MAY 12, 2022 — The U.S. Army has launched the revised Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and one artillery battery commander is welcoming the changes with massive open arms.
Capt. Kenneth Ebner, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, is hard to miss. At well over 6 feet tall, the battery commander is easily visible in the organized chaos of early morning physical training. From running at the front of his formation, planking alongside his Soldiers to giving guidance and advice on the best ways to perform the new ACFT exercises, Ebner is right there with his troops among the strategically placed equipment from his “gym in a box.”
“Mondays and Fridays are battery PT sessions,” Ebner said. “That’s so First Sergeant (Rowdy Yates) and I can provide oversite on how our Soldiers, NCOs and young officers are conducting PT. These exercises are really focused on the foundations of fitness and it’s just a fun and functional workout to prepare these Soldiers for the ACFT.”
With the revised ACFT, the two-mile run is still there along with a modified form of the old pushup — the hand release pushup. In addition, the test includes a three-repetition maximum deadlift, standing power throw, sprint-drag-carry and the plank. Earlier iterations of the ACFT included the option to perform the leg tuck rather than the plank. This option was removed from the revised ACFT after analysis of observed test data determined the plank provides a more accurate measure of core strength.
“What this ACFT is going to allow us to do is get our bodies a lot stronger, but also be able to do that metabolic conditioning that we are able to do with the run and the row and all that good stuff too,” Alpha Battery First Sgt. Rowdy Yates said. “So, I think it’s a lot more rounded fitness composition for the ACFT and I think it really strengthens and challenges the Soldiers to know a little bit more about fitness than what we were used to back in the early 2000s.”
The Army is giving Soldiers time to train and adjust to the new events and scoring scales before scores are used for personnel actions. Soldiers began taking diagnostic tests with the revised ACFT when the revised standards were implemented in April 2022. Recorded scores for the regular Army will start in October 2022 — giving Soldiers six months to train.
“This is the standard now and it is a far better assessment of a Soldier’s overall physical fitness level than the legacy (Army Physical Fitness Test),” said Ebner. “The ACFT assesses all components of physical fitness and transforming the culture of fitness within the Army. The ACFT will reduce preventable injuries and attrition while increasing Soldier readiness.”
This new approach will provide an accurate assessment of a Soldier’s physical fitness level and sustain the Army’s efforts to maintain a physically fit force capable of a wide range of missions, said Col. Dave Norris, 75th Field Artillery Brigade commander.
“The Army has gone a long way to make sure we have a great way to measure everybody’s readiness for combat,” Norris said. “While the old (physical fitness) test was aimed at understanding conditioning and cardiorespiratory fitness, the ACFT is aimed at measuring a Soldier’s readiness to perform the tasks our nation is going to ask us to do when we deploy.”
With the legacy PT test, Soldiers and leaders only needed a place to run and perform sit-ups and push-ups. The new revised ACFT is slightly more involved and while training doesn’t require anything other than space, testing does require some specialized equipment.
The Army has expanded access to ACFT training equipment across all Army components — issuing more than 40,000 sets of equipment — gym in a box — including the gear in Ebner’s battery footprint. The Army has also made available multiple training plans, which include equipment-free options, available through a mobile app, Army doctrine and the Army’s ACFT microsite.
Using “gyms in a box,” the small unit leaders and battery commanders can ensure their Soldiers have all the equipment necessary to train to the standards of the ACFT, said Ebner.
“No matter what the standard is, this battery is going to reach that standard,” Ebner said. “And the way we get after that is just providing a sound program with a lot of oversight from myself and the First Sergeant. We make sure that Soldiers are not only doing these workouts intentionally, but properly because there’s a lot more movements now that can cause injury if you’re not careful and know what you’re doing.”
Soldiers and leaders can find more information regarding the revised ACFT at https://www.army.mil/acft/
Story by Christopher Wilson
Fort Sill Public Affairs