Much news regarding the standards for and fitness of our force has come from the Sergeant Major of the Army in recent days.

I want to make sure all teammates are tracking.

On the fitness front: I see many of you getting after it over at The Trench and in the gym, building your functional fitness and killing it on leg tuck challenges and sprint-drag-carries. Keep it up.

Since the Army Combat Fitness Test was introduced – transitioning our twice-yearly physical fitness assessment from three challenges to six – the Army has aimed for four things: to improve Soldier and unit readiness; to transform the Army’s fitness culture; to reduce preventable injuries and attrition and to enhance mental toughness and stamina.

I believe in this effort and test. Put simply, it builds the physical strength and grit required on any battlefield, and that’s an outcome that warms any sergeant major’s heart.

But the test isn’t perfect, and some modifications may be required. The Army, therefore, has begun a year-long effort to evaluate the test – where it’s succeeding and where it may still have room for improvement.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced the evaluation will seek to understand whether the test will have negative impacts on certain groups. Lawmakers have expressed concerns about whether the test is fair to both men and women, and whether it sets unrealistic requirements for those serving in fields with potentially fewer physical demands.

The test already has had one critical alteration. Since the ACFT’s Oct. 1 launch, soldiers have been taking a slightly altered "ACFT 2.0," which still consists of six events: the maximum deadlift; standing power throw; hand-release push-ups; sprint, drag and carry; leg tuck; and two-mile run. But an alternative plank event has been added for soldiers who struggle to perform the minimum requirement of one leg tuck.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a time where our Army is more focused on physical fitness than it is now. And as our defense posture shifts to a focus on near-peer adversaries and large-scale mobilization operations, we must each maintain – and build – our physical readiness to fight if called upon.

I urge each of you to let the Army focus on the details of the ACFT and any changes that must be made. You should simply focus on getting yourself in the best shape you’ve ever been in so you are ready for whatever the ACFT eventually ends up looking like. For great training tips, visit https://www.army.mil/acft – then get into the gym and get after it.

Additionally, the SMA and Army G-1 have announced some major revisions to Army Regulation 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia.

The new version of AR 670-1 will go into effect Feb. 24. Major changes include implementation of the Army Green Service Uniform, a clarified policy on breastfeeding or pumping in uniform, authorization for breastfeeding/pumping Soldiers to wear an optional undershirt, implementation of the Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform, and full transition to the Operational Camouflage Pattern.

New grooming standards will also go into effect in February. Approved revisions include optional wear of earrings, lipstick and nail colors for women and clear nail polish for men. Approved hairstyle changes include no minimum hair length for female Soldiers and the option to wear ponytails if unable to form a bun. They also may wear long ponytails while conducting physical training, in the combat uniform or when wearing equipment such as combat helmets.

“The Army must continue to put people first by fostering a culture of trust that accepts the experiences and backgrounds of every Soldier and civilian,” said Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, regarding the changes. “We know that actions speak louder than words when it comes to inclusivity and equity within our ranks, and we believe that the changes we announced today are one example of policies that put our people first.”

To watch the full announcement of changes, visit https://www.facebook.com/USarmy/videos/3911768512208490

Finally, I continue to encourage our teammates to get the Covid vaccines when they are authorized. I believe the shots are safe and effective, and they will keep us, our team and our communities healthy. The First Army surgeon cell stands ready to answer any questions you may have about the vaccine.

Bottom line, 2021 needs to be a year where we get back to working at full capacity to partner with, train and mobilize America’s reserve component. Our Army and our nation depend on it.

People First! First In Deed! Earn the A!