CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — “Spears Ready” Soldiers of the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command completed a Sept. 7 orientation with the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
The ACFT is conducted in groups not larger than 20 because there are now six events, instead of the three events that comprised the Army Physical Fitness Test, which the Army scheduled to phase out on April 1, said Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Merritt, the training noncommissioned officer-in-charge for 3rd ESC's headquarters and headquarters company.
The Soldiers, who arrived in August for a nine-month tour staffing 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s operational command post, took part in six events: the repetitive strength deadlift, the standing power throw, the arm extension push up, the 250-meter sprint, drag and carry, the leg tuck or plank, and the two-mile run, he said.
The APFT consisted of three events, the pushup, the sit-up and the two-mile run.
Merritt said the ACFT run-through began at 4 a.m. because the new rules do not allow the test event to go past two hours, another reason for the 20 Soldier maximum.
"It takes a little bit of time," he said.
The Goldsboro, North Carolina, native said after Soldiers go through the ACFT for the first time, they become more confident that it is something they can pass.
"I think most people are afraid of the leg tuck for the upper-body strength," he said. "Now, since they got the two-minute plank, some people will do that—but two minutes is a long time for a plank. Other than that, once they get through the sprint-drag-carries, it's pretty much easier after that."
Merritt said the most demanding event for him to grade is the arm extension pushup, called the hand-release pushup, which requires the Soldier to stop on the ground after each repetition and fully extend his arms out before pulling them in and executing the next repetition.
"Soldiers are so used to doing the old-style pushups," he said. "They want to rest, but you can't rest like you used to. You can't do any of that; you have to hold your position or keep moving."
Sgt. Britteny Walton, an information technology specialist in the information technology and communications section, or G-6, said she was ready for the leg tuck—an exercise during which the Soldier hangs from an iron bar and then pulls up his knees so that either his knees or thighs touch his elbows.
"I practiced a lot on the leg tuck, and I think it shows in my score," said the native of El Paso, Texas, who grew up in Columbus, Georgia. "I did put a lot of my main focus towards the leg tuck, and I performed very well on that one."
In addition to making the leg tuck part of her regular workouts, Walton said that whenever she came upon a leg tuck bar, she would stop and do one or two leg tucks and then keep going.
"It is not too bad, as long as you practice, just like every other event," she said.
Walton said her advice to anyone taking the ACFT was to drink water. "Hydrate—hydrate, hydrate, hydrate."
The sergeant, who joined the Army in 2016, said she took the ACFT at Fort Bragg, but the conditions were different here.
"I did it once before, and I must say it went better than this one," she said. "This air is really difficult to get used to. The sand in the air is very dry, so when you’re inhaling, it feels like you’re just inhaling dry sand."
Spc. Jason Lansbury, who is a driver for Brig. Gen. Lance Curtis, the 3rd ESC commanding general and the 1st TSC deputy commanding general, said this was his fourth time getting acquainted with the ACFT.
The big difference between the APFT and the ACFT is strategy, the Claude, Texas, native said.
"For me, there is a lot more strategy," he said. "Going into it, you have to strategize every event from start to end. It is also more competitive as far as you can push your body and your limits, whereas the old PT test was just about what you can do and what you cannot do."
Maj. Derrick Dunlap, the 1st TSC-OCP chief of operations, said he had a profile that kept him from getting acquainted with the ACFT at Fort Bragg, so this was his first time.
"It was not bad," he said. “It was pretty easy; I think it's easier than the old PT test."
The native of Stuttgart, Arkansas, said he was not sure how he would do.
"The one I excelled at that I didn’t think I would—or didn’t really think about it—was the ball toss," the major said. "I threw it pretty far for the first time ever doing it."
The standing power throw event requires the Soldier to make two-handed, over-the-head throws of a 10-pound medicine ball down a lane with the Soldier’s back to the lane.
Dunlap, who first enlisted in 1991 as an Army Reserve equipment records and parts specialist, or 76C, said he would recommend to anyone taking the ACFT for the first time that they have fun doing it.
"Enjoy it," he said. "Don't break yourself off. If it's your first time, just get a feel for it, so do what you can—pace yourself and learn from it."
When the Soldiers began, it was still pitch black, but by the time they finished the final event, the two-mile run, the Kuwaiti sun was already climbing up the sky.
Before releasing the Soldiers, Merritt and his graders had the Soldiers review their scorecards and then sign them, which is another change from the APFT routine.