JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — The year is 2020 and with each new month comes a plethora of changes for civilian and military personnel alike. Policies and regulations fresh off the press come with the morning cup of coffee and Soldiers across the country adjust and adapt to meet their mission. Despite this ever-changing landscape, Soldiers can look to one steadfast constant: the Army’s standards for superior combat readiness.
True to the year’s theme, this autumn brings yet another development. This season, Soldiers of the Alaska Army National Guard will find themselves in the first testing cycle of the Army’s newest method for evaluating a Soldier’s combat capability, the Army Combat Fitness Test. For this transition, Soldiers depend on the Alaska Army National Guard’s own Army Combat Fitness Test team, led by Capt. Jessica Miller, the ACFT coordinator. The ACFT team has a total of five members, each with a range of experience in health and fitness. Following in suit, Miller is a registered nurse and Master Fitness Trainer course alum.
“The ACFT is very different from the APFT,” said Miller, referring to the Army Physical Fitness Test which has been completely phased out as of Sept. 30. “Everything from the surface requirements to the equipment involved, the ACFT is a more physically challenging test.”
In an effort to transform the Army’s fitness culture, the ACFT incorporates movements and exercises a Soldier would apply while out in the field. Soldiers will find themselves contending with challenging new tests such as the sprint-drag-carry and standing power throw hand release. The ACFT team has been facilitating and assisting Soldiers for over a year in training for the heightened standards.
“Alaska is unique in that we have several units spread all over the state, many of which are not accessible by road,” Miller explained, “and our team has strategized how to best implement this test to maximize efficiency. Although we’ve made decisions, like identifying testing locations and future construction plans, this test is still evolving and we have to be flexible.”
Instituting changes during the COVID-19 climate has presented the team with some significant obstacles. Training facilities, fitness equipment and education were needed to ensure a successful testing season.
“COVID-19 has brought unique challenges and it has affected almost every aspect of the ACFT implementation,” said Miller. “Safety is of the utmost importance and we have been very thoughtful about how to best ensure our Soldiers are prepared.”
To meet social distancing guidelines, the team organized virtual meetings and workout sessions for Soldiers stationed in the eight locations throughout the state that received the equipment and training required to meet the testing criteria.
State Command Sgt. Maj. James Nyquist, a regular participant in ACFT training, witnessed for himself the team’s efforts to ensure the test’s execution was in accordance with the Army’s new standards for “building physical lethality and mental toughness.”
“The ACFT team has done an outstanding job in facilitating and taking on the projects related to the test,” said Nyquist.