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Lessons from the UK: US soldiers train for new army fitness test

The U.S. Army is always evolving and developing new procedures and tactics. Most recently, new tactical vehicles have arrived at the army and marines corp. The vehicles are part of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program and the two forces are expected to have purchased over 50,000 JLTVs by 2030.

But that’s not the only new addition in the U.S. Army, as nearly half a million U.S. soldiers prepare and train for the new fitness test.

Army Combat Fitness Test

Currently the U.S. army has a main preparatory program called the Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT), however, this is seen as insufficient in creating a culture of fitness. Achieving a culture of fitness in the army is essential for preparing recruits for combat.

After two decades of relatively low-intensity conflict, the U.S. military has decided to shift its focus on near-peer competition and tailor its physical fitness requirements.

The army is aiming to ensure its soldiers are physically fit and able to fulfill the duties of modern conflict. They also want to create a better recruitment fitness test which will ensure recruits are better prepared for life in the army.

The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) was developed to address the demands of modern conflict and the declining health and fitness standards of new recruits and soldiers. As of 2017, there were 472,047 active duty US army members.

The new fitness test has been under scrutiny from soldiers and analyst alike due to the logistical and financial hurdles. However, many officials are arguing that the ACFT will help to prevent musculoskeletal injuries (the most common reason for non-deployable status) and will ensure soldiers are better prepared for combat.

Are these changes happening due to army allies?

Army allies of the US already deploy in-depth physical fitness tests to ensure their soldiers are ready for combat. So could this sudden shift be influenced by the US’s allies?

In Australia and New Zealand, soldiers need to pass physical fitness standards for combat-related roles. Both countries have physical training instructors who focus on the overall health and wellbeing of soldiers prior to combat action.

The British Army has had the professionalized Royal Army Physical Training Corps in place since 1860, this consists of physical fitness instructors who are assigned to most units across the army to improve physical fitness and to help rehabilitation for injured soldiers.

In September 2018, the British Army rolled out Physical Employment Standards (PES), gender and age-neutral six-event fitness test, for combat soldiers. The British Army is aiming to design more progressive physical training programs such as PES, in hope to properly prepare soldiers for modern combat.

Jake Bennet from Fitforbeach said, “It is critical that armies all around the world deploy physical fitness programs to ensure soldiers are ready for combat. The US Army needs to ensure that training is tailored accordingly for women and men and that the initial training isn’t so rigorous that it incurs injuries.”

Elsewhere, the German army have developed a 3 week physical fitness training program for recruits. This program screens recruits on their level of fitness and determines whether they can get into shape and meet fitness standards as opposed to disqualifying them immediately.

Will the Army Combat Fitness Test help the U.S.?

Due to the size of the army, there is a desperate need to address and support soldiers physical fitness levels, both during recruitment and once they are in the army.

The ACFT has potential to aid the army in creating soldiers who are physically fit and able to fight during combat. The U.S. army has also stated that it plans to incorporate a range of professional to help soldiers, including strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, sports psychologists, and dietitians in each brigade.

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