US military entrance stations drop group exams, but ‘duck walk’ stays

Stars & Stripes


No matter what military service they join, hopeful recruits have shared one defining experience — the unusual, and for some, embarrassing group medical exams at military entrance processing stations.

But a new approach to screenings will consist of fewer exercises and will eliminate group exams, U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command said Monday.

Recruits will no longer be required to stand in their underwear among fellow military hopefuls, and instead will undergo a neuro-muscular-skeletal exam of just 10 exercises individually, it said.

The knee walk and knee fall are being eliminated, while other maneuvers will be combined or altered. This will allow recruits to proceed to follow-on stations without having to wait around for the group, the statement said.

The old exam required enlistees of the same gender to perform 23 exercises in tandem and individually in front of their peers, while chief medical officers assessed muscular and skeletal readiness, the command said.

The changes have been driven by more focused and efficient examination techniques, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kevin Cummings, MEPCOM command surgeon, said in the statement.

“We’ve progressed in our ability to evaluate physical function to the point that people standing around together isn’t necessary,” Cummings said. “If this method of screening was still effective, we would still do it because mission comes first. But it’s not as effective.”

One exam that will remain in a private, abbreviated form is the infamous “duck walk,” which for many recruits is their first experience in the military.

Social media blogs and videos prepare applicants for the exam and explain what they can expect — even before swearing the oath of enlistment and boarding the bus to basic training.

The move asks participants to walk in a crouched position, lifting their feet off the ground without standing up and rolling the foot heel-to-toe as smoothly as possible.

Officials said the maneuver still fits the proverbial bill and helps evaluate whether recruits have flat feet or other skeletal issues that could prevent them from “taking flight” and performing demanding physical tasks later in their military training.

“The duck walk is valuable because it involves coordination, balance, nervous system and muscle activation … many things are covered at one time,” Cummings said. “In the past we would have applicants walk all the way across the room and then walk back. Now on the exam they will duck walk two to three steps.”

The new exam will begin at select stations in the coming days, with a broad rollout following in February.