How to Deal with APFT Failures in the Army National Guard

In this article, I would like to teach you how to deal with APFT Failures in the Army National Guard.  APFT Failures and Height/Weight Failures are a big problem in the ARNG and Army Reserves.  In many units, upwards of 20-50% of the Soldiers fail the APFT or HT/WT.  Of course, not all units are that high, but just about every unit I’ve ever served in had a failure rate of 20% or more.  If your unit has less than that, consider yourself fortunate.

As a leader, your job is to minimize these failures as much as possible.  Since physical fitness is a big part of unit readiness, you need some type of game-plan to reduce this number as much as possible.  To do so, I’m going to share eight tips with you on how to deal with APFT Failures in the Army National Guard.  Let’s get started.

Tip # 1: Let Your Soldiers Know Your Policy About APFT Failures

All Commanders need a written policy letter concerning physical fitness.  This policy should clearly outline WHAT the consequences will be if someone fails either the HT/WT or APFT.  The policy letter should be given to each Soldier, posted on the Unit Bulletin Board, and explained to everyone.

Tip # 2: Incorporate Physical Fitness into the Training Calendar When Possible

I know it’s difficult to schedule physical fitness during drill weekend.  After all, you are already trying to put 10 pound of rocks into a five pound bag.  You have meetings, training events, and limited time to get everything done.  You have a couple options.  You could do PT before first formation for anyone who wanted to attend.  It would be optional, not mandatory.  Also, you could incorporate PT into some of your training events, even if it is informal.

Tip # 3: Accept that Physical Fitness is an Individual Responsibility

You have to realize that you only have control over your Soldiers 2 days per month.  Even if you do two days worth of PT with them, it’s up to THEM to stay in shape the other 28 days of the month.  It’s an individual responsibility.  You need to remind your Soldiers of that.  It’s not like Active Duty where you interact with your Soldiers daily.  If your Soldiers don’t work out on their own, they won’t pass the APFT.

Tip # 4 Counsel People Who Fail the APFT or HT/WT and Enforce the Standard

Whenever someone fails either event, you need to do a formal counseling with them immediately.  Fill out a DA Form 4856 and explain to them the standard, how they fell short and what will happen next.

Tip # 5 FLAG All Soldiers Who Fail the APFT

I highly recommend you FLAG everyone who fails the APFT or HT/WT.  I’ve personally met some Soldiers in the ARNG who hadn’t passed an APFT in 10 years, but were never FLAGGED.  Make it a policy to flag everyone who fails either event until they can PASS.  Don’t let people slip through the cracks.  Hold everyone accountable to the same standard.  Let them know that YOU are serious about physical fitness.

Tip # 6: Do What You Can to Help Your APFT Failures Improve

As a leader, do what you can to help your APFT Failures improve.  Enroll them in FIT-P.  Enroll them in the Army Weight Control Program.  Offer to work out with them at the gym, if you live close to them.  Talk to them about signing up for a gym membership.  Help them create a workout schedule.  Even though it’s their responsibility, do what you can to help them improve.  That’s what being a leader is all about.

Tip # 7: Reward Your Superstar APFT Performers

Another important thing to do is to reward people who meet or exceed the standard.  When you have Soldiers score a 270 or higher, recognize them in front of the formation.  Put them in for an AAM for getting a high score or give them a unit coin.  Show everyone that you will recognize people who exceed the APFT Standards.

Tip # 8: Lead by Example

As the leader of the organization, you should lead by example at all times.  That means you pass both events and do your best.  You don’t have to get the highest score, but you need to set a good example for others to follow.  Also, make sure that you ALWAYS take your APFT and HT/WT test in front of your Soldiers, so they can see you doing it.  Perception is reality.

If you follow these eight steps, you will know how to deal with APFT Failures in your Army National Guard Unit.

