Army approves reduced fitness standards for women and older soldiers

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After a three-year review, the military abandoned plans to use the same physical fitness test for all soldiers, opting instead to have lower standards to allow women and older soldiers to pass, a announced the service on Wednesday.

decision follows a RAND-led study that found men passed more easily the new, more difficult Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) compared to women and older soldiers, who “failed at significantly higher rates”. This six-event test developed in 2019 was an expansion of the three events – push-ups, sit-ups and runs – that soldiers had previously performed.

“This testing is a critical part of maintaining the Army’s readiness as we transform into the Army of 2030,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement announcing the changes. “The ACFT revisions are based on data and analysis, including an independent assessment required by Congress. We will continue to evaluate our implementation of the test to ensure that it is fair and achieves our goal of strengthen the physical fitness culture of the army.”

The Army first modified its fitness test to include deadlifts, power throws, push-ups, planks, a run and a sprint-drag-carry, as well as a leg tuck that has eventually eliminated.

Service chiefs hoped the new test — the first such change in more than 40 years — would better replicate the tasks needed in combat while reducing the risk of injury.

But the new fitness program was quickly criticized after it became clear that women, older male soldiers and National Guard and Reserve troops were struggling to pull it off.

About 44% of women failed the test from October 2020 to April 2021, compared to about 7% of men, Military.com found at the time.

“ACFT scores collected during the diagnostic period show that some groups fail at significantly higher rates,” the RAND study says. “The greatest impacts are seen for women, but we also see differences in success rates across components, with the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard lagging behind the Regular Army. , and between military occupational specialties.”

RAND also found that the test did not accurately predict job performance and was best used to assess physical fitness. This distinction is important because a low fitness score can affect a soldier’s ability to be promoted.

Wormuth herself had been concerned about whether the test affected retention women in the ranks.

“I’m also obviously concerned about the implications of the test for our ability to continue to retain women, which we obviously want to do,” Wormuth said during his nomination hearing in May.

The Revised Test uses new grading scales and updated test events, which will allow women and older male soldiers to do slightly less in certain events and still succeed, such as in the deadlift, where they will gain less weight. Women and older men also have a bit more time to complete the race.

The maximum score for each test event is 100 points, and soldiers must score at least 60 points on each event to pass. If a soldier fails, he can retake the test after several months but will be discharged from the army if he fails twice.

With the changes, the military will join other military services, which also have tiered event requirements based on gender and age for their testing.

The new standards will only be applied to the regular physical fitness test given to all soldiers each year and will not change the tests troops must pass to qualify for certain Army jobs such as combat posts or military positions. specialties.

The new plan will also be subject to a trial period, with active duty soldiers due to start taking the test in April but will not be penalized for failing. The test will then officially come into effect in October, to be taken twice a year.

National Guard and Reserve soldiers, meanwhile, will have until April 2023 to take the test without penalties, and will take the test once a year.

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