The United States Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT Standards) is the forthcoming fitness test for the US army and is a replacement for the old Army fitness test which has been in use since 1980.
This test is age and gender-neutral test, which makes it a much higher version of the current one. The soldiers are supposed to pass this “strenuous” test to be a part of the military services in the US army.
ACFT replaces the current three-event test with six events and is said to be in full effect from October 2020.
Until then, the test is considered in a state of refinement. Based on the results of the field testing which may include as many as 40,000 troops.
How it All Started?
The three-event army fitness test was in practice since 1980 and had special sliding scales depending on gender and age.
Older servicemen were given tasks of lesser standards compared to the younger troops, and women were evaluated on special standards and tests.
The realisation that a combat field is equally dangerous for the army troops of all age groups irrespective of gender has made the first step towards the introduction of ACFT.
The matter of concern and importance for the military is to prepare the soldiers for combat which is dangerous and has to be age and gender-neutral.
During the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan, a lot of battlefield evacuations happened due to musculoskeletal injuries.
Leading to the Army’s focus to develop fitness tests to carefully measure “combat-readiness”.
The ACFT began development in 2013 when Army leadership started a review of the physical demands of “common soldier tasks,” including a scientific study by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
It was also based on a set of 113 essential “warrior tasks and drills” laid out in army doctrine, as well as feedback from those who had completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reports published after the pilot testing of these fitness areas also showed similar results.
The senior officials in US military including the Sergeant Major of the Army and the commander of the US Army’s Center of Initial Military Training suggest that Army needed a more realistic and “field-expedient” measure of a soldier’s physical ability to withstand the rigours of the combat environment.
Interesting Read: Customs and Courtesies of US Military You Should Know!
ACFT is also recommended as it is seen to increase the percentage of a soldier’s ability to “execute warrior tasks and battle drills.”
Is there Different Fitness Standards Depending on MOS?
There are chances of ACFT physical fitness standards varying depending on the occupations of the test taker, as is suggested from the interviews and reports given by different army officials.
Military Occupational Specialities (MOS) based fitness standards may or may not be applied to ACFT when it becomes a reality in 2020.
There is, in fact, the Army’s Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) existing, which tests the person’s fitness according to his or her occupation.
OPAT is a tool used to determine whether new recruits have the physical capacity to endure specific Army jobs such as Infantry or related specialities.
Before the introduction of this fitness test in January 2017, Army recruits were only required to pass the ASVAB test and a physical exam.
The introduction of OPAT has resulted in the decline of certain types of injuries that occur in the training phase for new recruits, according to the February report of Army News Service.
ACFT has proved to be a game-changer in assessing the ability of the battalion commander to be battle-ready in the physical sense, just like the troops he or she leads into combat.
In October 2018, the United States Army will choose approximately 60 battalions including active duty components, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve to take part in a year-long field test of the ACFT.
The results will be evaluated, and the test may be adjusted based on those results.
According to several published reports, at the time of the announcement of the testing of the Army Combat Physical Fitness Test, policies had yet to be entirely written concerning implementing the new fitness standards service-wide.
What does the ACFT Standards Measure?
The old Army Fitness tests since the 1980s only measured muscle endurance and aerobic endurance.
The new ACFT consists of six events unlike the old three events and is graded on a scale of 600 scores, with 100 scores for each event.
Also, the ACFT measures ten areas of fitness, including muscle strength and endurance, muscle power, speed, agility, aerobic endurance, balance, flexibility, plus coordination and reaction time.
It has also retained the Army’s traditional fitness test of a 2 miles run.
The test consists of six events conducted in order and within 50minutes to complete.
- Three-rep deadlift of between 120 pounds (64 kg) and 420 pounds (150 kg)
- A 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) backwards and overhead medicine ball throw
- Hand-release push-ups over two minutes
- 250 metres (820 ft.) shuttle run referred to as the “sprint-drag-carry”
- Hanging leg tucks over two minutes and 2 miles (3.2 km) run.
The deadlift event has a weight range between 120 pounds and 420 pounds, mainly to evaluate a soldier’s ability to carry another wounded soldier in a combat field.
This event is similar to the deadlift requirements of Army’s Occupational Physical Assessment Test.
What is different in ACFT version is that the test taker is required to lift three times with increasing weight each time.
Standing Power Throw challenges the soldier to throw a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible, testing the ability to hoist a teammate or supplies over an obstacle, among other things.
Hand-Release Push-Ups involve the traditional push-up stance and execution, but once the soldier reaches the lowest position, it’s required to remove the hands and arms from the ground and recover the traditional stance from the ground to begin the next push-up.
The idea is to make the push-up harder to execute, increasing upper body strength.
This challenge has to be done over a time of two minutes.
In Sprint, Drag and Carry, soldiers have to run a 25-meter dash five times.
They must sprint, drag a 90-pound sledge, and carry two 40-pound weights by hand.
This is another test to ensure the soldier can carry wounded comrades, heavy equipment, or perform another strenuous combat task.
Leg Tuck requires the soldier to work out core muscles by lifting their legs up to their elbows and is described as being similar to a pull-up.
Two-Mile Timed Run is basically the same challenge that is required of the current Army physical fitness test, but times will likely be slower due to the physical exertion required of the five challenges or events before the run.
How is the ACFT Standards Scored?
The updated version of the physical fitness test ACFT from 2020 is likely to follow the same method of scoring for the old Army fitness tests.
Each event is evaluated on a score of 100 points, which makes it a total of 600 points for six games.
However, the minimum requirements for those scores may, as mentioned above, be dependent on the soldier’s military occupation speciality code.
An Airborne Ranger may have more stringent physical demands than a Unit Supply Specialist, and a precedent for this type of scoring already exists with OPAT.
There will not be any alternative challenges of fitness tests for test-takers belonging to different age group or gender. The same applies to different occupations also.
Every soldier will be required to pass the same six events. Scores should vary depending on the physically demanding nature of the soldier’s MOS—Black, Grey and Gold. Black is the MOS for very physically demanding requirements.
Grey is for the occupations that need significant physical demands, and Gold is for those with moderate physical demands. Performance minimums are to be set uniquely for each of these three categories.