84% of Women Failing Army Combat Fitness Test

In previous articles for ClearanceJobs, I’ve thrown rocks at the Army’s catastrophically ill-considered Army Combat Fitness Test—the planned successor to the proven and successful Army Physical Fitness Test. I will admit, however, that my arguments against it emerged strictly from experience and logic. I am a fan of the original APFT because I watched soldiers in my platoon take the challenge to raise their scores, and watched pounds melt away and recruiting poster paratroopers emerge. As for logic, the APFT essentially costs a unit ten bucks and two hours to run through an entire company of soldiers, whereas the ACFT costs… more. Tens of millions of dollars more.

But, dear reader, I was willing to admit that I might be wrong! I lost many a night of sleep wondering: is the ACFT the salvation of American freedom? The greatest thing to happen to the Army since the black beret the blue service dress uniform the retro World War II-era pinks and greens! What if the ACFT produced one million hooah-shouting, Ironman-winning, CrossFit-teaching soldiers with the physiques of Greek gods and goddesses? What if we went to war with China and the enemy just dropped their weapons and ran the opposite direction, so intimidating were the American men and women on the front lines? What if, so musclebound and terrifying were our soldiers, that the Army stopped issuing rifles just to make it a fair fight when we went to war?

I really put myself out there by coming out so strongly against the ACFT, and, because no Army leader has ever been wrong, from General George Washington himself through to General James C. McConville, the present Army chief of staff—well, it was inevitable that I would have to eat my words.

But then last week, someone leaked the analytics slides presenting the pass/fail rate for the eleven battalions taking the ACFT. The short version: oh man was I right. The slightly longer version: the Army Combat Fitness Test is an unbridled, unparalleled, unimaginable disaster. The bottom line: the raw numbers reveal a test absurdly biased against women in uniform, but frankly, no one wearing a green uniform really comes out ahead in this thing.

WOMEN ARE BEING SET UP TO FAIL

The only thing that fails harder than the ACFT are the soldiers forced to take it.

According to the numbers, a jaw-dropping 36% of soldiers overall failed the test, with 64% passing. When you break it down by gender, 70% of men passed. But here is a number should kill and bury the ACFT evermore: 84% of women failed the test. Those numbers are so absurdly biased against women that I was afraid this was some sort of elaborate joke by Duffelblog. But I spoke with one soldier in a leadership position at an ACFT test battalion, and the soldier confirmed that the leaked numbers lined up almost exactly with those of the soldier’s battalion.

Here is why those fail numbers are so bad, male or female: you fail your physical training test, you get flagged. You aren’t going to military schools like Basic Leader Course or Airborne School. And if somehow you get there anyway, when you’re tested again you’ll be turned around and sent home. You cannot be promoted. You cannot be reclassified into another MOS. In the Guard and reserve, you cannot be transferred. You lose your tuition assistance. You can’t even reenlist!

Here is where it gets really ugly. If 84% of women are failing this test—keep in mind, 84% of women who are in battalions specifically preparing for the ACFT—you have essentially eliminated women from the United States Army. It gets uglier yet. When a woman gives birth, she gets a six-month profile excusing her from the ACFT. The thing is: the real killer for women is the “leg tuck” portion of the ACFT, in which you assume a pull-up position and bring your hips and knees up to your elbows and back down as many times as possible in two minutes. That’s asking an awful lot for a woman who has given birth in the last few months; and allows, basically, for no time to actually train up for the event once her profile expires. Already, women are failing the leg tuck test by 72%.

It is no secret that sexism is a problem in the military. What this test makes clear is that said sexism knows no bounds, and with the capricious stroke of a pen, those men have found a way to wash an entire gender from the ranks. If 84% of women are failing the test, the problem is not with women soldiers; it’s the test.

ALL BAD, NO GOOD

The ACFT consists of six events:

  •     Strength Dead-Lift (120-420 pounds)
  •     Standing Power Throw (10-pound medicine ball)
  •     Hand-Release Push-Ups
  •     Sprint-Drag-Carry (sprint, drag a sled, and then lateral shuffle then carry two kettle-bells)
  •     Leg Tuck (hanging from a pull-up bar, bring your knees or thighs to your elbows)
  •     2-Mile Run (20 minute max)

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