Story by Bruce Huffman
Michigan National Guard
LANSING, Mich.— The Army National Guard’s Region IV best warriors went head-to-head at the Marseilles Military Training Center for four days in late August for a chance to compete at the national-level and earn the title of the Army’s ‘Best Warrior’. Soldiers tested their mettle mentally and physically during a series of events based on real-world operational scenarios, but the addition of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which is scheduled to be the Army’s fitness test of record Oct. 1, made this year’s Best Warrior Competition especially challenging.
The competition’s events included: first aid, a 12 mile road march, weapons qualifications, map reading, day and night land navigation, an obstacle course, a written exam, an appearance board, a mystery event, and of course the ACFT. Midwest states in Region IV are Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Each state was allowed to enter one Soldier, in the rank of Private to Specialist, and one non-commissioned officer, Corporal to Sergeant 1st Class. Soldiers who were selected as their state’s Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year were chosen to represent their states in the regional competition.
“I had been preparing for this competition since the beginning of 2020,” said Michigan Army National Guard Sgt. Nicholas Nunn, Battery B, 1-119th Field Artillery Regiment, and a native of Lake Orion, Michigan. “A majority of my training was physical as I spent a good chunk of time getting my body prepared for the ruck march. That event is always the most physically demanding and it is difficult for anyone to go into that event and complete it successfully without preparation. Preparing for the ruck also helped my body get ready for the ACFT, an event that I had very little familiarization with.”
The switch from the current Army Physical Fitness Test, which consists of pushups, sit-ups and a two-mile run is the first change the Army has made to its fitness test in about 40 years. Instead of monitoring how many exercises a Soldier can do, the ACFT measures a Soldier’s ability to complete various activities related to everyday tasks. It assesses a Soldier’s physical work capacity across all components of combat physical fitness.
The ACFT is comprised of six scored events that simulate activities like lifting and moving heavy loads or extracting a casualty from a disabled vehicle and dragging them to safety. The Army hopes the ACFT will transform its fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.
The six components of the ACFT are: Three Repetition Maximum Deadlift (MDL), Standing Power Throw (SPT), Hand Release Push-Up-Army Extension (HRP), Sprint Drag Carry (SDC), Leg Tuck (LTK), and the Two Mile Run (2MR).
During the transition through FY21, the minimum passing score for all Soldiers will be 60 regardless of age or gender. Also during the transition period, if a Soldier is unable to complete one LTK they will be authorized the option of conducting the Plank (PLK) instead.
“I believe the ACFT is a drastic improvement from the old fitness test,” said Nunn. “Personally, I enjoy it more because it provides a competitive aspect to the fitness test. Each of the six events tests a different aspect of physical fitness better than the old test did. That being said, the ACFT requires much more preparation and training prior to performing. It is not a fitness test that anyone can perform unprepared. It is important to be mindful of your body during the event, because it’s easy to burn yourself out quickly in the early events, which will cost you later.” This was Nunn’s first time taking the ACFT.
One of the highlights of the Best Warrior Competition is the mystery event, because it’s completely random and tests the Soldier’s ability to adapt, and overcome any situation while under mental and physical stress. This year the mystery event required Soldiers to waterproof their gear and swim a total of 800 feet in boots and utilities.
The Best Warrior Competition recognizes Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to the Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos, and represent the Force of the Future. Although the Soldiers from Michigan did not progress to the national-level, according to Army Command Sergeant Major Catherine A. Farrell, senior enlisted advisor for the Michigan National Guard, their performance was impressive.
“The Best Warrior Competition is a great opportunity for Soldiers to compete,” said Farrell. “They’re the best of the best from each State in the region. I couldn’t be more proud of our Michigan Soldiers that competed. They gave it their all.”