Army Suspends Transition to New Combat Fitness Test Amid Gym Closures

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Senior officers begin the two mile run event during a Army Combat Fitness Test.
Senior officers assigned to the 25th Infantry Division begin the two mile run event during a diagnostic Army Combat Fitness Test on the morning of Feb. 25, 2020 on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Alan Brutus)

The U.S. Army has suspended its plan to have all soldiers begin taking the new Army Combat Fitness Test in October amid widespread gym closures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Army leaders made the decision late last week to suspend the ACFT start date, as it is unclear when soldiers will have access to the fitness equipment needed to prepare for the more challenging fitness test, Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa told Military.com.

The Army unveiled its plan to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test with the six-event ACFT in July 2018, a move that launched a year-long field test involving 60 battalions of soldiers, as well as contract awards for special fitness equipment to administer the new test. The test was set to become a service-wide requirement Oct. 1.

For now, the official start date has been "suspended until further notice," Ochoa said, explaining that the current APFT "is still the standard so those passing scores are valid for use."

Part of the ACFT's rollout has been aimed at convincing soldiers that they must train with weights and other gym equipment to be successful at the new test.

But the spread of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has resulted in social distancing guidelines that have forced many gyms to close and others to allow only a limited number of individuals in at time.

"There are a lot of gyms that are closed; a lot of times it's the size of the gym. And for social distancing reasons, there is only a certain capacity of members who are authorized into those facilities at any time during the day," Ochoa said.

"A lot of the equipment ... obviously, they don't have it at home."

Related: After Contract Delays, Army Units Finally Close to Getting New ACFT Equipment

The Army had just recovered from a short delay in fielding the fitness equipment that units will need to administer the ACFT.

In June 2019, the Army selected Atlantic Diving Supply Inc. in Virginia Beach and Sorinex Exercise Equipment Inc. in Lexington, South Carolina to supply the fitness equipment in a $63.7 million deal. But competitor protests with the Government Accounting Office delayed the Army from going forward until late fiscal 2019.

To administer the new test, each battalion needs 16 lanes' worth of equipment, with each lane including one deadlift bar and more than 320 pounds of weights. Each lane will also need 90 pounds of additional weights for the sprint-drag-carry event that requires soldiers to drag a 90-pound sled for 50 meters.

But since the unveiling of the ACFT plan, Army leaders and fitness officials have stressed that soldiers can't wait for this test equipment to begin training for the ACFT if they want to do well.

It is unclear how long ACFT testing could be delayed. But "it could be throughout the duration of our social distancing guidelines," Ochoa said.

"We don't know what this virus is going to do ... we don't know what the impact is going to be on our ability to get those gyms back open," Ochoa said.

"As things start to improve and we see things slowly become available, then we are going to have to figure out the timeline based off of how long service members have not had access to the gym and what's it going to look like for them to retrain and get back to previous fitness levels."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Read More: Army Unveils Major Changes to New Combat Fitness Test

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