Soldiers try out Army’s new combat fitness test in South Korea
By MARCUS FICHTL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 2, 2018
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Enlisted leaders took their first crack at the Army’s new combat fitness test this week at the largest U.S. base on the Korean Peninsula.
The service is rolling out the test as a pilot program for select active-duty, guard and reserve battalions in October and plans to mandate it for all troops by 2020.
Special gear is needed to run the assessment, a change from the current system that requires only space to run and a plot of land to perform sit ups and pushups.
That was an issue during Tuesday’s demonstration at Camp Humphreys, which lacked the correct medicine balls and kettlebells needed to perform certain drills. The unit also had to build its own pull-up bar because one hadn’t been installed yet.
These were the issues Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Leimer, the top enlisted soldier of the 1st Armored Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, said he wanted his troops to be aware of to stay ahead of the curve before the new system is implemented.
“I’d like to see [first sergeants] doing this at the company level so they can educate their soldiers on what they need to do so they can start preparing now,” he said.
Leimer said leaders need to learn how many testers are required and what gear is needed before the system rolls out. He also said they need to school junior soldiers on how to avoid injuries, such as a private blowing out his back on a 400-pound deadlift.
Units might have to be resourceful to run the test in its early stages if they aren’t chosen for October’s pilot, but the Army will provide equipment before the final roll out, said Command Sgt. Major Christopher Williams, of 2nd Battalion 7th Infantry Regiment, who set up the Humphreys demonstration with some equipment from local gyms.
“The Army has come out and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to resource the force,’ so I don’t think it’ll be an issue in the future,” he said.
The Army will spend $30 million equipping the force, the service said when the new test was announced last month.
Growing pains aside, the test was a hit for many of the enlisted leaders at Humphreys who’ve been clamoring for a way to better evaluate combat fitness.
First Sgt. Fausto Trivino, of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, said he wished the test had been around when he joined up 16 years ago.
“It was about time,” he said. “I was so glad to see something like this.”
Trivino said he’s looking forward to teaching his troops about strength training.
Soldiers should get ready for a test that hits every muscle, but it will be up to enlisted leaders to make sure they’re ready, Leimer said.
“It’s going to take a new approach from the noncommissioned officers to train this, so the soldiers are ready to take this test,” he said.