The U.S. Army announced Monday that it will replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test with a new, more strenuous fitness evaluation designed to prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat.
By October 2020, all soldiers, regardless of age or gender, will be required to take the new Army Combat Fitness Test -- a six-event test that measures muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, flexibility, coordination, speed, agility, cardiovascular endurance, balance and reaction time.
The decision grew out of six-year effort that ended with a pilot studying an earlier version of the test, known as the Army Combat Readiness Test.
This is the first new physical fitness test for the Army in 38 years, Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who is overseeing the effort as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, told defense reporters at the Pentagon.
"It's going to improve soldier physical readiness; it's going to change the Army fitness culture, reduce physical injuries ... it will better inform commanders of unit readiness and will enhance mental toughness and stamina," he said. "I personally believe that the Army Combat Fitness Test will ignite a general cultural change in fitness for the Army and will be a cornerstone of individual combat readiness for the future."
There are six events in the ACFT:
- Strength Deadlift. This is a three-repetition maximum deadlift to test muscular strength; it mimics movement to safety and effectively lifting and carrying heavy loads.
- Standing Power Throw. This event involves throwing a 10-pound medicine ball as far as possible over the head and to the rear. It measures upper and lower muscular power, balance and whole body flexibility.
- Hand-Raised Push-ups. This event forces the soldier to go all the way to the floor and raise his hands before coming back up again, measuring upper-body muscular endurance.
- A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry. This is five different events within one event -- a 50-meter sprint; a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled; a 50-meter movement; a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettle bells; and a final 50-meter sprint. It measures muscular strength, power, speed and reaction time.
- Leg Tuck. A soldier hangs perpendicular to the pull-up bar and brings his knees up to his elbows and back down again for one repetition. It measures muscular strength, endurance and grip.
- Two-Mile Run. The ACFT retains the two-mile run portion of the APFT, which is designed to measure aerobic and muscular endurance.
All events must be completed in 50 minutes or less, so there is mandated rest and a maximum time for each event, Frost said. Each soldier gets two minutes' rest between each of the first five events and five minutes of rest before the two-mile run.
Beginning this October, the Army will field the necessary sports equipment to 60 battalions across the active Army, National Guard and Reserve and conduct a one-year evaluation to work out how the test will be scored, make adjustments to events as needed and consider the policies required to implement the new test, he said.
"The Army is going to change as it starts to train and understand what is required," Frost said. "The final scales are to be determined, but we can expect something like a hundred-point scale for each event, so potentially 600 points per event, and there may be a minimum standard."
With the current APFT, "we are used to 60 points as the pass; 100 points is maximum," he added. "So, if you can imagine, 360 points can be a potential pass standard to remain a soldier in the Army, and our maximum would be 600.
"The questions will be, are there unit standards in between that? Are there occupational standards in between that? ... All that is going to be determined based off the [data] and the field test, combined with what we have looked at scientifically," Frost said.
The Army will have to adjust its fitness policies to the new ACFT, said Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, sergeant major of the Army.
"What are the policies and procedures?" Dailey said. "What happens if you can't take it, what happens if you fail an event, is there going to be an alternate event? … We owe the chief of staff and the secretary [of the Army] the analysis from the field testing, so they can make the informed decisions on those questions."
In October 2019, the ACFT will be fully implemented across the Army to allow all soldiers time to train up to the new standard. During that year, the APFT will still remain the test of record, Frost said.
The current plan is to outfit each battalion with 15 lanes’ worth of medicine balls, pull-up bars, sleds, kettle bells and other equipment needed for the new test.
"To outfit the entire United States Army with 15 lanes per battalion ... you are talking approximately $30 million," Frost said, adding that there are currently 1,205 battalions across all components of the Army.
He defended the cost, saying, "$30 million over the lifespan of this equipment, which is 10 years, that's less than $3 per soldier."
Then in October 2020, the ACFT will become the Army's new fitness test of record, Frost said.
"This supports the chief of staff of the Army's and the secretary of the Army's number one initiative, which is readiness," Dailey said. "We need to assess our soldiers' ability and improve that over time. The APFT is a physical fitness test that has served the Army well for decades, but we can improve upon it."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.