Army may soon have additional physical fitness test for combat troops
The military has been working to modify the old physical fitness test for more than a decade. And after development, testing, and finally implementation, Congress launches the service into a curveball.
Voting behind closed doors, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday ordered the Army to modify the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to create a requirement for additional testing for troops in combat arms jobs in addition to the basic standards of the ACFT.
“Service members in military occupational specialties requiring close combat with the enemy must meet rigorous physical fitness requirements to ensure operational mission success,” the committee wrote.
After a decade, ACFT standards are still debated:
First proposed in 2012, after a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army leaders finally decided to update their physical fitness test, scrapping the old 3-event PT test that used age and gender factors . The Army was looking for a better barometer to measure physical fitness. The goal was to measure 10 aspects of fitness, including agility, balance and flexibility, instead of just one — muscular endurance — in the old test, Brig said. General John Kline, then commander of the Initial Military Training Center.
The new test was to be based on age and gender neutral and consisted of:
- 3-rep maximum deadlift
- Standing Power Throw
- Manual Release Push Ups – Arm Extension
- Sprint, drag, carry
- 2 mile run
In 2019, the Army began testing the new ACFT, which at the time also had the Leg Tuck exercise. They tested multiple iterations of the tests regardless of gender and age. The data was reviewed by Congress in 2020, which showed women, Reserve and National Guard soldiers were failing the test in high numbers.
Congress ordered an independent evaluation of the new ACFT which was conducted by the Rand Corporation. And rather than focus on what the new test was designed to do, to predict combat ability and retrain strength accordingly, the military changed the standards, to again allow for different standards for age. and sex.
Changes from Combat Readiness to Physical Condition:
After the deployment of the new ACFT in April, the military changed the entire wording and meaning of the test from a combat readiness test to a physical fitness test.
Not all women in the military agree with the re-enforcement of gender norms. Captain Kristen Griest who was the first female infantry officer and one of the first two women to graduate from Army Ranger School is against the idea.
“In a gender-based system, women in combat arms must fight every day to dispel the idea that their presence inherently weakens these previously all-male units,” she wrote. “Lower female standards also reinforce the belief that women cannot do the same job as men, making it difficult for women to gain the trust of their teammates.
One thing that will need to be addressed is that soldiers competing for a higher rank among the promotion boards should also be taken on a large scale. If combat-specific standards are given to MOSs in combat roles, then they should be rated much higher in fitness than non-combatant MOSs or females who are rated on a different scale.
After a decade of frustration, the army seems to be back to square one when it comes to the ACFT.
Steve Balestrieri is a national security columnist from 1945. He served as a non-commissioned officer and warrant officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces before injuries forced him into early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news outlets, he covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work has been regularly featured in the Massachusetts Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers.