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Army Combat Fitness Test standards can take up to five years to complete as the service struggles to bridge the performance gap between male and female soldiers in the service’s first gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The army just completed a one-year ACFT field test at the end of September 2019, in which around 60 soldiers battalions were involved. And from October 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and One Station Unit Training began to consider the ACFT as a qualification requirement.
So far, the data shows “an average of 100 to 110 points difference between men and women,” Major General Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explains the proper lifting technique for the ACFT deadlift event to students on the Level II Master’s Fitness Instructor Certification Course on September 25, 2019 at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc.Alonzo Clark)
The final averages of test scores from Active Forces, National Guard and Reserve soldiers who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum Deadlift: Male soldiers lifted an average of 238 pounds of deadlifts; Women lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing Power Throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three averaging 5.5 feet.
Hand release push-ups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 push-ups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-Drag-Carry: Male soldiers finished the SDC in an average of 1 minute and 51 seconds; Soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes and 28 seconds.
Hamstring: Male soldiers completed 8.3 hamstrings; female soldiers completed 1.9 hamstrings.
Two-Mile Run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes and 45 seconds. female soldiers did it in an average of 18 minutes and 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers take part in a 2.35 mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All test scores averages are high enough to pass the ACFT. This data is in dramatic contrast to the data shown on a series of leaked slides on the U.S. Army’s WTF. Moments in late September. These slides showed a failure rate of 84% for some female soldiers who participated in the ACFT field test, compared to a failure rate of 30% for male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides are not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between when they first used the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers begin basic combat training about “a third of a hamstring” on average, Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic education, the average is 0.3; They end up doing a hamstring, ”Hibbard said, adding that this is all it takes to pass the ACFT on this case. “So in 10 weeks I can move from a soldier who on average is unable to perform a leg curl to a leg curl.”
Hibbard said there are critics who say, “It’s too hard; Women will never do well. “
“Well, we had a maximum of women in each category. [but] We didn’t have a female maximum in all six categories at the same time. “
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if they tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, New Jersey Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command, wears two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test December 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We’d still have challenges because you have to keep the low end low enough that 95% of women can fit,” Hibbard said, adding that the army will likely need to make small adjustments to the standard over time when soldiers make theirs improve performance in every event.
“It will take three to five years like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“When the army started training and understanding how to do the test, we looked at the results and we looked at what everyone was doing and we re-established the base,” Hibbard said.
The next key step in the implementation of ACFT by October 1, 2020 is for soldiers on active duty to take two diagnostic ACFT tests and soldiers from the National Guard and Reserve to take one test to get a better feel for the capabilities of the armed forces get to pass the test.
“I don’t think it will be difficult for the army to survive. What we need to figure out as an army is how to incentivize excellence, ”he said. “The aim is to change our culture in such a way that we encourage and motivate our soldiers to be in better physical condition.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.