Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy really doesn’t want you to know his ACFT score

Health & Fitness
How To Prepare For The Army Combat Fitness Test

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy really doesn't want you to know how swole he is, as the former Army ranger refused to answer repeated questions from Task & Purpose about what he scored on the Army Combat Fitness Test.

"I'm not going to tell you," McCarthy said at the Military Reporters and Editors' annual conference in Arlington, Va. on Friday (Oct. 25). McCarthy said he passed the ACFT over a year ago in order to understand the experience.

"I'm a 46-year-old man that rides a desk every day and I got through it," said McCarthy, who described himself as a regular swimmer at the Pentagon pool. "It can be done, you gotta train for it and take care of your body. It's not just working out, it's eating right and sleeping. So I do well on one of those three: working out."


But how good is he at working out? Without his score, how are we to know? Task & Purpose proposed that McCarthy could give a high-end/low-end range for what his score is, but this he declined as well. When another conference attendee also asked about the score, the secretary ignored her.

"I'm a political appointee," the secretary said. "I did a mile and a half in the pool this morning though. I went through the paces [of the ACFT] because I wanted to understand it."

McCarthy isn't the first Army Secretary to try the new ACFT. Current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he took it three times when he still held the post. But if Esper revealed his score, news reports seemed to have kept mum about it.

The secrecy is a shame for soldiers, because, after all, what is the point of having a standardized fitness test if you can't use it to definitively prove you're in way better shape than your appointed executives?

Score or no, McCarthy believes the Army can successfully transition to the new ACFT, which is due to become the branch's official test on Oct. 1, 2020. The Army says the ACFT will reduce preventable injuries and better prepare soldiers for battlefield tasks.

ACFT's predecessor, the nearly 40-year-old old Army Physical Fitness Test, involved three exercises: push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. The new ACFT pushes soldiers through six exercises: strength deadlifts, standing power throws, hand-release push-ups, a 250-meter sprint-drag-carry, leg tucks, and a two-mile run.

The new test has already stirred up controversy, partly because preliminary fitness scores leaked in September showed that 84% of women failed the test, while 70% of men passed it. Earlier this month, Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commanding general for the Center for Initial Military Training, said the answer to passing the ACFT is simply learning how to train for it.

"It's no different than if you look at, let's say a SAT," Hibbard told reporters. "You go in the first time, some people do very well in all categories, some people don't do well in math and realize they've got to go study and practice."

Like Hibbard, McCarthy was also optimistic, though he said it will take a while for soldiers to get the hang of the new test.

"It's something that is going to take time to transition," he said. "We're going to have to train our people, we're going to have to communicate with them. And help them through that."

Still, he added, "I think we'll do fine in the end."

On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.

As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.

Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.

"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."

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