Army fitness test remains a gender bender
April 27, 2023

Work is underway for different fitness test, not related to current standards

Despite pressure from Congress, the US Army has decided to maintain its new physical fitness test as gender-specific, as per two sources who have knowledge of the matter. Last December, the defense authorization bill required the Army to establish the same fitness standards for both genders by June.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth stated that the service had already established gender-neutral expectations for troops, but was not clear about the exact standards. However, the Army will not make any additional alterations to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which was launched in October.

The Army replaced the old Army Physical Fitness Test, which had been in use for several decades, with the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). The updated standards aim to measure a soldier’s physical fitness more precisely and impartially.

The ACFT includes a deadlift, hand-release push-ups, a plank, a two-mile run, a medicine ball toss, and a kettlebell-and-sled sprint. Initially, the Army had planned to have job-specific grading, with infantrymen carrying heavier weights and running faster than mechanics. However, the service later decided to establish different standards for men and women, which had been the case in the previous tests.

In 2019, soldiers began taking the ACFT, and half of the female soldiers were failing the test, according to a report by The leg tuck event, in which soldiers had to do a pull-up and touch their knees to their elbows, was initially part of the test but was later scrapped due to the difficulty it posed for many female soldiers. This led to concerns on Capitol Hill over the test, and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., passed an amendment to delay the test’s implementation in 2020.

The defense law passed in December required the Army to establish gender-neutral physical readiness standards that ensure soldiers can perform the duties of their respective military occupational specialties but did not specify changes to the ACFT. The Army has standards in an Army policy pamphlet that lays out the requirements for all the combat jobs that are gender-neutral, Wormuth said.

The Army is working on a different fitness test that is not related to the ACFT. Some units are currently testing a fitness assessment for expert soldiers, infantrymen, and field medical badges, which includes a sequence of basic combat tasks like land navigation and weapons handling. The new test involves a one-mile run, push-ups, a 100-meter sprint, an activity where soldiers pile sandbags, a 50-meter farmer’s carry holding two 40-pound water jugs, a 50-meter lane that requires soldiers to crawl and sprint, and another one-mile run. Soldiers will conduct the entire circuit while wearing body armor.

The Army has been urged by Congress to create fitness standards that are not based on gender, but it has decided not to modify the ACFT. Rather, a new fitness test will be designed and administered separately from the ACFT, and gender-neutral criteria will be implemented through an Army policy pamphlet.

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