WASHINGTON -- This past year, the Army provided critical support to the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic and periods of civil unrest. It also rolled out a new uniform and adjusted promotions and training including the Army Combat Fitness Test to help protect the force and preserve readiness throughout the outbreak.Below is a list of some of the most important topics that impacted Army personnel during 2020, in no particular order:COVID-19 responseThe rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus forced the Army to heighten health protection conditions across all installations back in March, as Soldiers, civilians and families adapted to a new normal in light of the pandemic.Major training and mandatory movements were put on hold to ensure the health and safety of all personnel, while the Army offered recently retired Soldiers an opportunity to return to service to bolster the service’s medical capabilities.Thousands of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers were also mobilized to support COVID-19 operations in New York and Washington and then in other states as the virus swept across the country.Many organizations quickly adapted to support local or national-level efforts. For instance, Soldiers out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, manufactured personal protective equipment for local health care workers. The Army also launched a challenge to rapidly produce ventilators that resulted in deploying more than 10,000 affordable, low-maintenance ventilators.Civil unrestAs the Army supported COVID-19 efforts, the National Guard also responded to areas of civil unrest following the death of George Floyd. Soldiers worked closely with local, state, and federal officials to ensure the safety of all citizens and allowing them to peacefully exercise their constitutional rights.At its busiest time, the Guard had over 120,000 Soldiers and Airmen on duty serving around the world in early June. At least 90,000 of them either worked in COVID-19 or civil disturbance operations.Along with the mobilization of personnel, Army senior leaders released a statement to reemphasize the importance of taking care of people by treating everyone with dignity and respect. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy would later announce "people" as the Army's top priority.Diversity, inclusionIn the summer, the Army launched Project Inclusion, an initiative to improve diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the ranks and build cohesive teams. With the project's launch, the Army eliminated official photos and gender and race details from promotion boards and began to examine possible racial disparity in military justice cases.Senior leaders opted to eliminate the photos after a 2017-2018 Army study determined that individuals, regardless of their race or gender, have an unconscious bias toward other people with similar characteristics. The Army is also trying to determine if the military justice system is more likely to investigate a specific individual due to an unconscious bias.Project Inclusion also launched a series of listening sessions with Soldiers and civilians to assess any impact on mission readiness caused by current social issues. Leaders will continue to conduct in-person or virtual listening sessions, which allow personnel an opportunity to express themselves without fear of reprisal.People firstArmy senior leaders released an action plan in October, naming “people” as the Army's top priority.The plan outlined several policies and requirement changes to include implementing the Army's new Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model to help stabilize training, modernization, and mission requirements across the force.The results of a command climate and culture review at Fort Hood, Texas, which senior leaders said will lead to an Army-wide cultural change, was also announced earlier this month.Upon accepting the findings, the Army stood up the People First Task Force to address the list of reported recommendations. One of the changes includes a new directive to clarify the expectations and responsibilities of Army leaders and law enforcement officials during the first 48 hours after a Soldier fails to report for duty.ACFT changesThe Army Combat Fitness Test officially launched as the force's test of record on Oct. 1 with several modifications to give Soldiers more time to prepare. Soldiers with a passing Army Physical Fitness Test can now take the ACFT without fear of administrative actions caused by a potential failure.The ACFT includes six events: the three-repetition maximum deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release pushups, leg tuck, 2-mile run, and the sprint, drag and carry. A recent change now includes a "plank" exercise instead of the leg-tuck assessment to help Soldiers transition to the new test.Leaders also lowered the stationary bike event from the initial 15,000-meter standard to a 12,000-meter criterion. Soldiers on permanent profiles and unable to complete the 2-mile run will need to take one of the alternate events, which include the bike, row, or swim, as an alternative assessment.Army Green Service UniformThe Army started issuing recruiters, drill sergeants and initial entry trainees the new Army Green Service Uniform this year, harkening back to the "greatest generation" of Soldiers who fought during World War II.Fort Knox, Kentucky, became the first installation to issue the uniform to U.S. Recruiting Command Soldiers, in addition to making it available for purchase at the