By Maj. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National GuardJune 26, 2019
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The U.S. Army is transitioning to a new physical fitness test, the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), to better prepare Soldiers in readiness and lethality. To date, no Soldier yet has achieved a perfect score.
On June 18, Spc. Ryan Sowder from the 2112th Transportation Company out of Burlington, Kentucky scored 597 out of a possible 600 points. This is the highest score recorded in all of the U.S. Army so far Active, Guard or Reserve.
"I didn't think I would do as well (on the ACFT) as I did that day. I'd been sleeping on a cot and was out of my normal training routine for our unit's summer training, but I just knew I was going to give it everything I had," remarked Sowder. "The idea of giving all I have to something, particularly fitness, is really gratifying and I hope everyone can experience what it feels like to give 100% to something."
Col. Joe Gardner, G3 Chief of Operations for the Kentucky National Guard, was surprised to hear that he took the ACFT after being in the field for two weeks with his unit.
"The accomplishments of this young man cannot be overstated," said Gardner. "SPC Sowder's score on the new Army Combat Fitness Test is impressive, to say the least, especially after participating in his unit's annual training leading up to the test."
The ACFT is comprised of 6 events over the course of an hour to measure the muscular strength and endurance of a Soldier. The events include the deadlift, the standing power throw, the hand-release push-up, the sprint-drag-carry, the leg tuck, and a 2-mile run.
According to Command Sergeant Major of the Army National Guard John Sampa, the new program better prepares a Soldier's readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield.
"Spc. Sowder represents the thousands of quality Soldiers that are in today's entire Army National Guard and the steadfast strength the Guard brings to the Army's total force in protecting the United States of America," said Sampa. "He represents full and part-time Soldiers that are physically and mentally prepared for combat operations and homeland responses at any given moment. America is secure because it has Citizen-Soldiers such as this one who is always ready and is always there."
Sowder has taken the ACFT twice now, once at the schoolhouse in Fort Eustis, Virginia when he was getting trained as a level II grader for the test and the second time with his unit at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. The first time he scored a 592 which at the time was the highest recorded score in the U.S. Army. This second time around, he bested his own score and missed the mark for 600 points by only five hand-release push-ups.
"I grew up playing sports year-round and have always been incredibly competitive. I realized early on that I could be really good (at athletics) if I put in the work," commented Sowder. "I was fortunate to play football at Georgetown College while going to school and when that season began coming to a close, I realized I wanted to continue competing.
My brother who is two years older than me also played football for Georgetown College and after graduation started intensive muscular strength and power development in order to compete outside of football. I knew when he made that jump that I would be following him."
Sowder credits his physical accomplishments to his tenacity and drive to succeed. This year, he was hoping to qualify for the 2019 Reebok Crossfit Games taking place Aug 1-4 in Madison, Wis. In order to make it, he had to win at the 'Crossfit Lowlands Throwdown' competition, one of only 15 regional competitions held across the world. He did what he set out to do and will be headed to Wisconsin in August.
That tenacity has paid off with his efforts in the military as well allowing him to perform at such a high level physically on the ACFT. The Army's new test will soon be the program of record in October of 2020.
Gardner is excited to see what's next for Sowder and expects him to improve upon his performance going forward.
"I look forward to seeing him achieve a perfect score and I challenge the rest of us in the state to beat him to it."