What are your thoughts? You can post your opinions or questions below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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15 thoughts on “How to Deal with APFT Failures in the Army National Guard”

  1. I remember being back in the Maryland guard and my Commander at the time, Captain Holmes sat down and talked to me after an APFT failure. I was number one on the promotion list to make E-5 but as the rules state, you have a to have a good PT. CPT Holmes told about his writing and recommended that I read one of his books, “The champion, the challenger, and the chump.”

    Sometimes when we fail at something it might not be the leadership, we have to take a look at ourselves and ask if we really want it. That book really inspired me and now, I’m about to be pinned E-7. Leadership can only push you so far. It’s when a Commander sits down, talks to you and gives you that ultimatum. You either shape up, or ship out!

  2. I like these suggestions as well as some of the others made by your readers. Accountability (in a positive way) is huge. I especially like the suggestions to have group workouts, or at least a work out buddy. Offering to exercise with your unit members also shows that you are not holding them to any standard that you would not hold yourself to.

    But the most important point on your list is to let your soldiers know, in writing, the expectations/requirements, and the consequences. While you are willing to help them and have a little fun in the process, the ultimate responsibility is theirs, and the consequences are real.

  3. You simply need to counsel them, enforce the standards and hold them accountable. You should never have repeat APFT failures in your unit. If you do, it’s the leadership’s fault.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Repeat failures are a sign of character, too. I don’t know why people would want to keep failing. To me, if I ever fail something, I want to learn how to fix it and never do that again.

  4. Keep fit or die! That is some great advice. In the Active Duty military, physical fitness isn’t as much of a problem as it in the Guard and Reserves. The biggest way to solve the physical fitness issue is for more people to accept individual responsibility for their health and wellness and for Army leaders to enforce the standards across the board. Thanks for the comment.

  5. How to deal with APFT Failures in the Army National Guard? I like the part where you recommended offering to work out with them on the gym. Why not start a workout group that meets at least twice per week? My husband commented in this manner on another of your articles about the two mile run. Working out with 2 or more people will help to hold everyone involved more accountable. Michael mentions 2 or more … that way maybe … hopefully … at least one of the two will show up each time. Think of the extra camraderie opp, too. Physical fitness is a job in itself and important to keep a job and to live a more productive life.

    1. Working out in groups is a great way to get in shape and stay in shape. Having an accountability partner keeps you on track. The biggest physical fitness issue and APFT for most USAR and ARNG folks is that many of them do not work out on their own, outside of drill weekend. You can’t exercise two days a month and expect to stay in shape!

      Thanks for the comment.

      1. I know that working out with our soldiers sounds like an awesome idea, but realistically, I live 1.5 hours from my unit, and only one other soldiers lives in the same town I do. In the MN national guard, we almost all commute at least that far to our units.

  6. Neil O'Donnell

    Your comment about leading by example, to me, is probably the main key. How can you expect subordinates to stay fit if their Commanding Officer is not physically fit. For soldiers who failed to meet requirements, I would suggest training at times with them to show them your commitment to the requirements and your personnel. Ultimately, an individual has to take personal responsibility. Commanders can only do so much. That said, I agree that non-compliant soldiers should be flagged.

    1. Leading by example is huge. Many part-time leaders fail to do this. It’s hard to enforce standards that you yourself can’t meet yourself. If you supervise even one person, the best thing you can do is look yourself in the mirror and make sure you are meeting the Army standards. If you aren’t do something about it or get out the military. Soldiers deserve competent leaders.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        It’s sad how many leaders fail to realize this. They stand out to us just as much as the commanders who are in peak physical condition and smoke all of us on the APFT.

  7. I agree with Lance, it’s very sad that this is an issue in our current state of the military, but these tips are certainly extremely helpful and a great asset to those who need the help.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      It is sad, isn’t it. When people tell me they can’t afford the gym, I tell them that running outside is free, and so is doing pushups and situps. You don’t have to do a comprehensive workout to pass the APFT – if you do pushup pyramids and various ab exercises and run, you will do fine.

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