Bragg Units Help Field-Test New Army Combat Fitness Test

 Sgt. Bruna Galarza demonstrates the dead-lift event during a pilot for the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event assessment designed to reduce injuries and replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test. (US Army photo/Sean Kimmons)
Sgt. Bruna Galarza demonstrates the dead-lift event during a pilot for the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event assessment designed to reduce injuries and replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test. (US Army photo/Sean Kimmons)

Field testing for the Army Combat Fitness Test is underway, and a few Fort Bragg, N.C. units are participating.

Officials announced in July that the new test will replace the Army Physical Fitness Test by October 2020.

About 60 battalions started field testing the new test in October.

Units were chosen from across the active, Reserve and National Guard force and represent a variety of commands, including U.S. Army Forces Command that is headquartered at Fort Bragg.

The Fort Bragg units taking part in the testing include the 27th Engineer Battalion; 519th Military Intelligence Battalion; 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment; and 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said Lt. Col. Mary Olodun, a Forscom spokeswoman.

The current Army Physical Fitness Test was introduced in October 1980 and consists of three events -- sit-ups, push-ups and running, said Michael McGurk, director of research and analysis at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training.

Prior to 1980, the Army's history of testing changed about every 10 years, between World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, McGurk said.

"It became evident to us a number of years ago it was time for us to look at modifications or changes to the test," McGurk said.

Developing the new test has involved evaluation of what basic training and tasks every soldier -- from privates to generals -- need to know to be successful on the battlefield, he said.

The question was raised about how well the current physical fitness test informed officials about the soldiers' abilities to perform the tasks, McGurk said.

An analysis of the new test indicates it will have about an 80 percent predictability about the soldiers' ability to perform warrior test and battle drills, he said.

"It's a high prediction rate for physical fitness," McGurk said, adding firefighters conduct similar tests to determine capabilities to perform tasks like hauling hoses up ladders or carrying people.

McGurk said the test also no longer takes into account gender, age or height.

"It assesses your ability to be a soldier," he said. "So that's a big change for a lot of people, but we believe it's a change in the right direction for the betterment of the Army and the soldiers."

Although the new test is age and gender neutral, it is not military occupational specialty, or job, neutral, McGurk said. For example, a soldier in the infantry would be expected to carry heavy things on his or her back and walk long distances because that is associated with the job, but an X-ray technician, would not.

The test might say soldiers' whose jobs aren't associated with lifting should still be able to lift 140 pounds as a basic expectation, but a soldier whose job entails lifting should be able to lift 180 pounds.

Other changes are the actual events in the test. While prior tasks of the test measured strength or endurance, McGurk said, the new test measures six principles -- power, muscular endurance, muscle strength, speed, agility and cardio endurance.

It also measures secondary "physical domains" of balance, flexibility, coordination and reaction time, he said.

While the Army's current physical fitness test has three events that must be completed in two hours -- sit-ups, push-ups and a two-mile run -- the new test will feature six events that must be completed in 50 minutes: strength dead-lift; standing power throw; hand release push-up; sprint, drag and carry; leg tuck; and a two-mile run.

McGurk said the test will be a complete workout and it stresses managing energy.

"When you're in military operations, you never know what's coming next ... and you need to know how to manage your energy system so that you know what to do next, and not just where you are in the moment," he said.

The center is in its field test phase to determine if adjustments are needed in how the standards are measured.

About 63 units have been issued equipment for the center to collect data. The equipment includes a dead-lift bar with weights, a ball to throw, a sled to drag and kettle bells.

Training for the field tests started in October, with mobile teams training leaders, McGurk said.

About half of the 63 units have been trained, and the process will continue into January and December, he said.

The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, 525th Military Intelligence Brigade is slated to field test the new test in January, brigade spokesman Maj. Gary Loten-Beckford said.

Sgt. Maj. Kim Mattingly, with Forscom's command leader development division, said some units have started receiving equipment for the test, but reiterated that teams are training selected units.

Once all 63 units are trained, McGurk said, those soldiers will be administered a field test in March and a second test in September.

Those tests will determine if too many soldiers are meeting the maximum scoring points, if scoring standards are too low or if the standards are achievable, he said.

"We don't think we're off by much. The reason of having this first year is to make that correct," he said.

After the first year, the entire active-duty Army, Reserve units and National Guard will be involved in a diagnostic phase to provide more data on whether adjustments are needed, either to equipment, space or grading standards.

Final adjustments to the test are expected to be made no later than Oct. 1, 2020.

However, McGurk said, now is the time for soldiers to start preparing, whether they're involved in the field testing or not.

"It's a lot better to do a little bit more running every day in a year, until waiting for the test to be here and trying to cram it in the last week," he said.

That is why the center launched a website in November with "how-to" videos for soldiers to see how the events should be completed.

"We are telling units now to instruct soldiers to start preparing now by following (the) preparation guidance," Mattingly said of the website.

The site also includes field manuals of what soldiers need to know about the new test, McGurk said.

"I believe every soldier that we have met will be able to be successful on this test if they dedicate themselves to training for it," he said.

How-to videos of events in the new test, performance measures and training plans can be found at army.mil/acft.

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This article is written by Rachael Riley from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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