Fort Knox, Ky- Upon arrival at Fort Knox, Cadets are immediately tested with the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). This rigorous assessment, comprised of six events, including the max deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release pushups, sprint-drag-carry, plank, and two-mile run, serves as the initial training standard for all Cadets. Designed to evaluate physical and mental fitness, the ACFT sets the tone for the rest of Cadet Summer Training 2024. 

As the Cadets underwent each challenge, their squad members stood behind them, chanting them through the early morning pain. Cadet Melena Patron, McDaniel College, MD, expressed the importance of team motivation throughout the ACFT. After her captain told her that the 1st and 2nd platoons were not very motivated, Patron said her platoon felt hyped up to change that.

While there is a strong culture of support within respective squads, Patron highlighted the role of competition during the ACFT as a catalyst for motivation. As Cadets sprinted and completed the sprint-drag-carry exercise, their platoons roared behind them, “Beat him!” ” She’s right behind you! Let’s go!”

“I know a lot of times they say it’s you against you,” said Patron, “but I know everyone is looking to the left and right to see how the person next to them is doing.” 

Cadets attending CST often have a foundation in physical fitness and athletics, but meeting the necessary qualifications still demands significant effort. Patron detailed her strategy for success, which involved creating a consistent gym routine. With the challenges of finding time and motivation to work out during the summer, Patron recognized the importance of preparing for the upcoming ACFT and ensured she’d be ready. 

“I’ve trained before, but this is harder and more intense,” said Patron, “I knew I had to lock in and focus.” 

Patron proudly continues her family’s legacy in the ROTC, inspired by her parents and sister, who have all served before her. 

Some Cadets are more accustomed to rigorous early morning training than others. Cadet Carlos Salinas, Liberty University, VA, is a prior enlisted soldier who has served for nine years. Salinas expressed his comfort with the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) due to his experience. Enlisted Soldiers have physical training at least twice a week, if not five times a week.

With a desire to serve his country for the rest of his career, Salinas hopes CST will help him become a better leader for his future Soldiers. 

“I want to pursue this for 20 years or more if my body allows it,” said Salinas. 

Salinas agreed with Patron about the importance of motivation at the ACFT. 

“Even if it’s fake motivation, because that’s what’s going to get you through every single event,” said Salinas. 

According to Salinas, the most competitive event is the sprint-drag-carry. Cadets sprint right next to each other, pushing themselves even further to win. Salinas left some advice for incoming Cadets from other regiments that will face the ACFT. 

“Hydrate a lot. It’s been pretty hot out here at Fort Knox,” said Salinas.

About the Author: Andrew Berger
Andrew Berger is a senior at Ball State University majoring in Photojournalism. He is the Photo Editor of the Ball State Daily News and a member of the NPPA.