By Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York National GuardMay 1, 2019
LATHAM, N.Y. - Seventy-five New York Army National Guard leaders from across the state got hands-on with the new Army Combat Fitness Test at the New York National Guard Headquarters April 27.
Battalion and brigade commanders, along with their command sergeants major, participated in a step-by-step walk-through of the six events which make up the combat fitness test.
"Units that conduct pre-training, a walk-through; do significantly better at this," explained Command Sgt. Maj. David Piwowarski, the New York Army National Guard senior enlisted advisor.
The colonels, lieutenant colonels, and command sergeants major went through the same process that sergeants, specialists, and privates are expected to go through. For some, it was their first time attempting the exercises.
The goal was to familiarize leaders, learn techniques and prepare training plans as units train for the new standards which become effective in 2020.
The sequencing of the test--five demanding events and then a two-mile run--will make the running event more demanding than the current three-event PT test, said Lt. Col. Wing Yu, the commander of the 204th Engineer Battalion.
"Each individual event is achievable with some practice for improvement, however, my opinion is that the sequencing of all 6 events within less than one hour is what will challenge most people," he said.
"I think the biggest challenge was, and still is, the "Sprint, Drag and Carry" event," said Yu who got a taste of the new fitness test at his pre-command course. "It'll smoke everyone, especially little guys like me," Yu added.
The test events matched his abilities, so it was fairly easy for him to handle, said Lt. Col. Joe Whaley, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry.
But the new fitness test is more strenuous than the current PT test and that will mean changes in the way his unit addresses physical fitness, Whaley said.
"Without serious training, my staff and I feel it will be very difficult for many of our soldiers to pass the test," he added.
Certified instructors from the Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, a pilot unit for the Army Combat Fitness Test, conducted the training.
The battalion, headquartered in Latham, N.Y. is providing feedback to Army evaluators about the new fitness test.
While individual events will not change, the pilot tests in 2019 will help the Army determine what scores and categories need to be adjusted and how best to apply the fitness test around the world in every Army component.
"It is coming and we are getting ready," explained Col. Christopher Panzer, the New York National Guard operations officer.
"The 3-142nd is one of only 16 battalions conducting diagnostic fitness training in fiscal year 20," Panzer said. "And in fiscal 2021 we plan to implement the test of record for all our Soldiers."
The Army's fitness test is an annual requirement for all traditional National Guard Soldiers.
The new test goes from three events in the current Army Physical Fitness Test to six events in the ACFT. The six events include a Strength Deadlift, Standing Power Throw, Hand-raised Push-ups, a 250-meter Sprint, Drag and Carry, Leg Tuck and finally a Two-mile Run.
The increased number of events is strategically designed to test areas of physicality that are important in combat scenarios and that were not addressed in the older test. By the end of 2020, the six-event ACFT is supposed to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test first implemented in the 1980s.
The new test is gender- and age-neutral, and includes three minimum standards that are based on unit and military job specialties. Soldiers in units that are physically demanding will have to score higher than those in less physically demanding units in order to pass the new test.
"The new fitness test has a bunch of nuances," explained Lt. Col. Jason Lefton, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, headquartered in Latham, N.Y. "But once you start doing it, and our Soldiers have really found it to be fun."
The rapid pace of each training lane and the movement of groups of Soldiers through the fitness test create an atmosphere to build unit cohesion and comradery, Piwowarski said.
"Cheering, encouraging at each event, leveraging that energy, that is what makes this fitness test a real team effort," he said.
The full test takes about 17 minutes to pass through the first five stations, leaving the two-mile run for the final hurdle, Lefton said.
The stations have a cumulative effect on participants not accustomed to the demands of the new test.
"For our leaders, I emphasize watching your pride," Lefton said. "On my first attempts at the deadlift, I kept going until I threw my back out," he explained.