Seeking more inclusivity, the United States Army is scrapping gender and age neutrality in its combat fitness test.
As reported by Bloomberg, the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the test of record Oct. 1 will be scored on the basis of gender and age bands. The largest U.S. military service doesn’t want to disadvantage any groups and exclude valuable soldiers because they couldn’t pass the new fitness test as it was initially envisioned. The alterations resulted from congressional scrutiny, independent assessments and soldiers’ own experiences, according to Bloomberg.
The test is part of a larger health overhaul aimed at making soldiers stronger, less prone to injury and better prepared for combat in the 21st century. The change was in progress for years, but was delayed by concerns about its design, as well as by the pandemic, writes Bloomberg's Roxana Tiron.
“While the changes to the test are minimal, it was a thoughtful, deliberate process to ensure that we are delivering the best test for the Army right now,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said during a media roundtable.
Soldiers will begin taking diagnostic evaluations of the combat fitness test in April. That gives them six months to train before it becomes the test of record, included in administrative decisions that can determine a soldier’s career. If they fail come October, soldiers will have a chance to take the test a second time within a few months.
The ACFT, which the Army has been piloting and tweaking since 2019, consists of six exercises administered over 120 minutes: dead lifts; medicine-ball throws; hand-release pushups; sprint-drag-carry exercises; planks; and a 2-mile run.
An initial plan included only leg tucks, then evolved into leg tucks or planks. But leg tucks ended up being a weak predictor of core strength—instead testing grip and upper body strength, Grinston said.
The old test required two minutes of situps, two minutes of pushups, and a 2-mile run, and has been standard for soldiers since 1980. Those who medically can’t run would be able to do a 2.5-mile walk, swim 1,000 meters, bike 12,000 meters, or row 5,000 meters.
Scoring — a minimum of 60 points in each event will achieve a passing score of 360 (with 600 being perfect) — was initially envisioned to be age- and gender-neutral. But just like the old test it replaces, the ACFT is adopting scoring that fluctuates for different age bands and gender, according to Brig. Gen. Scott Naumann, the director of training.
For example, women between the ages 17 and 21 will have to lift 210 pounds in the deadlift to score 100 points, the maximum, or 120 pounds to score 60 points, the minimum, according to the Army’s scoring scales.
Men in the same age group will have to perform deadlifts with 340 pounds for the maximum score, and 140 pounds for the passing score.
“It is the Army’s intent that the transition to full implementation of the ACFT will not adversely or disproportionately affect any soldier or group,” he said. The changes to the test will have “no greater impact” on recruiting and retention than the old army physical fitness test did, Naumann said during a media roundtable, as reported by Bloomberg.
“The Army decided to implement the test as a general physical fitness assessment as opposed to one that is designed to predict performance on a set of tasks,” he said. “That is a pretty important change.”