who has completed her training and wants to work with bomb detection dogs
What is going on with you? Find out by adding your postal code or visit InYourArea
“I didn’t run, no gym – I was just going to work and coming home,” she said.
“You are told what you will need to do for the assessment center, but I had no idea how to train for it.
“Maybe I would have chosen to run every day, but that’s not so. BMF had a completely different approach.
“They would start with circuit training and simple things like squat pushes to build the muscles you need to run.”
The training given to prevent injuries was vital, she added.
“I was worried about the weight training – I almost started running with weights, but one of the instructors reminded me that I only train for the assessment center and that one injury could really send me back, so he told me i had to wait for the right time. “
She added: “I don’t think I would have passed the assessment center without BMF. I had no idea I was going to wrestle with my upper body. One of the tests involves sitting on a floor with your back against the wall and throwing a weighted 4 kg ball. I couldn’t start everything at first.
BMF helped Rebecca gain 90 seconds in an 11-minute 2k race at 9:30 am, and she said she used BMF’s advice to get through the tougher Phases 1 and 2.
“I’m only 5 feet 1 inch but there’s nothing I can’t get past,” she said.
“I wasn’t the fittest, but I was the second strongest – I was shocked.”
Former Staff Sergeant Kate Lord, now a senior member of Be Military Fit