Just weeks before the Army’s controversial new physical fitness test becomes official, a complete overhaul of a requirement that can mean the difference between promotion and separation for service members, the force won’t engage to advance the test in time.
Troops, who may need entirely different fitness equipment and substantial changes to their training, have been left uncertain whether the version of the test that has been tested in recent years will go into effect or whether the service will produce a significantly different set. of standards.
“It would be nice to know what this test is actually going to be so we can start planning for it,” an infantry command sergeant major told Military.com on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the press about the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT. “We will continue to do PT; that will not change. Some of these things are good. The ACFT…probably motivated more soldiers to do more [workouts] like kettlebell swings.”
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Congress ordered an independent review of the planned ACFT to determine whether it would have any adverse effects on the recruitment and the retention of women in the service, and whether soldiers from all environments could train adequately for the test which was to be deployed on April 1.
These findings from Rand Corp. were passed on to lawmakers, two congressional aides told Military.com on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. It’s unclear how many changes are being made to the test as a result of Capitol Hill’s comments.
The test awaits final approval from Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, who at her confirmation hearing said she was concerned about the test’s possible impact on the retention of women in the force.
“No final decision has been made regarding the Army’s combat readiness test,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez told Military.com in an email. “The Army will make an announcement after senior Army leaders have had time to review RAND’s findings and recommendations.”
The Army has not had an official physical fitness test since September 2020, when the Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, was scrapped.
Early data from an early ACFT pilot obtained by Military.com showed that half of the women in the force could not pass the test and very few performed well. This startling data prompted Congress to delay the test until the Rand study could be completed. Some changes, like allowing soldiers to substitute the leg kick event for the plank, have anecdotal evidence of slowly closing the gender gap. Meanwhile, many male soldiers surveyed found the new test easier to pass than its predecessor but much harder to get a perfect score.
With lingering questions about how women performed in the test, the Army is stuck between a rock and a hard place, juggling dueling goals of creating a fitter force while trying to open up more opportunities for women. Many soldiers surveyed by Military.com over the past year agreed that there is no fitness test answer that will make everyone happy.
The ACFT would be the first major overhaul of a soldier’s physical fitness measure in 40 years. At this time, scores do not negatively affect or positively impact a service member’s career. But once the test goes live, failing it could lead to being kicked out of the force, while soldiers with high scores will have more job opportunities and be able to move up the ranks faster.
Beyond the wide gender gap in performance, the logistical hurdles of administering the test at six events have been a burden on force leaders — particularly the Reserve and National Guard — who typically have limited access to space and equipment to facilitate testing and training. Some Guard leaders interviewed fear that the impractical nature for some units to administer a test could lead to falsified scores.
The ACFT, in its current state, requires a robust combination of gym equipment, including kettlebells, a sled, bumper plates and a medicine ball, and space for the two-mile run . This gear was primarily purchased under a $63.7 million deal with Sorinex, a sports company known for outfitting sports teams and influencers.
Still, the military could stick to its guns on the ACFT being an equipment-heavy test, according to a plan leaked on the force’s own website. Any changes will likely be minor tweaks, adjusting scoring standards instead of adding or subtracting events. The webpage, which has since been taken down, showed no new test events and the alternatives were not force tested.
While the military is unsure whether it will meet its self-imposed April 1 deadline, officials say no soldier will suffer immediate consequences from its implementation, with test results left behind. aside until October for active duty. members and April 2023 for traditional Guard and Reserve soldiers.
“We will ensure that soldiers are not unduly impacted during implementation,” Ramirez said.
— Steve Beynon can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.
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