A misty morning at Fort Jackson, SC, basic trainees, currently in week seven and set to graduate soon, are tested on the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). About 80 percent of them will fail the test.

There are six events in total:

  1. THREE REPETITION MAXIMUM DEADLIFT (MDL): Deadlift the maximum weight possible three times.
  2. STANDING POWER THROW (SPT): Throw a 10-pound medicine ball backward and overhead for distance.
  3. HAND RELEASE PUSH-UP – ARM EXTENSION (HRP) 2 MINUTES: Complete as many Hand-Release Push-ups as possible in two minutes.
  4. SPRINT-DRAG-CARRY (SDC): Conduct 5 x 50-meter shuttles for time – sprint, drag, lateral, carry, and sprint.
  5. LEG TUCK (LTK): Complete as many leg tucks as possible; maintain a relative vertical posture while moving the hips and knees up and down without excessive swinging.
  6. TWO-MILE RUN (2MR): Run two miles for time on a measured, generally flat outdoor course.

The events are gender and age-neutral but are scored based on military occupational specialty (MOS). Some events may challenge some trainees more than others. To max the hex-bar deadlifts, the trainees need to deadlift 340 pounds three times. While this may not be all that challenging for a six-foot male that is very physically fit, it may be challenging for the 115-pound woman wishing to become an infantryman — let alone a Special Forces operator.

Roughly 80 percent of trainees fail this test overall, and almost every woman fails the leg tuck (knees to elbows). A 60 percent score would be one leg tuck, and to max it, the trainees would need to do 20. However, SOFREP has been told from a Drill Sergeant with direct knowledge that “almost every woman is failing and cannot do even one because they lack the biceps, abdominals and back muscles to crunch their body from a hanging position.” Keep in mind that these trainees have already undergone six-seven weeks of basic training and are about to graduate after a field phase.

Several different actions then take place: Commanders can send the trainees to a fitness training unit, recycle them to another company, send them home, or have them retest at the unit before graduation. Most times they retest at the unit. They may be retesting over and over again until they get a passing score or the commander waives the failure of one event. Regardless, the fact remains that 80 percent of the trainees, and almost all of the women, are failing.

The trainees are then tested on 21 skill level one tasks, such as applying a tourniquet, transporting a casualty and sending a SPOT report. Trainees are given their skill level one books and an hour between stations to study. Recently the “trainees did pretty well, with only about 50 percent failing,” one Drill Sergeant reports. The trainees are then sent back to their company for retraining and testing.

Basic training is very different now than it was 20 years ago. Now Drill Sergeants are at odds legally. Fear of their commands and of trainees weaponizing situations is running rampant. This has led to Drill Sergeants just trying to do their best to simply survive their tenure.