Virginia Soldiers train and test on new Army Combat Fitness Test

Virginia National Guard Soldiers conduct the new Army Combat Fitness Test with the help of Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School Nov. 8, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The new Army Combat Fitness Test has made its way to the Virginia National Guard. Approximately 25 Virginia Soldiers came together for a multi-day training event conducted by a mobile training team from the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School and held Nov. 6-8, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

While the training included Soldiers from across the Virginia National Guard, the focus was on getting Soldiers assigned to the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team up to speed on the test, as the unit is one of 62 battalions from the across the U.S. Army chosen to participate in the first phase of the ACFT rollout, and one of just eight National Guard battalions taking part in the initial training phase.

By the end of 2020, the recently-announced, six-event ACFT will replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test that’s been the U.S. Army’s standard physical fitness measurement tool since the 1980s. The new test is gender- and age-neutral, and includes three minimum standards – black, silver and gold – based on unit and military occupational speciality. Soldiers in units that are physically demanding will have to score higher than those in less physically demanding units in order to pass the new test.

“It’s very challenging,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Smith, the Virginia Army National Guard’s state command sergeant major. Smith took the ACFT alongside Virginia Soldiers during the training. “It’s definitely going to test you.”

A Virginia National Guard Soldiers completes the drag portion of sprint-drag-carry during the Army Combat Fitness Test Nov. 8, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

The Fort Pickett training event certified Soldiers on three levels of ACFT expertise. At the top, Level IIIs serve as subject matter experts on the equipment and administration of the test. They’re able to lay out the test field, grade and oversee the ACFT, and can validate Soldiers as trained on the lower levels. Level II requires Soldiers to have a thorough knowledge of the ACFT and allows them to lay out a test field, oversee and administer the test and validate Soldiers at the first level. Finally, Level I certification authorizes Soldiers to serve as ACFT graders. All graders must be a minimum of Level I.

“Basically, I have the certification to teach and validate our units for Level Is and IIs,” explained 1st Lt. Richard Atkins, company commander of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, on his Level III certification.

Regardless of their training level, every Soldier who attended the training took the ACFT.

The first event of the ACFT is the 3-repetition maximum deadlift, with weight ranging from 140 to 340 pounds. Soldiers are given 10 minutes to warm up before stepping inside a hexagon/trap bar and attempting three continuous repetitions. In the event they fail to complete three reps, Soldiers are given two minutes of rest time before making another attempt. The minimum passing weight for this event is between 140 and 180 pounds, depending on unit and MOS.

“I like to lift heavy things, so the deadlift is my favorite event,” Atkins said. Atkins explained that he’d previously taught the U.S. Army’s Master Fitness Trainer Course at Fort Benning and had taken the test previously. “The test has evolved from the first time I took it and a few changes have occurred, but it’s pretty similar to the initial pilot.”

The second event of the ACFT is the standing power throw. Here, Soldiers must throw a 10-pound medicine ball over and behind their heads. In order to pass this event, Soldiers must throw the ball between 4.6 and 8.5 meters, with 13.5 meters as the maximum distance.

Next is the hand-release push-up. Soldiers first assume a prone position with their hands flat on the ground, ankles flexed and toes touching the ground before pushing the whole body up from the ground until the elbows are fully extended and the body is in the front leaning rest position. Soldiers must complete between 10 and 30 repetitions in order to pass this event.

The fourth event is the sprint-drag-carry, which is performed in 25-meter lanes. Soldiers must first sprint down and back the lane, then drag a 90-pound sled down and back, then perform a lateral shuffle down and back before carrying a 40-pound kettle bell in each hand down the lane and back before finishing with another sprint down and back, for a total distance of 250 meters. The minimum to pass this event ranges from 3:35 to 2:09, while a maximum score can be earned by completing the event in 1:40.

The leg tuck is the fifth event which requires Soldiers to hang from a pull-up bar in the straight-arm position, then lift their knees to their elbows. To pass this event, Soldiers must complete between one and five repetitions, or 20 to max the event.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Smith, the Virginia Army National Guard’s state command sergeant major, addresses Virginia National Guard Soldiers after completing the new Army Combat Fitness Test  Nov. 8, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.  (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

The final event of the ACFT is a familiar one to Soldiers: the two-mile run. The minimum times to pass this event are between 21:07 and 18 minutes, with a max time of 12:45.

“I think it’s a great assessment,” Atkins said. “It’s an 80 percent assessment of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and it assesses all domains – strength, endurance, mobility, flexibility, power. It’s not just a muscular endurance test like the normal APFT where it’s just push-ups, sit-ups and the run.”

Capt. R.J. Carbone is the team leader for the ACFT training team that came to Fort Pickett from Fort Jackson’s U.S. Army Physical Fitness School. He said, “first and foremost,” he wanted the Soldiers to “have a positive experience,” along with “an in-depth understanding of how to conduct the ACFT and all the ins and outs of how to properly grade, train and assess.”

For Soldiers interested in preparing for the ACFT, Smith suggests Soldiers “start looking up the information that’s readily available on the ACFT.” He said some of the doctrine is already available online and that it provides exercises that can help Soldiers build their fitness to the six tested events. “It also gives you the foundation of why these particular exercises were included in the test, and how they feed into combat readiness on the battlefield.”

For more information on the Army Combat Fitness Test, visit https://usacac.army.mil/sites/default/files/publications/18-37.pdf