After three years of complaints and debates, the military has abandoned its decision to have a gender- and age-neutral physical fitness test, and will now allow women and older soldiers to pass while adhering to certain reduced standards.
The decision comes after a study by research body RAND confirmed that men passed the new six-event fitness test at a much higher rate than women and that older soldiers also struggled. their scores in the expanded and more difficult test developed in 2019.
The change, however, will only affect the regular physical fitness test soldiers take each year. Qualification for certain Army jobs, especially more demanding combat positions or specialties like Ranger School, will continue to require everyone, regardless of age or gender, to pass the same tests. and fitness standards.
Tests revised 3 years ago
The Army revamped the physical fitness test three years ago from three events – push-ups, sit-ups and a run – to a more difficult and complicated combination of six events. These six are a deadlift, power throw, push-ups, plank, run, and a sprint/glide/carry combination. A leg tuck was included early on but was eliminated.
The new test, however, has been the subject of much criticism as women and older soldiers, including some in senior positions, have struggled to pass it. National Guard and Reserve troops also struggled and struggled to find and obtain the equipment needed to train and train for the test.
Chaitra Hardison, a behavioral scientist who authored the RAND study, said the data showed “certain groups failing at significantly higher rates – women, older soldiers, guard and reserve personnel and soldiers in certain occupational specialties”. She said the difference in success rates was greatest between the sexes.
The latest change will allow women and soldiers to do a little less in some events and still succeed. For example, women would need to pick up 20 pounds less weight in the deadlift than men to be successful, and men over 46 would also have a lower barbell weight. Women and older men would have an extra minute or two to complete the race.
New standards similar to other services
The new program also brings the Army back in line with other military services, which have varying fitness tests but all use tiered event requirements based on age and gender.
Hardison said the RAND study, which included analysis of about 460,000 soldiers’ tests, concluded there was little evidence to show the resulting scores accurately predicted job performance in combat or that much doing resulted in reduced injuries – two reasons why the changes were made in the first place.
Overall, RAND said the test was best used to assess a soldier’s general physical fitness and not to predict performance on the job, and that using a tiered scale for passing scores made the test less punitive. For example, a low fitness score can affect a soldier’s ability to be promoted.
“The latest revision,” said Sgt. Army Maj. Michael Grinston will help “maintain the Army’s strong commitment to a positive fitness culture while ensuring fairness.”
The overhaul of the Army’s physical fitness test in 2019 was sparked by complaints that soldiers were not fit enough. Nearly half of commanders surveyed a year earlier said new recruits could not meet the physical demands of combat. Officials also said about 12% of soldiers at any given time were unable to deploy due to injuries.
After months of study, the Army shelved its longstanding test – two minutes of sit-ups, two minutes of push-ups, a 2-mile run – which scored soldiers differently based on their age and sex. Officials rolled out the new, harder version that scored everyone equally but allows some flexibility in scoring for those with less rigorous jobs. This program was done largely on a trial basis as they worked to finalize it.
Concerns about testing and retention rates
The new test included a deadlift, with weights between 140 pounds and 340 pounds; a standing power throw that requires soldiers to throw a 10-pound medicine ball backwards and overhead; two minutes of manual push-ups; a “sprint-drag-carry” which involves 50-meter sprints, a sled drag, and a side shuttle carrying kettle bells; the leg tuck or plank and a 2 mile run. Soldiers with a doctor’s note can swim, bike, or row instead of running, or they can now take a 2.5 mile march.
The women especially struggled with the leg tuck – where they hang from a bar and pull their knees up. The plank was soon added as an alternate core strength test; now the tuck is gone.
Congress ordered the Army to get an independent evaluation of the test, and Army leaders turned to RAND.
In his study, RAND said that because the test is used for promotions and can affect a soldier’s career, the military must ensure the minimum standards are valid and necessary for everyone.
“With the pass rates we observed, many soldiers would fail if the test were instituted today, including soldiers who were considered to be otherwise in good standing in the military,” the study said. He said the military should consider a number of them to be women and soldiers over the age of 45 who hold leadership positions.
Unsurprisingly, Special Forces soldiers – whose lives may depend on their physical abilities – had the highest success rate, 98% to 100%. But at the bottom of the ladder were women – and men – in much less physical jobs such as food and laundry specialists, various nutrition, health care and human resources personnel, and chaplains.
The study concluded that the physical fitness test could lead soldiers to leave the military, both because they failed and were fired or because they left voluntarily because low scores resulted in less employment opportunities.
Under the new plan, there will be a trial preparation period. Active duty soldiers will begin taking the test in April, but will not be penalized if they fail. The test will officially go into effect in October, when the results start counting. Soldiers will take the test twice a year.
Guard and reserve soldiers will have until next April to take the test without consequences, and then the results will start counting. They take the test once a year.
Soldiers must score at least 60 points on each test to pass. The maximum is 100 points. Once grading begins to take effect, those who fail will be able to retake the test after several months. If they fail twice, they will be discharged from the army.