The Army’s controversial new fitness test could replace the decades-old norm by which troops are measured later this year after years of advocacy by Army leaders in the face of a skeptical Congress worried about it. practicality of testing and gender disparity in performance.
On Sunday, the test implementation schedule was posted on the military’s official website and was quickly deleted. The plan briefly available said the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, would be administered and used to assess soldiers from April. The test was introduced to the service in 2019, but the results were only used to help Army leaders determine how the test should be scored and what events would survive, with the data having no impact on the career of the troops.
All active duty soldiers and full-time National Guard and Army Reserve troops would still have until Oct. 1 before their performance on the new test begins to impact promotions or can lead. to administrative actions, according to screenshots of the now-deleted webpage. Failure to pass a physical fitness test is grounds for separation from the military. All part-time National Guard and Reserve soldiers would be required to have an ACFT score on file by April 1, 2023.
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All active duty, full-time Guard and Reserve soldiers are required to pass two tests per exercise. Part-time troops would pass a test.
Army officials insist the schedule is not yet official and was released prematurely. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, who has expressed great concerns about the test, has the final say.
“A contractor inadvertently released a pre-decision ACFT action plan that was not approved by the Secretary of the Army,” Army spokeswoman Col. Cathy Wilkinson told Military. com in a statement. “We apologize for the confusion. Once the Secretary of the Army makes the final decision on the Army Physical Fitness Test, the Army’s priority is to clearly communicate the registration test and the calendar.”
Military.com obtained early data in May on the test showing nearly half of women in the Army could not pass the ACFT, a problematic finding given the force’s recent spate of commitments to foster a more inclusive environment. The test requires deadlift soldiers between 140 and 340 pounds, which smaller soldiers, especially women, have struggled to score high on the tests.
The women began to perform better in the test as the Army conducted further tests and substituted planks instead of a leg tuck event – an event that requires soldiers to pull themselves up on a bar and then touch their knees to their elbows – which requires a lot of upper body strength. The first data reported by Military.com was collected before the board was introduced as an alternate event.
Yet, simply passing the test might not be enough for soldiers’ careers. High scores can lead to getting troops into elite courses such as Ranger School and can snowball into faster promotions and more job opportunities. Internal figures for 2020 showed just 66 women scored 500 or more points, compared to 31,978 men. A score of 600 is the maximum. The two-mile race is by far the most frequently missed event.
When this data was cited at Wormuth’s confirmation hearing, she said she was skeptical that the CrossFit style test was necessary. While the military needs a base of physical fitness, she said she was unsure if such a tough test was necessary for a force where such a minority serve in ground combat roles and counts. given the need for the military to be a competitive employer in growing fields such as cyber warfare.
“I am concerned about the implications of the test on our ability to continue to retain women,” Wormuth, the first woman to hold the position, told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing last year.
Congress delayed implementation of the ACFT in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 — which sets the Pentagon’s funding and policy priorities. Lawmakers ordered that an independent study be conducted into the impacts of the test on retention and the ability of soldiers to train for the test in different environments. That study, conducted by Rand Corp., has since been completed and the findings are being reviewed by Army leaders. These conclusions should be made public in early March.
— Steve Beynon can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.
Related: Can the new Army fitness test survive criticism and go official in April?
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