Armys

fitness

Senators call for pause to Army’s new Combat Fitness Test

Oct. 21 (UPI) — Two senators said Wednesday they have called for a delay in implementing the U.S. Army’s Combat Fitness Test, citing a possible detriment to creating a diverse force.

A letter signed by Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent a letter to the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees warning that rollout of the revised test was premature and deserved additional study.

“Significant concerns have been raised regarding the data used to develop the test, initial test scores, and logistical issues,” the senators wrote. “The ACFT will determine the career path and success of all soldiers currently serving, yet many information gaps and unknowns remain.”

It suggested that the ACFT could adversely impact soldiers’ professional prospects, upset recruitment efforts and disproportionally affect women in the Army, and noted that few women were included in early testing groups.

“In 2019, the Army identified the six events of the ACFT and began conducting field tests within 63 battalions across the organization,” the senators wrote. “Preliminary data was leaked showing an overall failure rate of 84 percent for females and 30 percent for males within these battalions.”

The test is an attempt by the Army to establish effective but gender-neutral standards for soldiers’ fitness and readiness, and replaces Army previous fitness tests which clearly displayed a bias but were less rigorous.

Six events are involved in the new test, including a dead lift, weighted ball throw and a “leg tuck,” in which soldiers lift themselves up from a pullup bar using their arm, core and leg muscles.

The leg tuck is largely responsible for the 65 percent failure rate for women and the 10 percent failure rate for men.

The letter from Gillibrand and Blumenthal cited a University of Iowa study that showing that the removal of the leg-tuck could significantly improve success rates. The letter said the leg tuck is “the same event which has no proven predictive value to military occupation.”

It also noted that the previously used Army Physical Fitness Test required no equipment other than a stopwatch, while “the ACFT requires approximately $3,000 worth of equipment to put one individual through the test.”

Gillibrand and Blumenthal added that the test is irrelevant, and possibly damaging, to the careers of Army lawyers, cybersecurity specialists and other non-combat enlistees.

The senators recommend that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act include a provision allowing Congress to delay use of the ACFT until it is independently reviewed.

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fitness

Senators ask for pause on Army’s new fitness test, call it ‘premature’

Two senators are asking for a delay in the Army’s implementation of its new combat fitness test, or ACFT, pending an independent study of how it will effect critical career fields and soldiers deployed to austere outposts.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked in a letter sent Tuesday to the House and Senate armed services committees for the ACFT roll-out to be paused and studied.

“We acknowledge that the ACFT 2.0 is a work in progress, but we have considerable concerns regarding the negative impact it may already be having on so many careers,” the senators said in the letter, a copy of which was provided to Army Times. “It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered.”

The six-event ACFT is a noticeably more difficult test than that which it replaces, with higher failure rates recorded among women. The increased difficultly is often attributed to the ACFT’s emphasis on core and upper body strength through exercises like the deadlift and hanging leg-tuck.

Army cadets perform the three-repetition deadlift, the first of the six events of the Army Combat Fitness Test. (Eric Bartelt/Army)

The letter, first reported by the Washington Post, noted that Army data shows “a consistent” 65 percent failure rate for women and 10 percent failure rate for men. The letter cited a University of Iowa study that showed eliminating the leg-tuck would significantly reduce failure rates.

Gillibrand and Blumenthal said there are “significant concerns” regarding the data used to develop the ACFT that trace back to a study conducted several years ago.

That study demonstrated the leg-tuck was not a significant predictive variable of how a soldier would perform their duties, but was still included in the six-event test regardless. The study’s test group also underrepresented women, the senators added, with the average participant being a 24-year-old man.

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fitness

Senators urge Pentagon to suspend implementation of Army’s new fitness test

“We have considerable concerns regarding the negative impact [the test] may already be having on so many careers,” they said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered. Soldiers’ careers depend on it and the continued lethality of our force requires it.”

The senators asked the committee leaders to ensure a measure that would suspend rollout of the test until an independent study can be conducted is included in the final version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense bill. The provision appeared in the Senate-passed version of the bill, but not in the House version.

Lawmakers are expected to convene to reconcile the two versions of the bill after the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The test has become a charged issue within the Army as it pits the service’s effort to establish gender-blind standards and improve soldier readiness against fears it could pose an additional challenge to retaining skilled troops and compound obstacles faced by underrepresented populations within the force. Critics say it could have a disproportionate impact on women, who make up 15 percent of the Army but occupy few leadership positions.

Army data shows that, 18 months after small cohorts of soldiers started taking the test on a provisional basis, women continue to fail at dramatically higher rates than men. In the second quarter of 2020, 54 percent of women failed the test, compared to 7 percent of men.

The stark gender gap comes as Pentagon leaders express an urgent desire to rectify the military’s legacy of racial and gender inequity, issues that have long dogged the force but were given new prominence when race-related unrest gripped the nation this summer.

The test consists of six events, including a dead lift, weighted ball throw and, most problematically for women who have taken it to date, a “leg tuck,” which requires soldiers to lift themselves up from a pullup bar using their arm, core and leg muscles.

The test has different requirements for different career fields, but critics say that even the least demanding standards could remain out of reach for some. They also say consistently lower scores for female soldiers, who are typically lighter than men and thus must lift weights that are heavier relative to their body weight, could hold women back.

While Army leaders have said the test won’t impact evaluations until as early as 2022, it is expected to eventually affect enlisted personnel’s promotion potential and officers’ careers.

Army officials say the test is a product of years of research and is designed to better prepare troops for conditions they would encounter in combat. It places a higher emphasis on muscular strength than the previous Army fitness test, which was adjusted for age and gender and included pushups, pullups and a two-mile run.

Officials have also said troops can do an alternate to the leg tuck, a two-minute plank, while the test

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