Last Army APFT of the century

  • Published
  • By Spc. Robert Vicens, United States Central Command Communication Integration

On a misty morning at 0600, Soldiers from the United States Central Command gather on the grass near the running track where they listen to a short brief prior to conducting the last Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) of their career.

In honor of the occasion, they wear a variety of training uniforms—some grey and black, or black and gold—representing the last four decades of standard issue PT gear.

The day had finally come for the Army to say goodbye to the APFT, the standard fitness evaluation tool for the Army for the last 40 years. In the early morning hours of Sep. 30, 2020, the final official test of its kind here was conducted at the MacDill Air Force Base Fitness Center’s south track.

“Are we motivated?” shouted Sgt. Major Tanya Meney, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) Army Element Senior Enlisted Leader, who was present overseeing the exam. “You should be motivated—this is history!”

Shouts of affirmation followed from Soldiers preparing to take the last test, an event that for these Soldiers, punctuated the transition to the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).

The APFT was first implemented in 1980, consisting of its trademark three events: two-minutes of pushups, two-minutes of sit-ups, and a two-mile timed run event.

Sgt. Maj. Meney recalled her first time taking the APFT during basic training:

“I was so scared to take that PT test,” she said. “At the time, I thought I was good at running because I did sports, but I sprinted myself out in the first mile. Eventually I mastered the test. I took it as a challenge. If there was a male Soldier testing, nothing breaks their heart as much as a female Soldier passing them by, so that was always my goal.”

Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, USCENTCOM’s Army Element Commander, walked off the track sweaty and proud after completing the test and achieving his goal.

“I started 37 years ago just after the APFT was implemented and from that date, I have never scored lower than a 300,” said Rey. “I ended my last PT test with a 300. It was challenging the first time I took it and it was still challenging today. I have a bit of emotions there now that we’re wrapping up the APFT, but I’m looking forward to the (new test).”

Now Soldiers can look forward to a new challenge to meet their physical fitness standard, the Army Combat Fitness Test, an examination the Army has designed to improve Soldier and Unit readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries and attrition, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

It is comprised of six events: three repetitions of a max dead lift, the standing power throw, hand release pushup, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck, and a two-mile run.

The move toward a new test is fueled by the Army’s push to create a more able fighting force, Meney said. The test is designed to produce service members who are more physically fit, able to make smarter decisions faster, while being able to handle stressful situations. It will provide a realistic measure of a Soldier’s capabilities, needed for the operational environment.

Some of these operational applications include: throwing equipment onto or over an obstacle, lifting and assisting Soldiers in climbing up a wall, jumping across and over obstacles, pushing a disabled vehicle, reaching out from the prone position when shooting, and employing progressive levels of force in man-to-man contact.

“When you look at the history of the PT test, you can see that we’ve been working on perfecting this for a long time,” Meney said. “I’m actually very excited to transition to the ACFT.”

Updating its fitness training and test standard has been on the Army’s radar for more than a decade, motivated by a desire to better evaluate a Soldier’s ability to perform combat tasks. Research and development began as early as 2010, with several different tasks proposed, including an obstacle course similar to those used during the 1920’s and 1940’s.

In October 2020, the ACFT became the Army’s official PT Test. Every year, Active Army and Army Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) Soldiers will take two ACFTs, and Army National Guard Soldiers will take one.

“It’s a warfighter thought process,” Rey said. “Some of the wars we’ve been in—physically, we didn’t have the endurance to keep up on the battlefield, and I really believe Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey and his team put together something that will last and put the new generation of Soldiers in a good fitness environment.”

Rey believes in the new standard, and acknowledges its importance to the future of the Army.

“As we continue to engage our adversaries, the new ACFT will build into Soldiers the endurance needed by all of our maneuver forces on the battlefield when there are casualties, moving them from one place to another,” he said. "I think this ACFT will allow us to render aid to our injured Soldiers at a faster rate.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily delaying official administration of the test, Rey is committed to providing an opportunity for those who want to get a taste of the new test. He is issuing a challenge open to all those who are able to attend!

Every Thursday morning at 0530, the brigadier general will have his personal equipment laid out on the field to guide participants through two iterations of the six events that make up the ACFT, with the two-mile run being split up into two one-mile runs. If you’re up for it, you can find him at the north track of the fitness center.