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CIA Physical Training

CIA Physical Training

Lindsay Moran (Former CIA Spy) gives expert video advice on: What types of physical training do CIA officers receive?; Does the physical training help CIA officers in the field?; Do CIA officers continue to be physically fit after training? and more...

What types of physical training do CIA officers receive?

For the physical training of CIA officers, we all had to, first of all, be able to pass the Army physical fitness test before we could go through the paramilitary training. And then, it was actually incredibly gruelling. A number of the trainees were very fit, but some of them weren't. And for those who weren't fit, the paramilitary training was very difficult. We learned defensive driving. We learned how to man Zodiac boats and speedboats. We did hand-to-hand combat. And it all culminated with what's called jump school, where we all became airborne qualified by performing a certain number of jumps out of an airplane. That was probably the highlight of our training, and for most people, probably their careers.

Does the physical training help CIA officers in the field?

Sadly, there's not a lot of physical aspect to the job once you actually start it. When you're overseas, you spend a lot of time going to cocktail parties, schmoozing foreigners at long lunches, and driving around. A lot of your job is spent driving around, trying to make sure that you're not under surveillance, that you're not being followed, or driving around and meeting with a foreigner in a car. One of the most surprising and disappointing aspects of the job, of being a spy, is that it's really a pretty sedentary job. A lot of the physical fitness that is involved in training is intended to boost the confidence of the spy trainee. But in reality, you're not doing a lot of physical stuff unless you're involved in paramilitary operations, and very few CIA spies are.

Do CIA officers continue to be physically fit after training?

No. I would say that the average CIA officer probably has a bit of a paunch, [laughs] is not particularly physically fit. And this was kind of a hypocrisy that bothered us as trainees, that we were held to this very high standard and expected to be very physically fit--something that was good for us and that we all wanted--but then we would look to our superiors, our instructors, and they were all incredibly out of shape. And so it was kind of a dismal view into our future as to what was going to happen to us.

How difficult is the physical training for the CIA?

The physical training is pretty difficult. I was probably in the best shape I ever had been in my life when I joined the CIA, and got in even better shape as I was going through the training. But a lot of people weren't in particularly good shape and it was really a struggle for them even to be able to pass the army physical fitness test. During the paramilitary operations, there was a whole segment where we were on our own, sort of running through streams, camping out every night, and you really had to be in your own top physical condition in order to be able to do that, or to do something called land navigation where we were navigating this whole, huge area on our own with big backpacks on. If you are not able to keep up and if you are not able to achieve the physical goals that they have set for you at the CIA, you are not going to make it through the training.

What types of trainees fail during physical training at the CIA farm?

Anyone who could not pass the army physical fitness test was actually not allowed to do the paramilitary training. You would not necessarily get kicked out of the program. But, there was a kind of stigma attached to that, if you were physically unable to do it. The instructors made sure that everybody knew it, and so there was a stigma. Everybody really worked hard to be able to achieve the physical level that was expected of them. You will get cut from the CIA training program if you make mistakes during the trade craft aspects of it. So, even the CIA realizes that the physical element, while important personally, isn't really going to have a great impact from your job. Whereas the trade craft aspect, you really have to pass that segment of the course. Otherwise, you will be cut from the program.

How does the physical training from the CIA help you in the field?

For me, it helped at least to go into my first pose being physically fit. The job of a CIA spy is actually an incredibly sedentary job. If you're starting at the pinnacle of physical fitness, you can at least deteriorate a little bit, which, like every other spy I know, did. The most important element of the physical training, how it helps you, is that it really builds up your confidence and gives you a sense of accomplishment. By the time you leave the CIA's training program, and particularly the para-military aspect of it, you really feel invincible and feel as though there's nothing, physically or mentally, that you can't do. That enables you to go overseas with a tremendous amount of confidence, which is something you really need as a CIA spy.