An unofficial U.S. Army Reserve safety advisory circulating on social media warns units about allegedly defective Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) weight-lifting bars. But it contains inaccurate information, according to Army Reserve Command.
The document, posted on Twitter, displays "SAFETY ADVISORY" four times on a yellow border and is titled "U.S. Army Reserve Safety Advisory ACFT HEX BAR FAILURE."
As part of the ACFT, which all soldiers are set to begin taking Oct. 1, soldiers will use a hex bar, also known as a trap bar, in the deadlift event. Lifted by two handles, the hex bar is supposed to help maintain a more favorable body position during training than the more traditional straight bar. The Army has fielded thousands of hex bars, each with more than 320 pounds of weight, for the more challenging fitness test that will replace the current Army physical Fitness Test (APFT).
But the post being circulated "was an internal draft shared among staff members and has since been recalled due to inaccuracies," Simon Flake, a spokesman for Army Reserve Command, told Military.com in a statement.
"The Tweet in question is not an official safety message published by the Army Reserve," Flake said. "There is currently no official report of defective ACFT equipment in the Army Reserve."
The document reads "Warning: FORSCOM is reporting multiple HEX BAR Failures from Iron Company Manufacturing. The corner welds on these bars are failing."
Iron Company President J.P. Brice told Military.com that his company makes a hex bar designed to ACFT specs that's available on government purchasing site GSA Advantage, but the company is not part of the contract award that provided the bars to the Army for fielding.
"This is what I woke up to Saturday morning, and I was like, 'what?!,'" Brice said.
"We do make that bar, but our bar had nothing to do with this contract. This has been real tough for us because we have been getting blasted ... it's totally unfair what it has done to us."
In June 2019, the Army selected Atlantic Diving Supply Inc. in Virginia Beach and Sorinex Exercise Equipment Inc. in Lexington, South Carolina, to supply the fitness equipment in a $63.7 million deal.
Since then, U.S. Army Tank-automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM) has delivered tens of thousands of sets of ACFT equipment to active, National Guard and Reserve units.
"The very, very small number of failed hex bars does not appear to be a significant problem," TACOM spokesman Slade Walters told Military.com. "To date, TACOM has received two official reports of broken ACFT hex bars out of the roughly 36,000 Army Combat Fitness Test equipment kits fielded. The manufacturer shipped replacements for the broken equipment at no additional cost to the Army."
Walters added that manufacturers have assured the Army that they stand behind their equipment and will replace any failed or damaged equipment at their cost.
Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) officials said they have not found any official source to back up the advisory's claim that FORSCOM has experienced hex bar breakages, Paul Boyce, spokesman for the command, told Military.com.
"Forces Command safety, operations and logistics staff members work closely with units to track the fielding, use and quality of equipment," Boyce said in a statement. "We continue to work regularly with Forces Command's Army units in the United States to solicit their feedback and insights about Army equipment as part of the command's operations and logistics planning in conjunction with other Army and Department of Defense agencies, as well as commercial suppliers."
Boyce added that if any soldier does encounter a concern with their equipment's quality or safety, they should report this to their chain of command to avoid injuries, maintain safety and ensure equipment effectiveness.
Fort Drum did not immediately respond to a query on the issue.
Lt. Col. Charles Barrett, spokesman for the 101st, told Military.com that the "101st has no reports of broken hex bars, but we are going to look into it."
Beginning Oct. 1, a modified version of the Army Combat Fitness Test will become the service's new fitness evaluation, but training challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic will mean individual scores will not count against soldiers until 2022.
Army leaders suspended all physical fitness tests in late March to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The virus caused delays in shipping fitness equipment needed for the ACFT and prevented soldiers from taking the new six-event assessment, which is meant to build fitness levels above the current three-event APFT.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.