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Army Weighs Gender-Specific Standards for ACFT

Andy Berg

The Army is considering adding gender-specific standards to its new Army Combat Fitness Test after initial data shows nearly half of female soldiers can’t pass the test.

According to Military.com, nearly half of female soldiers would be removed from service when the the ACFT becomes official next year.

Army officials testified before a House Appropriations Committee subpanel this week, saying that scores may end up being separated by gender to identify the 1st, 10th, 25th and 50th percentile of soldiers.

This would mean that men and women still would have to meet the same standards but would not be compared to one another. Military.com notes that physical fitness scores weigh heavily in promotions, especially for combat-arms jobs.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, along with Lt. Gen. Jason Evans, deputy chief of staff of the Army, and Jack Surash, acting assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, outlined this idea in written testimony given to lawmakers ahead of the hearing. 

"We expect all soldiers to meet the exact same minimum standards, regardless of age, gender, or occupational specialty," the trio said in their combined written testimony.

Military.com obtained internal Army data that showed 44 percent of women are failing the ACFT, while just 7 percent of men have failed.

"Why is the ACFT so difficult for women to pass?" Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., asked Grinston. "Does this new test find that nearly half of women aren't fit to serve?"

Grinston said leaders want the ACFT to test the physical actions soldiers need to perform during combat, adding that the goal isn't to disadvantage any group. Army leaders must balance how to improve fitness while not eliminating women's ability to serve, he said.

"The goal of the ACFT is to make us more fit for the task that we are performing in combat," Grinston said. "Not to say that our women haven't performed admirably in combat, because they have. But we have to do better."

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