On Thursday, October 1, the Army rolled out the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). It replaces the hated 40-year old 3-event Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

Out are the old pushups, sit-ups, and two-mile run that both the troops and the officers hated since it was not a true indicator of combat fitness. From now on, soldiers will begin testing using the new standards. 

One of the changes that have been implemented is that there no longer is a grading scale based on age. Soldiers 18-FOGs will have the exact same standards regardless of age or gender. 

To achieve a perfect score of 600 on the new test a soldier would have to complete the new test in 50 minutes. The exercises and prescribed rest periods as follows:

  • Deadlift: Soldiers will be required to lift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. Soldiers are required to do three reps in five minutes.
    * followed by a two-minute rest.
  • Standing Power Throw: Soldiers are required to toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. They will make two throws, the longest is for a grade.
    *followed by a two-minute rest.
  • Hand-raised Push-ups: Soldiers will lower their chest to the ground and lift their hands off the ground between each rep. They are required to perform as many reps as possible in three minutes.
    *followed by a two-minute rest.
  • 250-Meter Sprint-Drag-Carry: There are five different events within this single event: a 50-meter sprint; a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled; a 50-meter lateral movement; a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettlebells; and a final 50-meter sprint.
    *followed by a two-minute rest.
  • Leg Tuck: The soldier will hang perpendicular to the pull-up bar and brings his/her knees up to his elbows and back down again for one repetition.
    (This may be substituted by the plank — see below.)
    * followed by a five-minute rest.
  • Two-mile Run: The two-mile run on the old APFT will remain in effect.

Back in June, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston told the media that in their initial observations, many soldiers were having issues with the leg tuck event. So, at least initially, soldiers can substitute a two-minute plank for the leg tuck. 

“If you can’t do a leg tuck, we’ve added a two-minute plank,” Grinston said, adding that soldiers must first attempt the leg-tuck event. “We need that core strength… so if you can’t do any leg tucks, how do we build off of that? The plank can help us.”

The new test will be much more strenuous and a much better barometer for the soldiers’ ability to withstand the physical toll of combat than the old 3-event test. However, the Army is still hung up on it being done in less than an hour and conducted in PT uniform. Last time I checked, the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria — and many other places — weren’t conducting combat operations in tennis shoes and Ranger panties.

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Yet, the transition to the new test has been anything but smooth, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The entire new testing was put on hold due to the pandemic and leaders are still struggling with social distancing and quarantining troops. The pandemic also slowed the delivery of the new equipment, required for the test, to the units.

The Army first announced plans for the new ACFT in July of 2018. A few months later, officials began a one-year test phase during which 63 active-duty and reserve component battalions across the Army tried out the ACFT’s six events.

Scores on the ACFT won’t count against soldiers until March 2022 at the latest. Nevertheless, that date could be moved earlier once troops begin working out with the new gear and practicing the different events.  

The exact grading, points-wise, is still being worked out but dropping the age-specific requirements will be bound to catch flak. In Special Forces, all candidates (and cadre members… at least back in the dinosaur era), were graded on the 18-21 age scale. The troops and the cadre hated it — but it was effective.