On Wednesday, the U.S. Army revealed its new fitness test, called the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which has changed requirements so that it boasts different scoring standards for men and women.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, the service’s top enlisted leader, declared, “I’m really proud we’re moving forward; we’re there; we’re doing it.”
In most cases, the standards will be lowered, “following a congressionally mandated report from Rand Corp, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, that found nearly half of the service’s women could not pass earlier standards for the test,” Military.com reports, adding, “The most significant changes to the six-event ACFT is that it no longer is meant to prepare soldiers for combat but instead built as a general fitness assessment.”
Military.com explained some differences in the expectations for men and women:
For example, a female soldier between 17 and 21 years old now has to deadlift between 120 and 210 lbs. while a male soldier has to lift between 140 and 340 lbs. In that same age group, female soldiers have to run two miles between 23:22 and 15:29 minutes while male soldiers must perform that exercise between 22 and 13:22 minutes.
Leg tucks, which were required by the previous standards, have been eliminated to measure core strength. The new test requires planks instead. “Test designers were concerned that the leg tuck doesn’t strictly measure core muscle strength but also requires that a soldier spend a lot of energy on upper-body and grip strength. Previously, the plank was introduced as an alternative event during the ACFT’s beta phase when it was discovered women were struggling with the leg tucks,” Military.com stated.
As The National Guard explains of leg tucks:
On the command, “Get set,” the soldier will assume a straight-arm on the bar with feet off the ground, knees bent if necessary with hands at the midpoint of the bar with alternating grip. On the command, “Go!”, the soldier flexes the elbows, knees and waist to bring the knees up to the elbows. The elbows must flex; they cannot remain straight. Both elbows must touch both knees and/or thighs. The soldier must return to under the control of the straight-arm position to complete each repetition.
“Steam picked up for Army planners to create a new test around the time when combat arms jobs such as the infantry and cavalry were opened to women in 2015,” Military.com noted. “The force initially sought to create a gender-neutral test and attempted to juggle dueling goals of creating a more inclusive force while also creating a fitter force. … Researchers at Rand found that only 52% of enlisted active-duty women were able to pass the original design for the ACFT, compared to 92% of men in their congressionally mandated study released Wednesday. Only 42% of women in the National Guard and 41% in the Reserve could pass.”
According to Military.com, Chaitra Hardison, who authored the Rand study, argued, “The evidence to support the ACFT is incomplete. Some events have not been shown to predict performance on combat tasks or reduce injuries, two of the principle (sic) goals of the test.”
Although the test is ostensibly not meant to prepare soldiers for combat, it still retains “combat” in its name.