By Maj. Stephen MartinJuly 3, 2019
Designed to increase Soldier readiness and lethality, the Army Combat Fitness Test is currently undergoing field-testing by Soldiers across the globe, and to date no one has achieved a perfect score.
However, a Soldier from the 2113th Transportation Company, Burlington, Kentucky, recently recorded the highest active, Guard or Reserve score to date.
During his June 18 second attempt at the test, Spc. Ryan Sowder achieved a 597 out of a possible 600 points. Sowder's first attempt at the six-event test was earlier this year in January where he scored a 592.
Sowder, an athlete from a young age, credits his physical accomplishments to his tenacity and drive to succeed. That tenacity paid off with his efforts in the military allowing him to physically perform at such a high level on the ACFT.
During his second time testing on the ACFT, he bested his own score and missed the mark for 600 points by only five hand-release push-ups.
"The accomplishments of this young man cannot be overstated," said Col. Joe Gardner, Kentucky National Guard, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade commander. "His score is impressive to say the least, especially since he had been conducting field training the prior two weeks during his unit's annual training."
ACFT subject matter experts recognize Sowder's achievement, but they are more enthused by the mentorship he can provide to others as a certified Level II trainer. Level II certification requires Soldiers demonstration have a thorough knowledge of the ACFT and allows them to lay out a test field, oversee and administer the test and validate Soldiers scores.
"Sowder's score is exceptional," said Michael McGurk, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training Director of Research and Analysis and Army Health and Holistic Fitness lead. "We don't expect many Soldiers to reach the max on the ACFT, but what is more significant is the opportunity he has to guide others who are actively working hard to prepare for the test. If he can achieve it, they can too"
The 25-year-old Sowder explained his role as a Level II ACFT grader now is to help train his fellow Soldiers, not only pass the new test but change their level of fitness to holistically improve readiness and their lives.
"I grew up playing sports year-round and have always been incredibly competitive. I realized early on that I could be really good (at sports) if I put in the work," he said. "Now, I just look to help others who are trying to improve their fitness."
As for Sowder's off-duty pursuits, he enjoys competing at national-level fitness events. In April, he won the 'CrossFit Lowlands Throwdown' competition, one of only 15 regional competitions held across the world, and qualified to compete in the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games.
"Zach represents the thousands of quality Soldiers who are in today's Army National Guard, and the steadfast strength the National Guard brings to the Army's total force in protecting the United States of America," Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa said. "Full-and part-time Soldiers who 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 Zach Sowder, who are Always Ready and Always There."
(Editor's note: This story was compiled partly by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Public Affairs)
MORE ON THE ACFT
The ACFT is comprised of six events conducted over the course of an hour measures 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. Want to learn more, visit www.army.mil/acft.