Yes! Finally, the old Army Physical Fitness test, adopted in 1980 is finally going away, and the new six-event Army Combat Fitness Test is going to take its place.

The new test is supposed to be much more strenuous and be a much better barometer for the soldiers to withstand the physical toll of combat. By October 2020 all soldiers regardless of age or sex will be required to take the new test which was designed to better test upper body strength, endurance, flexibility, and agility. The Army did testing for six years to come up with this new test.

While it is a vast improvement over the silly three-event PT test that the Army has been fielding for nearly four decades, it is still hung up on being done in less than an hour and conducting it in PT uniform.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but are troops withstanding “the physical toll of combat” to quote the Army in running shoes and Ranger panties? Who cares if it takes a half or even an entire day for a unit to conduct it?  While the Army will begin sending 60 battalions the equipment needed to conduct the Combat Fitness Test in October, they will need another year-long study to determine how to properly grade the new test. I swear we don’t make this stuff up. Yes, after a six-year study on how to properly gauge a soldier’s fitness, they still haven’t come up with a proper grading system yet.

Major General Malcolm Frost, the CG of the Army’s Center for Initial Training told pool reporters at the Pentagon that the first new PT Test in nearly 40 years will allow commanders to better gauge their troop’s fitness.

“It’s going to improve soldier physical readiness; it’s going to change the Army fitness culture, reduce physical injuries … it will better inform commanders of unit readiness and will enhance mental toughness and stamina,” he said. “I personally believe that the Army Combat Fitness Test will ignite a general cultural change in fitness for the Army and will be a cornerstone of individual combat readiness for the future.”

The new test must be completed in 50 minutes and 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.
    * followed by a five-minute rest.
  • Two-mile Run: The current standard two-mile run on the current APFT will remain in effect.

Frost told reporters that there would probably be a scale with 100 points being maximum and 60 points being a pass, so the new test would have a 600 point maximum with a 360 pass, as long as a soldier garnered at least 60 points in each event.

The plan is to outfit each of the 60 test battalions with 15 lanes of equipment to allow them to conduct the test of the entire battalion within the allotted time. The Army will have to purchase medicine balls, pull-up bars, sleds, kettlebells and other equipment for each battalion.

Is this Combat Fitness Test better than the APFT to measure combat readiness for the soldier? By far, but it doesn’t go far enough. The Army is too hung up on running in shorts and tennis shoes. Look we absolutely agree with that needs to be a large part of a soldiers training preparation.

Our own Special Operations PT Prep program that we post daily here has the SOF candidates running for distance more than rucking. Why? It builds up their endurance and will help their rucking times. But is running in shorts a combat fitness test? No. Rucking is. The Army will and should continue with daily runs to build up soldiers’ endurance and cardiovascular ability.

But soldiers in combat are going in with a lot of gear on their bodies and that is what is needed to test the soldiers’ true combat fitness. If a soldier can’t carry a combat load into battle and be able to function (like that 250-meter Sprint-Drag-Carry), then they aren’t combat effective. The Special Operations UBRR (Upper Body Round Robin) takes what the Combat Fitness Test started and takes it another step farther. After a series of tests to measure upper body strength and endurance, the soldiers then have to do a 5-mile rucksack march.

One thing that I do like is doing away with age-specific requirements. This is a combat fitness test. Enemy rounds coming down range can’t tell the difference between 19-year old PFCs and 40-something-year-old Sergeant Majors or Battalion Commanders. Everyone is graded the same.

One thing that the original Selection cadre had to contend with was if you were a Selection and Assessment cadre member, you were graded on the age 18 APFT scale, regardless of how old…or young, you were. It wasn’t a big deal back then. Looking back on it now, it was a very smart move and one I hope was continued down the line.

The new Combat Fitness Test looks to be a huge leap in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how soon this gets implemented. Could it have done more? Sure but it is light years ahead of gauging combat fitness than the old APFT.

Photo: US Army

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