local exchange.The uniform’s release was also prioritized at training locations, starting with Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and followed by Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Benning, Georgia; and Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The mandatory wear date for all Soldiers is slated for Oct. 1, 2027.The AGSU will provide the force with an everyday service uniform, which will make the current Army Service Uniform, known as the dress blues, an optional purchase. The ASU will continue to serve as a dress uniform during formal events.Museum openingThe National Museum of the U.S. Army held its grand opening on Veterans Day, bringing the Army's history to life through its many Soldier stories and historical displays.Army senior leaders celebrated its grand opening before an empty auditorium due to pandemic safety restrictions. The museum features displays from all major conflicts, including the Civil War, Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, and the global war on terrorism. One reservist shared her story about the display casting process, as the museum debuted one exhibit in her visage.The museum resides on a publicly accessible area of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, but is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.Promotion updatesArmy leaders made several exceptions to promotion and retention policy to ensure readiness and care of all personnel during the pandemic. Approved changes include short-term reenlistment opportunities and battalion-level virtual promotion boards.The Army also approved temporary exceptions to policy tied to professional military education, APFT, and weapon qualifications for those eligible for promotion. Leaders temporarily suspended its Advanced Leader Course or Senior Leader Course promotion requirement for staff sergeants and sergeants first class.Soldiers waived under this policy will need to complete this training requirement before reaching their primary zone, or they could put their careers at risk.Further, Soldiers who are deployed, pregnant or during postpartum, or attending the non-resident Sergeants Major Couse and unable to complete the required PME courses can still qualify for a temporary promotion starting on Jan. 1.ModernizationThe Army unveiled its Project Convergence campaign, a multi-platform initiative designed to merge joint force capabilities to help the Army operate across the land, air, sea, space and cyberspace domains. The project will guide transformational change, allowing the force to stay ahead of emerging national security challenges.Army leaders had a preview of future vertical lift capabilities during a flight demonstration earlier this year. The event was part of the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration, or JMR-TD, where competing companies presented an aircraft to provide the Army with data.Both the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft are expected to be fielded by 2030. The FARA will serve as a replacement for some AH-64 Apache capabilities, while the FLRAA will succeed the UH-60 Black Hawk.The Army also worked closely with industry partners to fulfill critical modernization milestones, as leaders made adjustments to their timelines to mitigate any significant delays during the pandemic. On a daily basis, senior acquisition and Army Futures Command leaders tracked more than 800 acquisition, logistics, and technology-related programs and nearly 35 key modernization priorities.The Army rescheduled a Soldier touchpoint evaluation for the Integrated Visual Augmentation System from July to October, after the pandemic forced Microsoft to shift to a telework-only operating status and impacted the company’s sub-suppliers. The program remains on track to deliver the first IVAS units in the fourth quarter of this fiscal year.Return to trainingThe Army made modifications to home-station training, combat training center rotations, and overseas training opportunities to ensure the safety of all personnel during the pandemic.Creative problem solving, teamwork, and resilience helped Army units return to in-person learning with added protective measures.For instance, the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, set limitations to the number of personnel aboard each aircraft to ensure a proper 6 feet of distancing. The division also increased the number of jumps out of UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters to augment their training schedule, ensuring all Soldiers maintain their airborne proficiency.The Minnesota National Guard's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division completed the first rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, after an operational pause during the first wave of the virus. Lessons learned during their rotation included training bubbles, increased virus testing, and scheduling adjustments, which set a standard for safety at other Army training centers.Overseas personnel also implemented extra precautions and rigorous screening procedures to complete training events. Contact tracing and increased health screenings sometimes delayed activities for units such as the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team as they trained with the Royal Thai Army in Thailand. Even with some delays, leaders said the pandemic did not prevent the Army from achieving its mission objectives.Related links:Army.mil: Worldwide NewsTop Soldier stories of 2020 show resilience in trying year2020 Year in Photos galleryArmy News ServiceARNEWS archive