By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Fort Jackson)October 4, 2018
The Army is in the development phase of a new, age-and-gender-neutral Army Combat Fitness Test. The test will be mandatory to pass for trainees to graduate Basic Combat Training to become Soldiers.
The changes were put on trial Sept. 26 by 40 of Fort Jackson's senior leaders. Some Fort Jackson units are taking part in the pilot program.
Fort Jackson's 3rd Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment was one of several Army-wide battalions chosen to help work out the initial kinks. Other units will follow, including the 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment.
The development phase is scheduled from 2018-2019, with any changes set to be fully in effect by 2020, said Lt. Col. Chuck Slagle, a 3rd Battalion 39th Infantry Regiment command leader.
He worked through the components for the first time Sept. 26.
The ACFT has to be run to ground by higher ranking Army members before trainees take on the challenge.
"We wouldn't have our Soldiers do anything we wouldn't do or couldn't do," said Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr., one of few Soldiers who had completed the test before Sept. 26. He originally took it Aug. 1 during the TRADOC Commanders Forum at Fort Eustis.
The new fitness assessment takes around four times longer to complete than its predecessor. The Army Physical Fitness Test was formerly composed of two minutes of situps, two minutes of pushups and a two-mile run.
The ACFT is six events long, and take roughly an hour to complete. While the situp portion was completely eliminated, the two mile run remained the same. An alternate version of a pushup -- a hand-release pushup -- replaced the traditional version.
Added to the list of events were a standing power throw, a sprint/drag/carry event, leg tucks and a deadlift.
For the first time, standards are the same for every Soldier -- male and female, young and old.
"The former test was condescending," Slagle said. Older individuals and females had less stringent requirements to pass than their younger, male counterparts. Slagle said the system was illogical because "combat doesn't care" who you are. It's the great equalizer, he added.
The test helps better prepare Soldiers for deployment, Slagle said.
"The big change (in the test) is strength," Slagle said.
The alterations are a long time in the making. He said he remembers a revamped physical test being discussed nearly two decades ago, back in 1999.
The new test focuses on speed rather than endurance, Slagle said. He thinks this will be beneficial in the field. For instance, infantrymen need to be able to move quickly carrying heavy loads -- and possibly fallen comrades. This test will show what kind of a Soldier they will be, he said.
Many Soldiers, more than 30 percent, end up with an injury before the end of their first enlistment because they aren't ready for the challenges, Slagle claimed. This test will help prepare them for what lies ahead.
"You only get what you test for," he added.
Beagle said the internal training changes are a product of new external threats.
"Challenges change, and we have to adapt," he said. Beagle was unphased by the new test.
"The physical fitness part will be the easiest thing I do all day," he said Sept. 26.
Slagle thought the leg tucks might be rough for recruits, but doing just one repetition earns a passing score. The deadlift and overhead throw will likely be big adjustments, too, he added.
The standing power throw requires trainees to throw a 10 pound medicine ball over their heads a distance of at least 4.6 meters. Recruits must also be able to do 10 or more hand release pushups in a two-minute timeframe.
Gloves can be worn during testing, an important note in the lift/drag/carry event. During this test, a "sled" is dragged across a field. The Soldier works on lateral movement and sprinting and has to carry two, forty pound kettlebells down a lane.
These tests simulate actions such as moving the wounded, climbing walls, surmounting physical barriers and putting distance between oneself and the enemy.