U.S. Army announces new fitness test designed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks

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FORT EUSTIS, Va. — U.S. Army leaders have approved a new fitness test designed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks, the Army announced Tuesday.

The new test, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is also designed to reduce injuries. It could lead to cost savings across the service, the Army says.

The new, six-event assessment, will replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test, a three-event test that has been in place since 1980.

It will be implemented in October 2020.

All soldiers will be required to take the new test, which is gender and age neutral. Before the new test is implement in 2020, field test will be held to allow the Army to refine the test. Initial plans call for up to 4,000 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers to use the new assessment during the field-testing stage.

“The Army Combat Fitness Test will ignite a generational, cultural change in Army fitness and become a cornerstone of individual soldier combat readiness,” said Army Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commander of the Army’s Center of Initial Military Training, said in a press release. “It will reduce attrition and it will reduce musculoskeletal injuries and actually save, in the long run, the Army a heck of a lot of money.”

Army officials said at least six years of significant research went into the test’s development as researchers looked at what soldiers must do to be fit for combat.

“Throughout that research and testing, the goal was to provide our leaders with a tough, realistic, field-expedient assessment of the physical component of their soldiers’ individual readiness,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. “The ACFT is scientifically validated and will help better prepare our soldiers to deploy, fight and win on any future battlefield.”

The new test consists of six events:

  • Strength Deadlift: With a proposed weight range of 120 to 420 pounds, the deadlift event is similar to the one found in the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, which is given to new recruits to assess lower-body strength before they are placed into a best-fit career field. The ACFT will require soldiers to perform a three-repetition maximum deadlift. Army officials said the event replicates picking up ammunition boxes, a wounded battle buddy, supplies or other heavy equipment.
  • Standing power throw: Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier up over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
  • Hand-Release Pushups: In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional pushup, but when at the down position they release their hands and arms from contact with the ground and then reset to do another pushup. This allows for additional upper body muscles to be exercised.
  • Sprint/Drag/Carry: As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettlebell weights. Army officials said this can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
  • Leg Tuck: Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees/thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. Army officials said this exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional situp.
  • 2-Mile Run: A carryover from the current test, Army officials said they expect run times to be a bit slower due to all of the other strenuous activity.

The ACFT gauges soldiers on the 10 components of physical fitness: muscular strength and endurance, power, speed, agility, aerobic endurance, balance, flexibility, coordination and reaction time. The current test only measures two: muscular and aerobic endurance.

Army officials said the vast majority of policies with the APFT will likely be carried over to the new test.

Scoring could be similar with 100 points for each event, for a maximum of 600 points, officials said. Minimum required scores, however, may change depending on a soldier’s occupational specialty, the officials noted. Soldiers in more physically demanding jobs may see tougher minimums, similar to how OPAT evaluates new recruits.

“The more physically challenging your (occupation), the more you’ll be required to do at the minimum levels,” said Michael McGurk, director of research and analysis at CIMT.

Another difference is that there are no alternate events planned for this test, he said.

Soldiers will still get adequate time to rehabilitate from an injury. But under a new “deploy-or-be-removed” policy, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in February that troops who are non-deployable for more than 12 months will be processed for administrative separation or referred to the disability evaluation system.

“Generally speaking, somebody who has a long-term permanent profile that precludes taking a fitness test may not be retainable for duty in the Army,” McGurk said.

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