SYRACUSE, New York – For active-duty Soldiers, the day begins before sunrise; donning Army physical fitness uniforms and heading out for PT.
Daily physical fitness training is one of the essential tasks of a Soldier’s day.
For the part-time Soldiers of the Army National Guard, maintaining the Army’s demanding physical fitness standards means finding creative ways to exercise at home and on their own time, far away from the influences and guidance of unit leadership.
Now, with the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) replacing the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) in October, Soldiers will need to do more than work on their pushups, sit-ups and run to pass the new test, according to Sgt. 1st Class Travis C. Muhlnickel, a master fitness trainer with the New York Army National Guard’s 10th Mountain Division Main Command Post – Operational Detachment (MCP-OD).
Based in Syracuse, the MCP-OD augments the 10th Mountain Division’s command post during combat deployments.
“The ACFT is a solid, holistic test,” Muhlnickel, said. “It’s more comprehensive than the APFT, so if Soldiers train for the ACFT, it’s going to benefit them in all areas of their physical levels.”
Instead of testing in three areas like the APFT – pushups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run – the new ACFT will push Soldiers to their limits by using six events to test everything from muscular strength, explosive power, balance, muscular endurance, agility and aerobic endurance, he noted.
Muhlnickel said preparing Soldiers for the ACFT will require a multitude of physical fitness activities to target muscle groups tested in the new comprehensive test. This process could be difficult for reserve-component Soldiers without a proper understanding of how to approach their fitness training at home, he added.
“I think the only reason it’s more difficult is because (reserve component Soldiers) have less structured lifestyles,” he said.
“However, the resources are just as available. From where most people live, they’re usually within driving distance of a gym. But if not, we want to make sure they understand there are a lot of exercises that can be done without any equipment. If you have some self-motivation, it can be done,” he emphasized.
During one of the MCP-OD’s drills in late 2019, Muhlnickel and other noncommissioned officers spent a day showing Soldiers how they can better prepare for the ACFT in between drills.
“The emphasis was arming them with exercises that can be done with or without a gym and with minimal equipment,” Muhlnickel said.
Muhlnickel’s team demonstrated how to conduct power jumps to build explosive power, chest presses to build muscular strength, and squat exercises to build endurance.
“Training like this is great because it’s one thing to read about it in a book or watch a video, but to have it demonstrated by people who know what they’re doing, it was awesome,” said Lt. Col. Brian Bonanno, the MCP-OD’s commander.
“As Soldiers, part of our job is to be physically fit, whether we’re Guard or active component. (Training) like this is vital because we’re preparing for this important test which is going to determine promotions, schools, people’s careers and command,” Bonanno said.
Ultimately, it’s up to the Soldiers to take responsibility for their physical fitness, Bonanno said. “Don’t wish for it, work for it. You’re not going to show up and just pass this test. ... If you’re ignoring this, hiding under your sheets and not getting out of bed and getting physically fit, you’re going to fail.”