How it started

Old school soldiers are all very accustomed to the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) that involves running, sit-ups, and pushups. If all you did was PT with your unit, you could probably muscle through well enough to pass. Now, that’s not exactly the case.

Back in 2013, senior leadership began exploring the physical demands of “common soldier tasks.” This review, along with an examination of a study funded by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, showed that the old APFT standards were super outdated. Not only was the APFT based on age and gender, but it also didn’t take into account the actual job functions a soldier might perform with their unit.

The study’s final conclusion revealed what lots of soldiers have known for a long time: a tanker’s physical requirements on the job are much different from a 68-series soldier. The new ACFT aims to change that.

Current testing

The ACFT is a six-event test, and it’s tough. Senior Army leadership says that the revisions to physical standards will help increase combat readiness and ensure a more highly trained, disciplined, and physically fit military. The new ACFT has been designed to improve soldier and unit readiness and transform the Army’s fitness culture from fringe to mainstream.

Not only are the events different in this new version, but the scoring has changed as well. Revised standards show scores for each of the six events up to a max score. They also highlight the minimum score a soldier must meet based on MOS which are in turn categorized by how physically demanding their functions are. This is a nod to the Marine Corps fitness standards testing that tests based on MOS.

The New Events and their standards

The new ACFT includes the following six events in this order:

  • Repetition max deadlift (0 points <140 pounds, 60 points =>140 pounds, 100 points =>340 pounds)
  • Standing power throw (0 points <4.5 meters, 60 points =>4.5 meters, 100 points =>12.5 meters)
  • Hand release push-up with arm extension (0 points <10 repetitions, 60 points =>10 repetitions, 100 points =>60 repetitions)
  • Sprint-drag-carry (0 points <3:00 minutes, 60 points =>3:00 minutes, 100 points =>1:33 minutes)
  • Leg tuck (0 points <1 repetition, 60 points =>1 repetition, 100 points =>20 repetitions)
  • Two-mile run (0 points <21:00 minutes, 60 points =>21:00 minutes, 100 points =>13:30 minutes)

The old APFT gave soldiers a max time of two hours to complete testing. Now, the new ACFT has a strict time limit of just 50 minutes.

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The challenge for many soldiers and units is the training that’s required for the new ACFT. In addition to needing a strong deadlift to get a high score and serious throwing power for the Standing Power Throw, the new version requires a lot of discipline and focus as well.

New Challenges Emerge

It’s no secret that recruitment is down right now, and one of the biggest hurdles facing the Army is the ACFT. In the pursuit of combat-ready soldiers, some have argued that the Army has placed new barriers on success, especially for non-combat arms MOS.

After all, the new ACFT came in part from former SecDef Mattis’s push for a more lethal force in the Army and a wider attempt to take a harder stance on obesity. Of course, physical fitness needs to be at the foundation of military culture, standards, and bearing. It’s part of what sets the military aside from the rest of the population.

But some are asking if that means that the best soldier needs to be the fittest soldier. As the ACFT rolls out and testing begins Army-wide, more revisions may come from on high. For now, most units are just continuing to train.

This article was written by Jessica Evans and originally published on WE ARE THE MIGHTY.