Cadets of 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, display grit and test their limits while completing the Army Combat Fitness Test at Fort Knox, Ky., June 14, 2023. Cadets woke up at the crack of dawn to perform the ACFT which consists of six events focusing on the different muscle groups.
FORT KNOX, Ky. – Cadets of 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, display grit and test their limits while completing the Army Combat Fitness Test at Fort Knox, Ky., June 14, 2023. Cadets woke up at the crack of dawn to perform the ACFT which consists of six events focusing on the different muscle groups.
The ACFT is a physical fitness test that Soldiers in the U.S. Army must pass. Advanced Camp Cadets must be able to complete this event at the beginning of their summer training, displaying the physical abilities to be a strong leader. The six events Cadets must complete are: three-repetition deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release push-ups, sprint-drag-carry, plank, and two-mile run.
In preparation for the ACFT, Reserve Officers Training Corps battalions across the country require physical training of all Cadets to be conducted three to five days a week. Cadets also have the option to try out for an alternative to PT known as Ranger Challenge. In this program, Cadets compete together as a team as they outshine their peers by requiring higher physical fitness standards and compete in competitions throughout the year.
For Cadets Carsten Dentley of Mankato State University, and Wesley Allen of the University of Georgia, participating in Ranger Challenge throughout their college career has prepared them not only to pass the ACFT, but also to rank high on each event.
“Ranger Challenge has made me very physically, mentally, and emotionally tougher,” Dentley said. “I believe there is a direct correlation between being in Ranger Challenge and getting a higher ACFT score; because if you push yourself at Ranger Challenge, it helps with your efforts during the ACFT.”
Expressing the same opinion as Dentley, Allen added that he was not in the best shape until he joined Ranger Challenge.
“I used to not be a great runner, but I joined Ranger Challenge, and we did a lot of group ability runs,” Allen said. “That really pushed me to bump up my score 10, 15, 20 points.”
The ACFT is graded on a 600-point scale where each event is worth 100 points. To earn reconnaissance commando for the ACFT, also known as RECONDO, Cadets must earn a minimum of 80 points on each event or have an overall score of 540 across all events.
Achieving RECONDO is the highest award for graduates at Advanced Camp, and if fulfilled, Cadets are granted a special badge for their uniform and opportunities only the strongest receive. While Cadets must perform above and beyond in every tested event during Advanced Camp, scoring at the RECONDO level during the ACFT is the first step to success.
Cadet Talon Walker of the University of Mississippi, planned on obtaining a 540 on the ACFT this morning, and the idea of earning RECONDO is in his sights throughout the duration of camp. Walker is a member of Ranger Challenge at his school and believes that the program gives Cadets an advantage during the summer.
“Ranger Challenge just makes you more physically fit,” Walker said. “Not only that but it also helps you with your tactics and other Soldier skills which will help you overall.”
The ACFT is not meant to be impossible to pass, but to achieve RECONDO, Cadets have a consensus that joining the Ranger Challenge program at their university is considered the most advantageous approach to maximize their score on the event.
Even though Ranger Challenge appears to give off the impression of being physically exhausting and an excessive amount of hard work, Cadet Grace O’Brien of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, thinks Ranger Challenge is 100 percent worth it.
“Ranger Challenge forced me to work out my entire body, and the high intensity stuff has helped with my overall fitness,” O’Brien said. “If you haven’t considered Ranger Challenge, you should definitely try it because it’s super fun and greatly team oriented.”
The optional club produces some of the most well-rounded Cadets during Advanced Camp, and regarding the ACFT, seems to give an upper hand to those that take up the opportunity to join Ranger Challenge.
This event kicks off the rest of the physically demanding challenges Cadets will face during Advanced Camp, and these Cadets are eager to continue onto the next stages.