The U.S. Army's top enlisted soldier said recently that the novel coronavirus pandemic will be only a temporary hurdle to the service transitioning to the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
The highly contagious virus forced the Army to put all physical fitness testing on hold in March, but the service is working to adjust its plan for replacing the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test with the more challenging six-event ACFT, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said in a recent news release.
Grinston said the ACFT events -- as well as the APFT events -- can be performed and graded while COVID-19 protocols are still in effect.
"During the 2-mile run, for instance, a limited number of lanes can be made available to runners and the event does not need to be done in large groups," the release states. "The hand-release push-ups test requires another individual to properly count repetitions, but the tracking person can count at a 6-foot distance."
Soldiers will also be required to wipe down the exercise equipment required for the ACFT with sanitizer after each event, Grinston said.
"If you touch the bar for your max deadlift, you wipe the bar down and then you move on to the next station," he explained.
The Army announced its plan to replace the current APFT with the more challenging ACFT in July 2018 and launched a massive effort that included a year-long field test involving 60 battalions of soldiers, as well as contract awards for special fitness equipment to administer the ACFT.
The equipment deliveries were initially delayed in 2019 because of a contract protest, but fielding remains on schedule despite pandemic conditions, Grinston said.
He said he is confident that Army Materiel Command officials will complete deliveries of the equipment to units by June.
The test was set to become a service-wide requirement Oct. 1. As of now, both ACFT and APFT requirements are suspended, pending further guidance. Soldiers can use their last APFT score to remain promotion eligible, and the Army extended the expiration dates of previous APFT scores, according to the release.
"Do I think we're confident when we start the ACFT that we can do it, given the conditions of a COVID-19 environment? Absolutely," Grinston said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.