As cadre for the 108th Training Command (IET) Best Warrior competition, the Drill Sergeants assigned as instructor trainers knew to expect long hours, limited sleep, and the satisfaction of knowing they helped provide a stressful, competition driven environment designed to identify the best possible Soldier and NCO to represent the command.
What they didn’t know, was they would be leaving New Jersey this spring with a brand-new certification designed not only to increase their knowledge and skills for the trail, but assist their fellow Soldiers back at their units.
The Army is changing the way they do they do business for physical fitness and rolling out the new Army Combat Fitness Test. As premier trainers of the future force, our Drill Sergeants and Instructors need to be prepared to facilitate that. They were about to be given that opportunity.
Drill Sergeant (Sgt. 1st Class) Jonathan Roy, Charlie Company, 1/304th, 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division is a certified Master Fitness Trainer, and was level two certified for the ACFT when selected as cadre for the BWC. He and BWC Noncommissioned Officer in Charge Sgt. 1st Class Justin McCarthy planned for all 40 or so attending Drill Sergeant cadre to become level one certified in the ACFT during the train up period.
Shortly after finishing MFT in January, Roy got the call to attend ACFT level three training. As a level three qualified instructor, Roy is allowed to train and certify not only level one, but also level two instructors. Suddenly, the week before competition was filled not only with preparation of training lanes, but also with personal growth.
“I put together a Basic Training program,” explained Roy. “He (McCarthy) let me know what the schedule was going to be like, we put together a basic training program, it was going to be like two days, and it was going to certify 40 personnel.”
Using connections he had made with the NCO Academy at Joint Base McQuire-Dix-Lakehurst during his time at MFT, Roy was able to secure assistance and enough equipment to certify both level one and level two instructors.
With the ACFT requiring all test administrators to be certified, Roy wants to ensure that the Soldiers he trains are taught in accordance with what he earned at the MFT course and as such has developed his certification to include several components.
Soldiers acting as graders are required a level one certification so Roy’s program involves taking the ACFT for familiarization, and an in-depth breakdown of each station for understanding of key motion and movement, and what is classified as a fault or unsafe movement during any given event. Soldiers being certified must “pitch” the events to a level two instructor, explain the motions, faults and safety risks on the events, answer in-depth verbal questions and pass a written exam.
Level two certified Soldiers can serve as event NCOICs. They are considered master graders and can certify the actual lanes and equipment. A more in-depth knowledge of specifications is required and level two master graders are allowed to retest Soldiers who previously failed an event and are concerned that there were issues in the way they were graded.
With over 40 Soldiers qualified at level one and level two prior to the execution of the best Warrior Competition, not only has Roy increased the number of certified lanes available and reduced competition wait times, but the benefits to the command are immediately evident.
“These Soldiers are spread out … key personnel from each division,” explained Roy. “Now we have all these level twos who are going to be going across the country, back to their home stations and able to teach the ACFT, they are able to teach, certify level ones to grade it and as long as we have ones at different battalions they are able to run these ACFT events and training events.”
Soldiers returning to their formations trained will be able to assist commanders and peers alike as the ACFT is implemented across commands. From equipment to safety, the knowledge they are returning with is critical according to Roy.
“It’s huge,” Roy enthused. “It’s important we educate Soldiers on this.”
Roy is a big fan of the new test, adamant that the new ACFT is a much better gauge of readiness and fitness than the previous push-up, sit-up, two-mile run test.
“I love it … Every single exercise has a purpose for the assessment and is based off what that Soldier will do on the battle field. Whether jumping or landing off of barriers, pulling themselves over a wall, whether they are picking up and moving equipment, or they are doing individual movement techniques … it’s all practical, completely relatable to what’s happening on the battlefield.”
Roy has appreciated the opportunity to work with peers and train them on the latest the Army has to offer.
“A lot more of a relaxed and less stressful environment,” explained Roy. “Everyone has been super professional, it’s all Drill Sergeants, they are all super motivated and it’s been a pleasure going through it.
Roy praised his fellow Drill Sergeants for taking the time to really dig in and study even though this was a last-minute requirement, added to an already busy week of lane preparation and validation.
“Even though some of them have gotten the paperwork the night prior they have read through it … they’ve done a good job.”
With the obvious benefits of Drill Sergeants who will now have ACFT experience as they roll into summer Echo missions, as well as the ability to further train and certify peers back at home station, Roy also wants to encourage those he has come in contact with to spread the good word about this test and help others who aren’t as familiar come to terms and be excited about the changes in the system.
“It’s not as bad as you think, and you have another year and a half until this is the standard,” Roy said. “You’re going to be required to uphold the standard but you have time to get to where you need to be.”