January 18, 2021
Among the many controversies surrounding the American landscape is the not-so-known United States Army matter, which has its polarizing effect – changing the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which currently maintains a different grading scale for men and women, to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which would pit soldiers against events without the consideration of gender to determine actual combat effectiveness.
In 1982, the US Army solidified what they would call the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). It was a basic test of physical strength and endurance that revolved around, ensuring soldiers were physically fit enough to meet what they then considered the standard. The events were simple – pushups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run. With this came several grading scales, splitting soldiers up by gender and age. The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) started development in 2013 and was solidified in 2018. This new physical assessment is a more common-sense approach to combat effectiveness in the sense of physical fitness. The test introduced exercises that are a better parallel to what soldiers might experience in combat and eliminated age and gender grading standards. The Army recognized through two decades of the Global War on Terror that arbitrary factors such as sex and age played no factor in combat effectiveness – a soldier could either perform the duties necessary or they could not.
The gender neutrality of the new test is, almost naturally, a significant point of contention. Within the force, soldiers can be heard arguing almost daily over personal opinions of the test. Some argue it is not fair to female soldiers, as the leg tuck event does not cater to their body shapes and is subsequently harder for them. More than half of the women who have been held to the new standard have failed to pass the requirements. Arguments against the test come from a slew of different angles, appealing to feelings rather than logic, attacking the creation and implementation of the new test as a misogynistic tool that would simply hold women back in uniform.
The complaints went so far as to see Congressional intervention. The final version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act saw congress halt the ACFT in what was called a further evaluation of how the test would affect soldiers deployed and at home. This evaluation is not coming from an aspect of combat effectiveness, as was the objective in the creation of the ACFT in the first place, but instead is an evaluation of how the new physical standards will affect soldiers’ careers should they not be able to meet the physical standards.
The problem with this is simple – politicians and military bureaucrats are playing a dangerous game, putting feelings ahead of logic to appease soldiers and civilian onlookers. The fact of the matter is that combat is physically demanding. When bullets are flying, and bombs are going off, no one will care whether the soldier next to them is male or female. What they will care about is the soldiers’ ability to pick them up and carry them off the battlefield, should that be the unfortunate necessity. The halting of the ACFT shows that, once again, the Army is being used as a stomping ground for social experiments, disregarding the reality of war, which was so hard learned for the past two decades of fighting. It is neither fair to our soldiers nor their families to remove true combat readiness for the sake of protecting feelings. Bottom line – lives are at stake because political elites and failed military leadership would rather play a game of
inclusivity than accept their jobs’ reality.
Shaul, R. (2017, November 03). History of the APFT. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://mtntactical.com/knowledge/history-of-the-apft/#:~:text=Mandatory%2C%20Army%2Dwide%20fitness%20testing,and%20refined%20in%201980%2D82
Cox, M. (2018, July 10). Army Does Away With Age-Specific Scoring in New Combat Fitness Test. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/07/10/army-does-away-age-specific-scoring-new-combat-fitness-test.html
Cox, M. (2020, December 07). Bill Would Force Army to Halt ACFT Until It Can Study Impacts. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/12/07/bill-would-force-army-halt-acft-until-it-can-study-impacts.html
Ryan, M. (2020, September 24). The Army is rolling out a new fitness test: Will it hold back women? Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/army-fitness-test-women/2020/09/24/20ed51e2-e244-11ea-ade1-28daf1a5e919_story.html