NEWS | Dec. 2, 2020

364th ESC Soldiers complete first ACFT in COVID environment

By Capt. James Kim 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command

Soldiers of the 364th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) conducted their first company-wide diagnostic Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) during Battle Assembly November 14, 2020.

“The COVID-19 environment doesn’t negate or eliminate our unit’s requirement to stay physically fit,” said Capt. Andrew Daane, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, 364th ESC. “We want to continue to train hard and safely and owe it to our Soldiers to provide a double-check.”

“The ACFT is not going away,” Daane added. “Very soon the ACFT will impact Soldiers’ careers in a big way. More importantly the unit must stay prepared to fight America’s wars and recognize the enemy does not pause for COVID-19.”

The Army Reserve will continue to maintain readiness by implementing the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) in a deliberate, adaptive approach with safeguards during this COVID-19 environment as part of its effort to optimize Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) throughout the ranks.

“COVID-19 is definitely a big concern when it comes to conducting a mass physical event,” said Sgt. 1st Class Natalia Wilson, ACFT noncommissioned officer in charge. “We had to consider and plan to include COVID-19 risk mitigating measurements, such as sanitizing ACFT equipment after each Soldier use, disinfecting hands after handling any items, and maintaining social distance, while wearing masks through each of the six ACFT events.”

According to Pfc. Zachary Murch, who participated in the events, the measures were strictly enforced.

“I felt safe with hand sanitizers everywhere for everyone to use, they wipe down every [piece of] equipment after every use and they required everyone to wear masks all the time,” Murch said, adding a potential down-side. “It's harder to breathe with a mask on … I think I would have done slightly better.”

This was the first opportunity for many Soldiers to assess their physical fitness level through the ACFT and identify areas of improvement.

“I’m glad that we had an opportunity to do the test at the beginning of fiscal year 2021 because it allows our Soldiers to start training for the ACFT when it becomes a record test,” said Wilson, who believes conducting a mass ACFT during BA is the first step in demystifying the ACFT and preparing Soldiers.

“We had Soldiers who were not familiar with proper techniques on ACFT events and the certified graders coached them through the events,” she said, recommending graders continuously practice grading the events to standard and in accordance with ATP 7-22.01.

“Success of any physical fitness testing program depends on obtaining valid and accurate test results to evaluate individual Soldier and unit readiness.” Wilson concluded.

Sgt. 1st Class John Nicholas served as a certified grader of the ACFT. With over 19 years of Army experience, he understands the more one practices, the better the game day performance is.

“Grading the ACFT was much more exciting than grading the APFT. You get to see the different muscle movements that is required of Soldiers,” said Nicholas. “Looking at it from the outside in, grading the Soldiers, we were able to see what we need to work on as a whole to improve as a command to get better results out of the ACFT.

“Compared to the APFT, the biggest difference I see is involvement, Nicholas added. “They look forward to doing it, with the APFT it was the three events and it went slowly while the ACFT there was a continuous movement of events.”

Participating Soldiers shared their experience, assessing the ten areas of fitness, including muscle strength and endurance, muscle power, speed, agility, aerobic endurance, balance, flexibility, plus coordination and reaction time.

“I did the ACFT in basic training and AIT before, so this would be my fifth time doing it. Each time I've never had a problem with it,” said Pvt. Charles Brown, who listed the deadlift as his favorite event, as he enjoys seeing progress in the amount of weight he can lift.

Murch echoed Brown, saying, “I felt the ACFT hit more of the muscle groups than the APFT because the APFT is push-ups sit-ups, and running. It targets your upper body and core but the ACFT gets to more of the lower body as well.”

As the Army compiles data to assess the ACFT, Lt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels, Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command, stresses that nobody should be putting themselves at risk.

“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for this,” said Daniels. “Commanders need to assess the conditions in their local and regional areas and make every effort to phase back into normal operations. The focus remains on building strong, cohesive and trained teams.”

“I’m asking everyone to get after it and to do your best to get fit. When local conditions permit, take the test.”