Obstacle Courses and Additional Drills

This chapter describes obstacle courses as well as rifle drills, log drills, and aquatic exercises. These are not designed to develop specific components of physical fitness. Commanders should use them to add variety to their PT programs and to help soldiers develop motor fitness including speed, agility, coordination, and related skills and abilities. Many of these activities also give soldiers the chance to plan strategy, make split-second decisions, learn teamwork, and demonstrate leadership.

Obstacle Courses
Physical performance and success in combat may depend on a soldier’s ability to perform skills like those required on the obstacle course. For this reason, and because they help develop and test basic motor skills, obstacle courses are valuable for physical training.
There are two types of obstacle courses--conditioning and confidence. The conditioning course has low obstacles that must be negotiated quickly. Running the course can be a test of the soldier’s basic motor skills and physical condition. After soldiers receive instruction and practice the skills, they run the course against time.
A confidence course has higher, more difficult obstacles than a conditioning course. It gives soldiers confidence in their mental and physical abilities and cultivates their spirit of daring. Soldiers are encouraged, but not forced, to go through it. Unlike conditioning courses, confidence courses are not run against time.


Commanders may build obstacles and courses that are nonstandard (that is, not covered in this manual) in order to create training situations based on
their unit's METL.
When planning and building such facilities, designers should, at a minimum, consider the following guidance:
• Secure approval from the local installation's commander.
• Prepare a safety and health-risk assessment to support construction of each obstacle.
• Coordinate approval for each obstacle with the local or supporting safety office. Keep a copy of the approval in the permanent records.
• Monitor and analyze all injuries.
• Inspect all existing safety precautions on-site to verify their effectiveness.
• Review each obstacle to determine the need for renewing its approval.


Instructors must always be alert to safety. They must take every precaution to minimize injuries as soldiers go through obstacle courses. Soldiers must do warm-up exercises before they begin. This prepares them for the physically demanding tasks ahead and helps minimize the chance of injury. A cool-down after the obstacle course is also necessary, as it helps the body recover from strenuous exercise.
Commanders should use ingenuity in building courses, making good use of streams, hills, trees, rocks, and other natural obstacles. They must inspect courses for badly built obstacles, protruding nails, rotten logs, unsafe landing pits, and other safety hazards.
There are steps which designers can take to reduce injuries. For example, at the approach to each obstacle, they should post an instruction board or sign with text and pictures showing how to negotiate it. Landing pits for jumps or vaults, and areas under or around obstacles where soldiers may fall from a height, should be filled with loose sand or sawdust. All landing areas should be raked and refilled before each use. Puddles of water under obstacles can cause a false sense of security. These could result in improper landing techniques and serious injuries. Leaders should postpone training on obstacle courses when wet weather makes them slippery.
Units should prepare their soldiers to negotiate obstacle courses by doing conditioning exercises beforehand. Soldiers should attain an adequate level of conditioning before they run the confidence course, Soldiers who have not practiced the basic skills or run the conditioning course should not be allowed
to use the confidence course.
Instructors must explain and demonstrate the correct ways to negotiate all obstacles before allowing soldiers to run them. Assistant instructors should supervise the negotiation of higher, more dangerous obstacles. The emphasis is on avoiding injury. Soldiers should practice each obstacle until they are able to negotiate it. Before they run the course against time, they should make several slow runs while the instructor watches and makes needed
corrections. Soldiers should never be allowed to run the course against time until they have practiced on all the obstacles.