“Some Soldiers don’t eat before they do this, and that’s not good,” advised Staff. Sgt. Darius Heyward, Army Combat Fitness Test trainer, who was speaking to 29 PT-gear-clad Soldiers sitting in the bleachers at Williams Stadium.

“It’s not like the old Army Physical Fitness Test where you can just knock it out on an empty stomach,” he warned. “You have to have some kind of carbs; some type of energy source, to help you get through the whole ACFT or you won’t make it. Stress that to others.”

Heyward is part of an ACFT Mobile Training Team hailing from the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, Fort Jackson, S.C. They brought their extensive knowledge of the Army’s new fitness assessment to Fort Lee this month to share with Soldiers from units across the installation.

“My team and I are here training and certifying leaders on the ACFT in order for them to train and certify others in their formations,” said Capt. R. J. Carbone, MTT officer in charge.

“We started with a four-day, really in-depth course for the NCOICs and OICs. At the end of this, the participants will be qualified to administer the ACFT, as well as certify other NCOIC/OICs and the graders,” Carbone further explained. “Then we have the grader course, which focuses on what the graders need.”

Also on the team are Sgt. 1st Class Colin Kerr, the NCOIC, Sgt. 1st Class Darwin Zapata and Sgt. 1st Class Latisha Pond. They, along with Carbone and Heyward, laid out everything during their two weeks at Fort Lee – how the gender-neutral ACFT’s six events help a Soldier tactically; how the stations are laid out and worked; required equipment; and the specifics of each exercise such as proper form, safety procedures, no-reps and event terminations, and scoring. These details were drilled into the Soldiers’ heads as they worked in small groups and did a round robin to each of the event stations in the stadium.

Sgt. Marquis Turner, a 23rd Quartermaster Brigade petroleum supply specialist, vocally catalogued the extent of what he learned. “They taught me how to set up everything,” he said. How it should be run. When certain breaks should be given between events. How many personnel should be in each lane; the do’s and don’ts of the events; what to look for to grade; proper techniques for each event; and so much more.”

As the second day of small group instruction got underway, Carbone challenged his six Soldiers to walk him through the Leg Tuck so he could double-check what they had learned and answer any questions they had.

“I want each of you to come up here and tell me something about this event,” he said. “What it’s about, what do you do, why it’s important. Tell me what you know, then I’ll switch you off to your battle buddy, and we’ll keep going.”

Each group of Soldiers was being similarly challenged with other ACFT events.

 “You have to be able to pay attention to everything,” observed Staff Sgt. Elliott Kaelber, a drill sergeant for the 832nd Ordnance Battalion. “On the Leg Tuck, for instance, the person being tested starts out with their hands together, but most start wiggling them apart as they go, which will be a no-rep. Or they start out with their body straight, and it’s now starting to cant out, again for a no-rep.”

Carbone asked, “What are the scoring standards for this event?”

“One, three, five with a maximum of 20,” Kaelber immediately replied.

Taking the training the next level, the MTT instructors organized an actual ACFT on the morning of Feb. 6 with the help of an advanced individual training class from the 832nd Ord. Bn. Mother Nature kicked in a 45-degree chill and ideal “if it’s not raining, we’re not training” conditions.

“I’m cold and wet,” admitted Pvt. Justin Sheffield, shivering slightly in his shorts, “but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Turner and his determined certification course classmates also gave it their best shot when they graded each event.

“One of the tips I told the AIT students when they were doing their Standing Power Throw is you don’t want to look back after you have thrown your ball because if you step on that line from looking back, that’s an automatic fault,” Turner said. “Don’t look back; just trust your grader and trust your throw.”

Carbone and his team inundated their train-the-trainer students with other tips to pass on as well. Paramount among them was this one cited by the captain:

“My advice for leaders who are going to be giving this course to certify others is rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals,” he emphasized. “Also, stay up-to-date on the latest information, which you can find on the ACFT website.”

For that website, go to 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.