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1st Sgt. Alan Forester walks backward, dragging a weighted sled during the 250-meter sprint/drag/carry event Oct. 17 while testing the Army Combat Readiness Test at Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Mike Curtis (Leonard Wood)

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – The U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training was here at Fort Leonard Wood recently in order to field test the Army Combat Readiness Test with Soldiers from the 1st Engineer, 3rd Chemical and 14th Military Police brigades.

According to CIMT officials, testing the program at the installation will help the Army determine the correct level of testing standards while allowing them to collect data on Soldier performance as the Army searches for the correct program to replace its aging Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been in place for nearly 40 years.

A CIMT study shows that the current APFT is only 39 percent predictive of a Soldier’s ability to do his or her job, while the proposed ACRT is about 81 percent predictive.

“If we have prepared individuals to fight the fight, then we are a better, more optimized organization ready to defend this nation against all enemies,” said USACIMT Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg on the ACRT Oct. 11 at the recent Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition in Washington.

The proposed ACRT is part of a wider holistic health and fitness effort to optimize Soldiers and increase Army combat readiness. CIMT officials said the current APFT does well assessing a Soldier’s endurance, but does not reliably predict a Soldier’s ability to go into combat. While endurance is relevant, the APFT in no way helps Soldiers focus on preparing to do their jobs.

“If the Army creates a program to train for these events then absolutely (it will better prepare Soldiers for combat),” said 1st Sgt. Alan Forester II, Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion first sergeant. “The training would be better-rounded and address other aspects of fitness, such as power. I do feel the test will be a great tool for commanders to assess individual and unit readiness for combat operation, at least on a physical capabilities aspect.”

Fort Leonard Wood is one among five Army installations participating in the field studies, with the 1st Engineer Brigade eagerly participating the first day.

“If a Soldier is capable of providing feedback to any implementation to the force, it is their obligation to do so,” Forester said. “It is a privilege to assist in the development of systems and tests that may affect the future of the Army.”

The ACRT is comprised of six test events:

T pushup: A modification of the traditional pushup, where Soldiers lower themselves to the ground extending the arms into a “T” position before returning to the starting pushup position. This is repeated for the duration of two minutes.

250-meter sprint/drag/carry: A Soldier begins in the down, or prone position, stands up and sprints 25 meters and back, followed by walking backwards while pulling a weighted sled to the line and back. Once back at the starting line, they grasp two 30-pound kettles, returning to the far line and back. After returning, this exercise requires them to sprint the 25 meters to the far line and back. This is a timed event.

Soldiers from 1st Engineer Brigade complete the leg tuck event Oct. 17 while testing the Army Combat Readiness Test at Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood))

Leg tuck: Soldiers must grasp the bar with an alternating neutral grip in the dead hang position before flexing with elbows, hips and waist to bring knees up, touching both elbows, before returning to the dead hang position and repeat as many times as possible.

Standing power throw: Soldiers must face backwards holding a 10-pound medicine ball, lower it to touch the ground, rises up and throw the ball backwards over their head as far as possible. Soldiers are allowed a practice throw and two record attempts.

3-repetition deadlift: Soldier steps inside a trap bar, feet shoulder width apart and bends at the knees and hips while reaching down to grasp the handles with arms fully extended; stands up and lifts the bar by extending hips and knees until becoming fully upright, pauses, returns bar to the floor while maintaining flat back and without leaning forward. This is repeated two more times for a total of three repetitions.

2-mile run: Soldier runs a 2-mile running course that is solid with no more than a three percent uphill grade and no overall decline.

“I think it’s a really good program,” said Spc. Priscilla Gibson, 169th Engineer Battalion, Human Resource specialist. “If you train for it, it will definitely get you more physically fit than the current PT test. It challenges you more; instead of three events there are six.”

Forester agrees.

“The test was great from a fitness aspect, it provides well-rounded feedback on multiple dimensions of fitness,” he said.

Although the grading for the ACRT has yet to be determined, officials said there will be a minimum baseline standard without “go” or “no go” events.

(Editor’s note: The ACRT pilot testing currently taking place in no way suggests the official outcome of the proposed test. The ACRT is intended to replace the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) pending senior leader approval.)