WASHINGTON — The Army’s expert skills badges are no walk in the park.

Currently, soldiers trying to earn them must successfully complete dozens of tasks, ranging from hand grenade courses to a timed 12-mile foot march.

And if the Army’s top NCO — Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston — has his way, the physical assessment that soldiers must pass as part of the badge testing process will soon become more difficult.

Grinston unveiled the plan Oct. 11 at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference, a place where the SMA traditionally announces upcoming initiatives.

The old version of the fitness test for the expert infantry badge required candidates to complete 49 push-ups and 59 sit-ups, each in two minutes, and a four-mile run in 32 minutes or less.

But the new test, once approved, will have several events that troops complete in full uniform under a single running clock, Grinston said.

He cautioned that the test hasn’t yet been formally approved — but that’s because “[what] we’re trying to figure out is what’s gonna be the total time” to get through the proposed events.

Soldiers who want their expert badges, which are now worth more promotion points than before, may soon have to knock out the following exercises in their full kit, including helmet, body armor and combat boots.

  • One-mile run
  • 30 hand-release push-ups
  • 100 meter sprint
  • Farmer’s carry
  • Lifting 16 sandbags onto a platform
  • High crawl
  • Buddy team rush
  • One-mile run

It’s not clear when the new fitness assessment will be incorporated into Army-wide testing, but Grinston and other senior officials took a pilot version of the test while attending a September conference at Fort Benning, Georgia. According to Military.com, troops there are piloting the test again this month.

It’s still possible the events could change, but Grinston indicated that isn’t likely.

Army officials are working to determine whether all three expert badges should require the same time standard on the fitness assessment. But the events will likely remain the same across the testing events in order to make it easier for units to conduct simultaneous testing for the three badges.

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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