Fit to fight: 81st Readiness Division first to receive ACFT fielding in Army Reserve

By Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Espinosa | 81st Readiness Division | Feb. 7, 2020

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FORT JACKSON, S.C. —

Multiple locations across the 81st Readiness Division’s footprint received the initial fielding of the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) equipment beginning Jan. 15 and continuing throughout February.

The 81st RD is the first readiness division in the Army Reserve to roll out the new physical fitness testing equipment in anticipation of the changeover from the previous Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) introduced in 1980.

The ACFT is a new way of assessing the Army Reserve’s ability to execute tasks in combat and ensure physical stamina and endurance to be able to execute those tasks.

By October 2020, Army Soldiers across all components (active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard) will be required to take the ACFT, the new gender-neutral and age-neutral readiness assessment.

“In comparison to the current APFT, I feel the ACFT is a better test of a Soldier’s overall fitness. I think the ACFT better targets specific components of fitness and translates more closely to the physical demands required of a Soldier,” said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Bergman, an operations manager. He assisted the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 81st RD, in giving an initial test to select personnel Feb. 4, to help prepare graders for larger numbers of Soldiers attending battle assembly later in February.

The delivery of testing gear will offer Soldiers the opportunity to test themselves ahead of time and train to meet the standard.

However, working out the details of shipment and delivery took agility in and of itself, according to receivers in locations across Georgia throughout the initial week.

“There were some challenges,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Haynes, facility coordinator for the Augusta, Georgia, Reserve Center and training manager for the 3-108th Signal Battalion, which received shipment Jan. 15. “Fortunately, we were able to work together to receive the equipment from the drivers and secure it.”

Fielding equipment weighed upward of 800 pounds per lane and an excess of 1,800 sets continue to arrive throughout the 81st RD footprint through the first quarter of the year.

As the first changeover in four decades, Bergman – who is trained to lead graders through the ACFT testing, as well as supported one of the initial fielding groups in Winterville, North Carolina – said units have to incorporate a greater degree of planning, preparation and training to be successful during the execution of the event.

Haynes agreed with Bergman saying it will help shape the future of the Army. “It’s going to take time to get the logistics down for it be effective, but I think once we figure it all out, this will create an overall better Army. We already have training set up for February, so it’s great that we have access to the equipment without having to coordinate with anyone else.”

As fielding rolled in across the southeastern states, 81st RD unit leadership said they were excited to be the first to receive the equipment so they could initiate training. The ACFT is a new way of assessing combat ability and task execution. Having the equipment on-hand means Soldiers can test themselves ahead of time, and train to that standard and meet that requirement.

Receiving the equipment this early into the year will only lead to future success, according to Sgt. Maj. Tracy Spencer-Sandolph, 81st RD operations sergeant major.

“The facilities that now have the equipment will have a jumpstart in being better prepared for the ACFT,” Spencer-Sandolph said, noting that the test further enhances readiness and combat effectiveness.

The ACFT will include the deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release pushups, the sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck and capped off with the two-mile run.

All repetitions and times are graded against specific job-related categories the Soldiers are placed into depending on the military occupational specialty.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brian Zimmerman, the operations warrant officer for the 81st RD Directorate of Public Works, agreed, adding that the ACFT will actually be more fun.

“Everybody is scared of the ACFT because it’s a new, multi-event test,” said Zimmerman, who is also trained to lead graders during the ACFT. “Once Soldiers get over the initial shock of six-versus-three events, they’ll realize it’s not as bad as it seems. It’s more fun, and Soldiers are actually encouraged to support other participants during the test. ... It’s motivating.”

He said to prepare for the ACFT Soldiers need to focus on their own personal physical fitness today.