FORT PICKETT, Va. — More than 20 leaders from the Virginia Army National Guard accepted the challenge offered by Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Smith, the Virginia Army National Guard’s state command sergeant major, to take the new Army Combat Fitness Test April 6, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The ACFT will become the U.S. Army’s official physical fitness test of record in less than two years and the event gave leaders a chance to experience it first-hand.
“It’s important to bring awareness to some of our senior leaders of what it will take to get ourselves ready for the ACFT,” Smith explained. “I also wanted the ACFT challenge to become a team building event. As leaders, we sometimes forget that sharing in adversity with our battle buddy leads to stronger organizations.”
The new ACFT includes six events, a significant change from the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test the ACFT will soon replace. The new gender and age-and-neutral test aims to provide leaders with a better tool for assessing combat readiness across the force.
“To me, this is a more comprehensive analysis as to where people fall,” said 1st Sgt. Nicholas Baranovic, first sergeant for the Manassas-based Delta Company, 229th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “This evens the playing field. You’ve got to move heavy things and run fast, so having that better balance is a good move.”
The first event of the ACFT is a three-repetition maximum deadlift. Soldiers must complete three continuous repetitions with weight ranging from 140 to 340 pounds. Next is the standing power throw, which requires Soldiers to throw a 10-pound medicine ball over and behind their heads. In order to pass this event, Soldiers must throw the ball at least 4.6 meters. The third event is the hand-release push-up where Soldiers first assume a prone position before pushing their whole body up from the ground and then lowering all the way back down and releasing their hands from the ground. The fourth event is the sprint-drag-carry, performed in 25-meter lanes. Soldiers must first sprint down and back the lane, then drag a 90-pound sled down and back, then perform a lateral shuffle down and back before carrying a 40-pound kettle bell in each hand down the lane and back before finishing with another sprint down and back, for a total distance of 250 meters.
“The sprint-drag-carry was definitely the hardest part,” said Master Sgt. Denver Claywell, chief instructor for 1st Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. “I looked like a baby deer trying to complete the exercise.”
The leg tuck is the fifth event and requires Soldiers to hang from a pull-up bar and then lift their knees to their elbows. The final event is the two-mile run, the only event that carries over from the APFT.
“This was my first time taking the ACFT and it was definitely a lot more challenging that I anticipated,” Claywell said. He and his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Todd Riviezzo, were named the top-performing command team after earning the highest collective score on the ACFT, while Claywell earned the top score overall. “I think it’s a good gauge of your overall physical performance and capabilities. It definitely gives you a good gauge of your overall fitness.”
Baranovic said he did a lot of research on the ACFT before taking it himself, but nothing could quite compare to taking the actual test.
“You don’t really understand it until you see it and get to actually do it. It wasn’t super tough, it wasn’t undoable, but I didn’t do as well as I thought I would,” Baranovic said, explaining that there was a little bit of learning curve on some of the new exercises, especially with the standing power throw, the hand-release push-up and the leg tuck, all of which must be completed according to strict specifications.
“I’m just happy we’re out here doing it and it’s good to get exposure to it and I have a lot to take back to the Soldiers,” Baranovic said.
Once all the leaders completed the ACFT, Smith gathered the group to answer questions about the roll-out of the new test in Virginia and to thank everyone for participating. He intends to hold additional ACFT challenges to allow more leaders to experience the test in the coming months.
“At the end of the day, the Army is changing,” Smith said. “This is what the Army says we’re supposed to do and one of the things that makes our military the best in the world is our ability to adapt to change.”
In addition to the 183rd RTI and the 229th BEB, leaders from 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division; the 124th Cyber Protection Battalion, 91st Cyber Brigade; the 34th Civil Support Team; detachment, G1 and G3 personnel from Joint Force Headquarters-Virginia; the 29th Infantry Division, Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center; and the 3647th Maintenance Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group participated in the ACFT challenge.