Soldiers set the bar for new APRT
July 27, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Soldiers across the 3rd Infantry Division participated in a new type of physical training test this month that will change the fitness standards for the entire U.S. Army.
The test is part of the Army Physical Fitness School’s pilot program, launched at multiple installations, including Fort Jackson, S.C., Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Bliss, Texas and Fort Stewart to establish the scoring systems for the new Army Physical Readiness Test and Army Combat Readiness Test.
This is the first major change to the current Army Physical Fitness Test in nearly 31 years.
“Our goal is to focus on preparing Soldiers to train using warrior tasks and battle drills,” said Frank Palkoska, director for the U.S. Army Physical Readiness Division. “You should train like you fight.”
The pilot program, which included Soldiers of varying age, rank and gender from multiple units at each installation, is the final step in the Army-wide transition from the Army Physical Fitness Test to the new APRT, which coincides with the Physical Readiness Training that was implemented August of last year.
“I volunteered just to be a part of something new,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer L. Atherton, force protection noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, one of many Soldiers that volunteered to take part in the APRT/ACRT pilot program. “It’s always exciting to be a part of a test program.”
The new APRT, which is designed to get a better assessment of a Soldiers physical endurance while curbing the number of injuries associated with the APFT, consists of five events: a 60-yard shuttle run, the standing long jump, one minute of the rower (or atomic sit-up), one and a half mile run and a minute for the push-up with no resting position.
“Overall these events will give commanders a better snapshot at the Soldier’s physical readiness at the point the test is given,” said Palkoska.” The current APFT is too limited on what it assesses.”
Some of the events, such as the sit-up, Soldiers are glad to see go, but other changes, like the no-rest push-up, has led them to feel a bit apprehensive.
“I was a little concerned with the push-up portion, being there is no resting position and over the years I’ve developed a technique that involves resting and pushing out more reps as time runs down,” said Sgt. 1st Class Atherton. “It turned out ok though, I actually did very well.”
A majority of the Soldiers who participated in the program agree that the APRT will serve to better assess their overall endurance.
“The events seem more rounded and the fact that there are more of them to do feels like a better evaluation of how physically fit we are,” said Spc. Adrian B. Turner, an electrician assigned to 554th Company, 92nd Engineers Battalion, who is attached to the Third Infantry Division. “The only event I could see causing an injury would be the shuttle run, depending on the surface that it is held on.”
Soldiers do not appear to have any problems with the physical demands of the new APRT but instead, after years of training and mastering the events of the APFT, worry about the difficulties associated with becoming proficient at the new events that are more technically challenging.
“I think it was time for change and Soldiers should embrace it,” said Sgt. 1st Class Atherton. “I think Soldiers are so comfortable with the APFT that this will take a little bit of time for them to adjust to.”
Palkoska understands the difficulties of acceptance that come with change, but is confident that once Soldiers give the program a chance they will see that it will help them better prepare for the physical challenges they will face in combat.
“We developed the APFT 31 years ago and now we’re the guys saying it’s time for a change,” said Palkoska. “Training has changed therefore the tests themselves must change.”
Though it may take some time before Soldiers are comfortable enough to fully embrace the new APRT, the new scoring standards, which expands the age categories and will be the same regardless of gender, is widely accepted.
“I think the exercises involved will determine if a Soldier is fit regardless of their gender,” said Sgt. Brandi N. Chambers, a brigade S1 noncommissioned officer assigned to 3rd Sustainment Bde., 3rd Infantry Division. “The new scoring system will leave no room for discrimination. Either you’re fit to fight or you should just go home.
Soldiers began the second part of the pilot program, the ACRT, here July 21 and will continue until July 28.
The ACRT is a timed course consisting of several events including a 400-meter run, a casualty drag, a high crawl, hurdles, walking a balance beam while carrying two ammo cans and several other obstacles the Soldier must navigate, all done while wearing the Army Combat Uniform and Advanced Combat Helmet and carrying a weapon.
“This course is no joke,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchel Beauchamp, a section chief assigned to Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “It may have only lasted seven minutes, but those seven minutes are non-stop.”
The ACRT is projected to be given annually and will be used as a pre-deployment assessment of how physically ready a Soldier is to perform in a combat situation.
“It seems like a better test of physical endurance in a combat situation,” said Staff Sgt. Beauchamp. “The activities even test the duties we perform on a daily basis and we’ve never tested like that before.”
Like the APRT, the events that make up the ACRT require greater coordination and timing than the APFT, but even seasoned Soldiers appear to be more ready to accept the ACRT as the new standard.
“I’ve been in since 1987 and this is truly a big change,” said Staff Sgt. Beauchamp. “I believe we’re heading in the right direction. I definitely see this as a change for the good.”
When the pilot program is completed and the data has been compiled, a scoring system will be established and the new APRT and ACRT are slated to be implemented Army-wide as the new standard approximately October of 2012.