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What it takes to pass the Army's new Combat Fitness Test

We tried it out. It wasn't easy.

by Dave Mayers
Mar 11 2019, 4:35pm

For the first time in nearly 40 years, the United States Army is changing how it measures the physical fitness of its soldiers. Over the course of the next year and a half, the Army will roll out the new Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, to its 1.1 million soldiers across the globe. It’s hoped that the new test will prepare troops for the rigors of combat, something that some commanders say the old test was failing to do.

The previous test — two minutes of sit-ups, two minutes of push-ups, and a two-mile run — has been the basis of Army physical fitness standards since 1980. But after decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army felt the need to find a test that more closely measured the combat-readiness of its troops. The military was finding that nearly a quarter of soldiers evacuated from the battlefield were pulled out for musculoskeletal injuries, as opposed to just 14 percent for wounds actually suffered in fighting.

The new test consists of six events administered over the course of 50 minutes:

  • A three-rep deadlift of up to 420 pounds
  • A 10-pound medicine ball throw
  • Hand-release push-ups
  • A 25-meter shuttle run
  • Hanging leg tucks
  • A two-mile timed run

At a moment when the Army is having a hard time meeting its recruitment numbers, some are the questioning the wisdom of implementing a harder mandatory fitness test.

"I would rather have a smaller, higher-quality Army than a bigger Army that is not quality,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost. Frost, who heads the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, helped develop and roll out the ACFT.

VICE News correspondent Alzo Slade headed down to Fort Eustis, Virginia, to see if he could measure up.

This segment originally aired Feb. 27, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.