WASHINGTON – The Army is built upon the individual Soldier, and the battlefield of the future demands individuals who can excel under intense physical and cognitive demands.
That is the reasoning behind the new Army Combat Fitness Test, a significant departure from the three-decades-old Army Physical Fitness Test. Initial roll out of the ACFT begins in October, and it will replace the APFT as the test of record by October 2020.
To succeed, the Army must address new training, evaluation and equipment requirements. Meanwhile, forward-thinking leaders have taken an innovative approach to implementing the ACFT by conducting field tests, practice ACFTs, and qualifying many noncommissioned officers and officers as graders.
As stated in 2018 by Center for Initial Military Training Commander Maj. Gen. Malcom Frost, the new test yields the following key advantages:
- It measures strength and conditioning that accurately mimics the movements necessary on the battlefield.
- It is gender and age neutral with standards corresponding to the demands of the Soldier's duty.
- The test itself promotes an Army-wide culture of physical fitness.
Instead of training to pass an arbitrary strength standard of push-ups and sit-ups, Soldiers must maintain a healthy lifestyle and train for overall strength and conditioning. Research shows this will decrease injuries, which will increase the number of deployable troops. The Australian army instituted similar training in 2016 and decreased their trainee injury rate by 40 percent. The money saved in decreased injury rates and the increase in deployable Soldiers is worth the cost of purchasing the required equipment.
In April, the ACFT Mobile Training Team held a demonstration for more than 100 Army inspectors general at the World Wide Inspector General Conference. During this event, Col. Ray Herrerra, command inspector for U.S. Army South said, “After taking the test, I believe the ACFT is a substantial improvement toward determining readiness, and it better prepares Soldiers than our current annual test.”
Military Training Teams
In order to implement the ACFT properly, the Army is training a core group of leaders to serve as advisors and administer the test. The MTTs, in turn, will prepare and certify new Army Master Fitness instructors and mid-level supervisors to train Soldiers to administer the ACFT. This approach trains the trainers without negatively impacting active duty readiness, and integrates the new test regime at maximum efficiency before it is officially implemented across the force.
In July 2018, the Army published Executive Order 219-18: The Implementation of the Army Combat Fitness Test, which officially established 30 active duty, 10 Army Reserve, and 10 National Guard NCOs/officers as ACFT MTTs for the force.
In May, as part of the Association of the U.S. Army National Security Studies team, Maj. Joseph Flores and Master Sgt. Shelly Horner (ACFT MTT team leads) were interviewed about the Army’s effort to train the trainers and the requirements involved in the certification process. They said the MTTs are responsible for training three levels of graders, each with distinct knowledge, skills and abilities.
To qualify as a Level I grader, individuals will complete a one-day validation module offered by a locally sourced ACFT Level II or III grader-instructor. This will enable them to identify a suitable testing location; validate the testing equipment; and grade the six ACFT test events to standard. Level I graders may be used to familiarize their unit with and prepare Soldiers for the test.
Level II ACFT graders will complete the two-day validation training offered by the Army Physical Fitness School or Army Center for Initial Military Training. Locally sourced ACFT Level III grader-instructors also can certify these individuals. The Level II grader may not train/validate other Level II graders.
At the second level, the individuals can serve as a testing officer or noncomissioned officer in charge to administer a unit ACFT; validate a testing location and equipment; grade test events to standard; and train Level-1 graders by providing the three-hour validation
Level-3 master fitness trainer personnel must successfully complete three days of validation train and may perform all of the functions noted as well as conduct training and award Level 1 and 2 certification.
Currently, more than 6,000 Soldiers have received formal ACFT Level II-III Grader Validation training from one of the ACFT teams. Since those individuals are allowed to train others at a lower level, it’s hard to document how many other graders have been trained to the Level I standard. The Army’s plan is that all NCOs and officers receive an ACFT Grader Level Validation before implementation of the ACFT as the test of record.
The ACFT Training Guide has multiple examples of the movements and exercises involved in the test and has equipment substitutions – such as an ammo can, water can or sandbag in place of kettlebells or medicine balls – for those deployed or without access to the standard equipment. For additional information on exercises and movements, consult the Army doctrine on exercise: FM 7-22: Army Physical Readiness Training.
For injured Soldiers and those on permanent profile, the CIMT is developing alternate events to be officially approved at the beginning of October. These events may include the stationary bike, swimming or rowing.
For more information on the ACFT, go to the official Army website, www.army.mil/acft. It includes instructions, photos and videos for each event. It also contains preparation recommendations to help Soldiers train for the October 2020 implementation date. NCOs and officers interested in obtaining their ACFT certification from an MTT should contact their unit first sergeant.