VNG Soldiers get creative with ACFT training

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers work their way through a field-expedient Army Combat Fitness Test Nov. 21, 2019, at the Virginia National Guard Sgt. Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. The training used items commonly found in National Guard armories to put together a quick and challenging fitness training session that had Soldiers dragging weighted duffle bags, tossing medicine balls over obstacles, carrying water jugs and moving quickly between stations. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler)

RICHMOND, Va. — With the rollout of the new Army Combat Fitness Test, the Virginia National Guard’s master fitness trainers are providing unique training opportunities to help Soldiers prepare for the test. During one such event, held Nov. 21, 2019, near Richmond, Virginia, Master Sgt. Ramon Abreu-Perez, master fitness coordinator for the Virginia National Guard, put together a fast-paced, heart-pumping, field-expedient ACFT training session. 

A Virginia Army National Guard Soldier works her way through a field-expedient Army Combat Fitness Test Nov. 21, 2019, at the Virginia National Guard Sgt. Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler)

“There is no doubt the Army Combat Fitness Test requires a new level of preparation, and the field-expedient session like our master fitness trainers demonstrated today is an example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking the test requires,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, who participated in the training session.

Abreu-Perez said the goal of the training was to show leaders and Soldiers that you can put together an ACFT-centric workout without all the regulation equipment needed for the six-event test. 

The training circuit took about 20-25 minutes to complete and had Soldiers dragging weighted duffle bags, tossing medicine balls over obstacles, carrying water jugs, flipping tires and moving quickly between stations. Events like the Standing Power Throw and Sprint, Drag, Carry were modified to include equipment commonly found at armories.

“We wanted to show and educate the organization’s leadership that in order to train for the ACFT, we do not need to have standard equipment,” said Abreu-Perez. “Units can tailor this type of training and use things that apply to their units and missions such as tow bars or ammo cans.” 

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Smith, Virginia Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, has made training and preparing for the ACFT one of his top priorities for the force. He participated in the field-expedient training session and said it hit all the fundamentals Soldiers need to work on in order to become stronger warfighters. 

“It was a fun session,” Smith said. “I hope we do it again.” 

In order to prepare for the ACFT, Abreu-Perez recommends all Soldiers take the ACFT as soon as they can. This will give them a baseline assessment that will help them identify both their strengths and weaknesses. 

A Virginia Army National Guard Soldier works her way through a field-expedient Army Combat Fitness Test Nov. 21, 2019, at the Virginia National Guard Sgt. Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler)

“We’re all different and we all have different training needs,” he said. There are a lot of resources available to Soldiers, from videos on YouTube that highlight each of the ACFT’s training events to the U.S. Army’s field manual on physical readiness training, FM 7-22. Those tools, combined with the assistance of a master fitness trainer, can provide training and guidance to a Soldier at no cost. ACFT focus training groups also meet at Fort Pickett on Wednesdays at 6 and 7 a.m., and Thursdays at DSCR at 3:30 p.m. 

“Smart training and timing are of the essence,” Abreu-Perez said. He said Soldiers need to start training now in order to be prepared for when the ACFT becomes the physical fitness test of record. He also encouraged Soldiers to remember that physical fitness isn’t the only thing Soldiers should focus on. He explained that nutrition, proper sleep, hydration and appropriate recovery are all key components of developing a healthy, fit lifestyle. 

Preparing Virginia’s Soldiers for the full implementation of the ACFT is a top priority for leaders. Training opportunities hosted by MFTs, battalion challenges and additional events are planned for the coming months, all to encourage Soldiers to get involved and get ready. 

“The ACFT is harder, but it is going to result in a higher level of fitness and readiness for all of our Soldiers, and that is incredibly important,” Williams said. “Leaders at every level need to take the ACFT seriously and start planning now for how to help their Soldiers be successful. They should utilize their MFTs and get smart about how to prepare.”