Changes to events and scoring have been made to the Army’s official physical fitness test which began this month, according to Army press releases.
Army officials originally planned for the Army Combat Fitness Test to replace the Army Physical Fitness Test by October 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about whether any new events created a disadvantage for female soldiers caused the delay.
The Army Fitness Test, which had been in place since 1980, had three assessments: sit-ups, push-ups and running.
Fitness experts from the Initial Military Training Command Center teamed up with academic experts, professional sports organizations and others to develop the new test, Brig. Gen. John Kline said, commander of the center, said during a March 23 town hall meeting.
The new test was designed to measure 10 components of fitness, including muscle strength, aerobic capacity, flexibility, power, agility, balance, reaction time, coordination and speed, a Kline said.
Twenty-five events were reduced to six to reflect warrior duties and combat drills, he said.
He said unloading 95-pound projectiles is an example of why muscular endurance is necessary.
“We wanted to improve the preparation of soldiers,” Kline said. “We wanted to transform the culture. We wanted to reduce injuries and reduce injuries related to musculoskeletal training…and we certainly wanted to increase overall unit readiness.
The six events were originally: the strength deadlift which requires lifting a 60-pound hex bar and plates for multiple repetitions; the standing power throw which measures distance when throwing a 10-pound medicine ball; hand pumps; sprint/drag/carry, which measures the time it takes to carry two 40-pound kettlebells and drag a 90-pound sled; the leg tuck, which counts how many times soldiers are able to tuck their knees in while pulling themselves up on a climbing bar; and a two-mile timed run.
The leg tuck is no longer part of the new test, according to the Army’s March press release.
The press release says the six events are the max deadlift, standing power throw, hand push-up, sprint, drag carry, plank, and 2-mile run.
Soldiers who are medically prohibited from participating in the 2-mile run will be permitted to participate in alternative aerobic events that include the 5,000 meter row, 12,000 meter stationary bike, 1,000 meter swim or a 1000 meter walk. 2.5 miles.
When the new test was phased in in October 2020 but did not yet count as an official scoring record for soldiers, Democratic senses Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter to the Armed Services of the Senate and the House. committees calling for the test to be postponed.
The senators cited data and initial test results raising concerns about whether the test will create a gender gap or limitations for certain professions that require less physical responsibility.
Citing the Basic Soldier Physical Readiness Requirements study and an external review of that study by the University of Iowa Virtual Soldier Research Center, the senators said the leg tuck is “not a significant predictor” of performing physically demanding military tasks.
They asked to suspend the trial until a study of its impact is conducted.
The Service Women’s Action Network also sent a letter to congressional committees asking that the new test not be used until an independent study has been conducted.
Representatives of the non-partisan Women in Service and Veterans’ Organization questioned whether the emphasis on muscular strength and endurance would affect the careers of women and older soldiers and overshadow the “physical, ethical and mental”.
“A fitness test that is so clearly biased simply cannot go forward without further scrutiny from an independent study that assesses all of the possible impacts of the (test),” said Deshauna Barber, chief executive. of the Service Women’s Action Network.
Through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, Congress commissioned an independent review of the test which was conducted by the RAND Corp.
According to the review, Army scores collected during a diagnostic period showed that some groups “failed at significantly higher rates.”
“The greatest impacts are seen for women, but there are also differences in success rates by age…,” the report says.
According to a RAND Corp. press release, success rates ranged from 41% to 52% for female enlistees, compared to 83% to 92% for males, depending on the component.
“Because this test can ultimately be used for personnel actions, it is especially important that all test events and minimum standards are validated across all genders, components and occupational specialties,” said Chaitra Hardison, Principal Scientist of the behavior at RAND and leader. author of the report.
RAND Corp. recommended that the military change the scoring of the test to align with job-specific physical demands and use data from all applicants — not just those who pass — to establish ranking points.
Other recommendations included phasing in the test to allow soldiers to improve their performance at specific events, allowing support access to expert coaches and specialized training equipment, and establishing specialized training programs for soldiers who cannot meet minimum scoring standards.
During her May 13 confirmation hearing, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth also expressed concerns about whether the new test would have “implications” for “retaining women.”
“I think it’s important for the military to have a physical fitness test that tests the kind of combat skills soldiers will need, to have a test that prevents injuries, which I think the new test is designed to do a lot better than the old one,” Wormuth said. “But we want to make sure we don’t penalize anyone indirectly.”
She said she thought replacing the leg tuck with a plank was a good example of adapting the test.
In the Army’s March press release, Wormuth said revisions were made based on data, analysis and the independent assessment required by Congress.
“We will continue to evaluate our implementation of the test to ensure it is fair and achieves our goal of strengthening the Army’s fitness culture,” she said.
According to the Army’s press release, soldiers began taking diagnostic tests for the new physical fitness test on Friday.
The press release says the military has ordered analytical support from RAND and established a six-month deadline before the test recording will be allowed.
Active duty soldiers will be required to take a test record beginning October 1, and their first test record must be taken by April 1, 2023.
Reserve and National Guard soldiers must take their first test registration by April 1, 2024.
Writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.