Feature Stories

NEWS | Oct. 28, 2021

Soldiers achieve ACFT successes through training, building mental toughness

3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Two financial management technicians deployed here with the Kaiserslautern, Germany, based 266th Finance Support Center have overcome their fears about the Army Combat Fitness Test through dedicated training in their personal time.

Staff Sgt. Supitcha Wiriyaskunpan and Sgt. 1st Class Christiana U. Charles have been deployed here since June supporting 1st Theater Sustainment Command. 1st TSC is responsible for sustainment operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“I was so worried that the Army was going to kick me out because of this, because I cannot do leg tuck, I cannot do dead lift—because I am only 120 pounds, to lift 140 is kind of hard to me—and I never [thought] that I would have ability to do it,” said Wiriyaskunpan.

The native of Bangkok, Thailand, is 35 years old, and also thought that she was just too old to be successful at the Army’s new physical readiness test.

The ACFT, which becomes the Army’s test of record in March 2022, has been implemented to transform the Army’s fitness culture and enhance Soldiers’ mental toughness and stamina.

The staff sergeant said she tried training for the leg tuck—an exercise that requires a Soldier to hang from a pull-up bar and curl their body up to the bar, touching their legs on their elbows—by just “going for it” and trying to do leg tucks, but the approach was not working.

“Somebody told me about CrossFit, and then I was like you know what, I’m kind of scared because I don’t know what CrossFit is, it seemed to be really, really, extreme, but I decided to give it a try,” Wiriyaskunpan said. “So I went to my first class by myself and then I started to lift and go to class every day, Monday through Friday … and it’s become my routine.”

The staff sergeant said she did not perform a single leg tuck in her CrossFit workouts, but after a month of dedicated training in her personal time she decided to attempt a leg tuck.

“Magically, I can do 10,” Wiriyaskunpan said, smiling. “I was not even doing that much dead lifting, I was just doing whatever the workout of the day was and then again, magically, I can lift 165 [pounds], which is really big progress for me in just a couple of months.”

Charles, who has been in the Army for close to 13 years, shared Wiriyaskunpan’s fears about some of the ACFT events. The 54-year-old Soldier said she knew how to do the plank exercise—an alternate event for the leg tuck—but did not think she would ever be able to hold a plank for the required two minutes, nine seconds.

The sergeant first class began training for planks in her barracks room and worked, day-by-day, on incrementally adding seconds to the time she’d hold the position.

Charles can now hold the plank for two minutes and 15 seconds.

“I was surprised that I actually did it because I was nervous about it,” the sergeant first class said. “Just keep pushing, as long as you keep making that effort to improve each time, it will eventually get you there to the point where you can actually do it without that fear, without that hesitation in you.”

Charles spoke of the mental toughness that working toward the event for the ACFT has helped forge in her.

“I think it’s a lot mentally too … ‘I’ve never done a plank before and now all of a sudden I have to do it for two minutes,’” she said. “You can do it in spite of the fear—you can overcome the fear.”
Wiriyaskunpan agreed with that sentiment.

“I feel like everybody’s stronger than you think you are, and you can do it,” the staff sergeant said. “I feel like I will never fail again—I’m looking forward to actually [doing] more repetitions, [lifting] more, and having a better score.”