Following the recommendations of a Pentagon study, the U.S. Army has halted the gender-neutral Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) test as female soldiers were failing it at a rate of 65 percent. A review to make the test fair to “both genders” is underway.

The Army had unveiled its plan to replace the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test with the more challenging, six-event ACFT in July 2018. The new test had come into effect in October 2020.

The ACFT was designed as a gender- and age-neutral fitness evaluation meant to simulate the strength and conditioning challenges that soldiers will encounter in combat. On the other hand, the decades-old, three-event Army Physical Fitness Test was scored based on age and gender.

Now, Army leaders are looking at ways to apply scoring based on gender for the six-event, CrossFit-inspired fitness test, said Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training, which has led the ACFT’s development.

“We are addressing these concerns in coordination with Army senior leaders, Congress, and with those, it impacts the most, our American soldiers,” Kageleiry said.

Staff Sgt. Sharonica White completes a deadlift repetition during the U.S. Army Japan 2020 Army Week’s Army Combat Fitness Test Fitness Warrior Competition at Camp Zama, Japan, June 8. (Photo: Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

SOFREP interviewed a Fort Jackson instructor, who wished to remain anonymous. The instructor said that the percentage of female soldiers failing the test was closer to 85. The instructor stated that the biggest hurdle for women was the leg tuck and that women, generally speaking, lack the muscles to do the exercise.

The ACFT’s standards can be found here. For a person to pass the most difficult event for female soldiers, the leg tuck, they must do three repetitions.

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The test is being given to all soldiers at the end of basic training. Regardless of a pass or fail, the soldiers still graduate. The instructor argued that the eight weeks of basic training are not enough to build the necessary muscle strength in women. Further, others are disappointed that those who fail can still graduate.

The Army had chosen not to implement the results of the ACFT officially because of the limited training opportunities for the soldiers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dean @digitaldean on Twitter wrote in response to the news, “My daughter missed out on a spot in WI state patrol academy only because she couldn’t do enough sit-ups. But the standards were the same for both genders. If you can have the same standards for state police, you should do it for armed forces.”

Many will argue that a gender-neutral test is the right answer since the military is now open to all genders.

The sergeant major of the Army (SMA) recently blasted military leaders on Twitter, where he regularly interacts with the force, for the lack of physical training, the pandemic notwithstandin. Furthermore, he stated that ACFT holds us accountable for how the Army has instructed us to train. 

An advocacy group for women veterans sent a letter to Congress this week urging lawmakers to stop implementing the ACFT until the service completes an independent study of the new assessment’s potential impacts on female soldiers.

No adverse administrative actions will be taken against a soldier for failing the ACFT and a soldier’s score or comments on performance will not be used administratively during the data collection period.

However, for now, the fitness test is halted until a further review is conducted.