JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Sgt. Maj. Larry White II, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) G3 Operations Sergeant Major, organized a panel of senior and junior officers and enlisted personnel to focus on the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). The forum offered an open discussion regarding ACFT lessons learned and performance and improvement tips from Soldiers who have successfully passed the test.
On October 1, the ACFT became the Army’s only physical fitness test of record. While many junior Soldiers have made the transition seamlessly, other Soldiers, Noncommissioned Officers and Officers are working to adjust to the shift in culture to holistic health and fitness (H2F). White says some of the challenges could stem from a lack of awareness of H2F, inadequate training methods, uncertainty about passing standards for each event, or even a bit or resistance to accept the cultural change.
The goal of this first MEDCoE ACFT discussion was to share training methods and tips on how to adapt physical readiness training, improve ACFT performance, reduce apprehension, and facilitate passing of the six-event test. A diverse panel of 10 MEDCoE permanent party personnel shared their experiences with the ACFT and answered audience questions about preparation; overcoming physical and mental barriers; injury prevention and recovery; and overcoming deficiencies.
Leading the panel discussion were Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, the MEDCoE Command Team. “I’ve seen a lot of great things across the MEDCoE on the ACFT,” said LeMaster. “Let’s take the angst and mystery out of the ACFT and just get after it.” He said it is often a requirement to overcome mental barriers by telling yourself “I can” instead of “I can’t.”
LeMaster also emphasized the need for proper diet and exercise. “You need understanding of good nutrition and simply discipline yourself to eat correctly and wisely. “Once you start eating right and purge your body of the junk you start feeling better,” said LeMaster. “When you do your work out and it has to be a disciplined thing, you have to get after it, you can’t magically do it. With good sleep hygiene, nutrition, and exercise you’ll start feeling better.”
Charpentier underscored how AFCT represents change, and the apprehension some may feel toward this new direction is understandable but unwarranted. “After taking the old APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) for multiple decades, I can personal tell you the ACFT is a much more fun physical training session, and much more accurate assessment of what is expected of us as military members on and off the battlefield,” said Charpentier. “Everyone needs to have an open mind and enjoy the opportunity, it’s something different, something new, and you get the chance to perform it with your battle buddies and cheer each other on as a squad.”
The Army transitioned to the ACFT as a way to strengthen fitness culture across the force, reduce injuries, and increase readiness. The ACFT drives balanced, more battle focused physical training that will also reduce overuse injuries and unplanned attrition.
“Part of what we’re doing here today is working to try and dispel some of those preconceived notions and reduce the fear,” said Charpentier. He explained that trainees who only know the ACFT as opposed to the APFT do well on the new test. “Our young trainees, who’ve known nothing different, don’t have that fear,” said Charpentier. “The challenge is for those of us that have been doing this for a while. The days of not studying for a physical fitness test are done.” He described “studying” for the ACFT as ensuring you train in advance to understand the form and how your body will react during each even. With the APFT, as long as you had some level of fitness, you many found that they could correctly perform each of the events. Charpentier stressed that the panel discussion was part of the MEDCoE’s messaging campaign to ensure all levels of the command were set-up for success to pass the ACFT and avoid injuries.
Col. Monica Douglas, Medical Service Corps, told the group, which also included more than 50 live audience members, that she was excited to be a part of the panel. “When the ACFT rolled out I have to tell you I had a lot of angst. I’m thinking will I be able to past this test. But once I passed the diagnostics I was super excited,” said Douglas. “We owe it to our warfighting brothers and sisters in arms to be in the best shape possible. Embrace that the Army wants you to have a healthier lifestyle.”
LeMaster closed the hour-long event that was also broadcast on Facebook, by telling the audience, “The Army’s expectation of leaders is to pass the ACFT and do as well as you possible can. Soldier’s expectations of their leaders is to set the example.”
To learn more about the ACFT visit https://www.army.mil/acft/.