Maybe where Grinston's wielding of his social media clout and a direct line to the press has faced the greatest political headwinds has been his efforts to sell the skeptics of the new fitness test, which included the Army secretary, Congress and -- most importantly -- the rank and file.
When he took the job, the new test, which was made official in October, was mostly complete. He had the difficult task of convincing many that it was needed and an improvement on the fitness test that had made or broken careers since the 1980s.
But Grinston was relentless. He spent a huge chunk of his tenure traveling to different bases pitching the test to soldiers and taking it with them, even inviting members of the press and Capitol Hill staff to join in. He would post his own scores and talked about his own difficulties with the test, including deadlifts early on. saw an almost perfect score, but the event in which soldiers throw a 10-lb. medicine ball was his white whale.
The old Army Physical Fitness Test rewarded slim soldiers who could run fast. But the new Army Combat Fitness Test needs soldiers who are strong, deadlift beyond their own body weight, are able to carry kettlebells and still run … just not as fast. But the test itself wasn't the real goal: It was changing the whole culture of fitness in the Army. Yes, running is still a staple of an Army workout. But now soldiers are dragging sleds, flipping tires and other workouts generally associated with CrossFit.
Grinston was convinced that skeptics would be on board after taking the test themselves, as they'd be forced to experience just how difficult it is. Even the most die-hard opponents of the new test had a tough time arguing that the old APFT was a better measurement of overall fitness, though the Army has yet to solve the puzzle of proper grading scales for combat arms and women.
Nonetheless, in recent months the Senate has been debating going back to the old test, which led Grinston to summon a small group of reporters onto a call for some indirect lobbying, telling lawmakers, through the media, .
Grinston wanted an Army that was more fit and saw an upgraded fitness test as a key component to waging the next war.
But he won't be fighting that war. He's got only a few days left before he takes off his uniform for good.
Grinston does not have a civilian job lined up and plans to take a few months off to spend time with his family, golf and do some home remodeling after a breakneck schedule has ruled his life for years. Yet he sees himself working for a nonprofit that helps soldiers and veterans, the defense industry or something totally disconnected from the military -- like banking.
"I'm really proud that I got a chance to serve in the Army," Grinston said. "I don't think there's anything in my life I would change. I've enjoyed it; I've been really lucky. And no matter how hard and how painful it's been … so far … I think it's been worth it."