One of the first hurdles to launching the field test was equipping the test units, according to Whitfield East, the research physiologist for the Army's Center for Initial Military Training and the principal investigator for the Soldier Baseline Physical Readiness Requirements Study.
"We established the equipping solution, [awarded] the contract and then ordered and shipped the equipment to each of the installations," Whitfield said during an ACFT demonstration today.
The Army awarded a contract to Enterprise Furniture Consultants Inc. in late July for $1.1 million to equip each of the test battalions with 16 lanes worth of equipment, according to Michael McGurk, director of research and Analysis for the CIMT.
"We are buying it retail because we are only doing 60 battalions," said McGurk. "It sounds like a lot, but when we do the whole Army ... I'll get a different price. The Army fully expects a lower cost when ordering in quantity for the entire force."
Each of the 16 lanes needs to be equipped with one deadlift bar and more than 320 pounds of weights. The Army also ordered enough weights to equip each lane with 90 pounds of additional weights for the sprint-drag-carry event that requires soldiers to drag a 90-pound sled for 50 meters.
Each lane also requires a weight sled, pull straps, two kettle bells and one medicine ball. Other equipment includes tape measures, marking cones and stopwatches.
ACFT mobile training teams from Fort Jackson, South Carolina are now visiting 63 test battalions to certify and validate graders during the field test, which began Oct. 1.
"That will go on through March, then those battalions will become the pilot groups for the initial ACFT taken; that will go on through August," Lt. Col. David Feltwell, command physical therapist for the Center for Initial Military Training, said.
Master Sgt. Shelley Horner, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the ACFT mobile training team on Fort Eustis, said overall the testing period was going "really well."
"[But] I have some areas to improve," she admitted with a chuckle.
For many soldiers, the leg tuck event takes work to perfect, she said.
The leg tuck require a soldier to hang from a pull-up bar and pull the legs up to touch the elbows.
Horner has learned it helps to pull up with her arms "a little bit higher so it's less distance for my knees to travel and that gets me that little bit," the 36-year-old Texas National Guard military intelligence specialist said, adding that the soldiers participating in the demonstration are learning just like everyone else.
"I think generally it is kind of an eye-opener. It's different than anything we have ever done before," she said.
Capt. McKenzie Hensley said that many of the soldiers on the participating the demonstration have not done the full ACFT yet.
"We haven't done the test to full completion yet," she said, trying to catch her breath. "We do all of the events, but I personally haven't done the two-mile run afterward, and I think that is going to be the hardest event."
The 27-year-old brigade S1 for the 128th Aviation Brigade added that the ACFT is "hard, but it's good."
For Staff Sgt. Brandon Powell, the ACFT is a challenge that soldiers will have to learn to pace themselves through.
"You don't want to overdo something on the deadlift and then in three minutes you have to drag a 90-pound sled 50 meters, so doing it from that perspective it's definitely challenging," the 27-year-old avionics mechanic said. "You have to work to your strengths and work on your weakness to make sure that you can stay afloat for the whole test; you can't burn yourself out trying to max one thing."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the role of one of the soldiers.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.