By Mitch MeadorFebruary 21, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Feb. 21, 2019 -- The recruits in week two of basic combat training weren't out on the field just to enjoy the scenery. The Army, as always, had a higher purpose for them: breaking a sweat.
Not an easy task in the frigid pre-dawn hours on Presidents Day. The moon was so big it looked like a giant cheese wheel in the sky. The weather app on the iPhone put the ambient temperature at 25 degrees but helpfully added that with the wind speed of 18 mph factored in it would actually feel like 11.
Nonetheless, the 197 Soldiers-in-training from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, gave it their best. Under the command of Capt. David Johnson, they started off at "O-dark-30" with their conditioning drill and warm-up before proceeding to the three-repetition dead lift, the medicine ball throw, the hand-release pushups, the sprint-drag-carry, the leg tuck, and a two-mile run.
1-19th FA is 434th FA Brigade's pilot battalion for the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), said Lt. Col. Elliott Harris, battalion commander.
"We're executing this to really figure out how we can implement this within basic combat training. So this is a validation of how we would execute this while we conduct basic combat training," he explained.
"We started back in November. We've gone through several certification processes to get our cadre and drill sergeants certified. We've figured out multiple iterations of this, gained some lessons learned that we've leveraged in the execution of this course here," Harris said.
The pilot will run for about a year, so that the Army can figure out where it's going to go with the ACFT.
"We're looking at a couple of things. No. 1, how we execute this with the volume of trainees that we have. We have 197 trainees out here today who are taking this. This is the largest group that we've done to date. Most of our groups have been under 50 individuals. So this is the first time we've done this number of trainees taking this PT test," the colonel said.
Harris said the battery wasn't under a hard time constraint to get through the test.
"However, there are directed rest periods that have to occur within the testing process. So there are standards that go along with this test, and we're trying to stay within those standards and stay within the timeframe that we have for this," he said.
What did the 1-19th FA commander want to see out of Monday's experience?
"You know, for these trainees, this is the first time they've done this. And for a lot of them, this is the first time they will run two miles. So what we're looking to get out of them for this is just a familiarization for the ACFT.
"What we're looking to get out of our cadre in our execution of this is just lessons learned that we can share across Fort Sill, for how we can implement this large-scale," Harris said.
During his July 11, visit to Fort Sill, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said the six-event ACFT is gender-neutral and age-neutral and "a very hard test." He said it is undergoing Armywide testing this year to establish minimums/maximums and what the score standards will be. A decision on how and when to implement the test has been projected for October 2019.
Milley said the current PT test is not a bad test but the standards are very easy. The problem is that it measures general health and fitness. It only correlates to combat about 40 percent.
The new ACFT is a derivative of the Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) and would have a correlation of 80-85 percent to combat-level fitness.