Army’s top enlisted soldier backs ACFT as Congress mulls future of the fitness test


ATLANTA — The new sergeant major of the Army offered a full-throated endorsement of the Army Combat Fitness Test on Tuesday as lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate defense spending and the future of the controversial physical assessment.

“We’re going to continue doing the ACFT,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer said during a question-and-answer session at the opening of this week’s annual Maneuver Warfighter Conference on Fort Moore, Ga., the former Fort Benning. “The ACFT is really helping us change the culture of fitness in the United States Army.”

His backing of the six-event, CrossFit-style Army fitness test comes as competing bills in Congress propose different futures for the Army’s physical exam.


The would force the Army to adopt gender-neutral standards for the ACFT. But the would mandate the Army dump the ACFT, at least temporarily, in favor of its old test, the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT. Both chambers in July passed their version of the legislation, which sets annual Pentagon policy and spending priorities, but must rectify differences within the versions before one compromised bill approved by Congress can be sent to the White House to be signed into law by the president.

The ACFT, which the Army spent years and tens of millions of dollars developing, is meant to simulate the physical stresses soldiers face in combat.


While top Army officials have touted the ACFT as a vast improvement to the APFT, some lawmakers have spent years pushing back on the assessment over a variety of issues, including its standards for men and women and the amount of equipment needed to train and take the test.

The ACFT has “really been a critical tool for us in the entire holistic health and fitness arena to change the culture of fitness,” Weimer said. “This is direct to warfighting. And, so, I look forward to taking a whole bunch of ACFTs.”

Weimer, a longtime Green Beret, after previously serving as the senior enlisted leader for U.


S. Army Special Operations Command. He has spent nearly two-thirds of his 30-year Army career in elite formations, including in Delta Force. Weimer said physical fitness will be among his top priorities as the sergeant major of the Army.

He said the ACFT and the Army’s holistic health and fitness program, which outfits combat brigades with equipment and athletic trainers and other fitness experts, were critical to ensuring soldiers’ preparedness to fight a major war.

The Army began developing the ACFT in 2010 as an attempt to improve fitness and resiliency among its troops nearly a decade into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Service officials at that time argued the decades old APFT placed too much weight on a soldier’s running ability and did not adequately gauge a service member’s ability to perform critical functions in combat, such as heaving heavy equipment or dragging a wounded trooper to safety.

After several studies, the final version implemented last year included six events — a dead lift, hand-release pushups, a plank, a medicine ball throw, a sprint-drag-carry event, and a two-mile run.

The ACFT was first unveiled to soldiers in 2018, but it was not fully implemented as the Army’s official test until October 2022 among Congress-imposed delays over concerns about female soldiers’ ability to pass the test, which is vital for career advancement.


Studies showed less than 50% of female soldiers were passing early versions of the ACFT, which included gender-neutral standards.

When the Army finally implemented the ACFT in October, it included separate grading scales for men and women.

The House version of the NDAA would impart “sex-neutral fitness standards” for soldiers in front-line combat specialties, such as infantry, armor, cavalry, artillery, combat engineer and special forces jobs. The Senate version, meanwhile, would scrap the ACFT in favor of a three-year transition back to the 1980s-era APFT, which includes pushups, situps and a two-mile run.


Senate officials said returning, at least temporarily to the old test, could allow the Army to better perfect the ACFT for the future.

Army Gen. Randy George, the service’s vice chief of staff and acting top general, said Tuesday that the service has seen good results from its holistic health and fitness programs, including the ACFT, and the service plans to broaden its investment in those programs.

The general, whose nomination to become Army chief of staff has been blocked via , committed to doubling the Army’s holistic health and fitness budget next year.

George said the Army would further study the ACFT, and he expected the fitness exam’s scoring standards would change over time as the service continued to improve the test.

“Remember, the APFT adjusted and changed over time, and so I think the standards [on the ACFT] are going to adjust and change,” George said at Fort Moore. “And we’re going to keep on studying the ACFT.”