The Army on Monday announced it was allowing soldiers to skip the “leg tuck” event from the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) amid statistics showing women struggling with it, and adding an alternate two-minute plank for those who wanted to opt for that instead.
The Army has spent the last decade trying to develop a suitable fitness test for soldiers that would gauge their fitness for combat, and developed one with six events, which included a leg tuck.
The leg tuck was an event where the soldier had to go from a hang on a bar to touching their knees to their elbows, in an exercise that tested both core strength and upper body strength. The point of the exercise was to assess soldiers’ overall core fitness.
However, before the Army could officially implement the test, data came back suggesting a large number of women would fail and be unable to do one leg tuck. Army figures from the second quarter of 2020 showed 54 percent of female soldiers failed the test compared to seven percent of men, according to the Washington Post. Democrats in Congress also pushed the Army to eradicate the leg tuck.
Senior Army leaders told reporters during a conference call Monday that soldiers could opt to do the two-minute plank instead.
“We did see soldiers struggling with this event — predominantly women,” Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said. “We did see a disadvantage for the women.”
Army Major Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, the commanding general for the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training, added:
It’s not about, uh, male and female. It’s really about the number one failed event for both men and women, and more importantly, across all three compos [active-duty, reserve, National Guard]…
And so we really had to look at if we’re going to implement this, that we can’t impact Army end strength and then more importantly, as you look at those service members who’ve been in the Army, especially 15, 20 years, and have never been asked to build the upper body strength necessary to do a pull up or do a leg tuck. And it gets significantly harder as they get older to build that strength to be successful.
In addition, they said the scoring of the test would be the same for men and women, but that gender would be taken into account when evaluating results. This is a step away from the Army’s previous position that the test should be completely gender neutral.
For example, the minimum standard to be a soldier is an ACFT score of 60 points per event for a total of 360 points and a maximum of 600 points. Army leaders said scoring remains the same for men and women. However, there would be a tiered-system similar to a curve depending on gender when it came to evaluating the results.
Thus, for example, the top 1 percent of men and the top 1 percent of women would fall into the platinum tier, the top 10 percent of men and women would fall into silver, the top 25 percent would fall into bronze, and the top 50 percent would fall into green. Green would be those who meet the minimum standards, or fall within the 50th percentile of their gender.
Hibbard said benchmarks for those tiers would be computed and established a year in advance, so soldiers would know what to train for.
Grinston said the new test would be fully implemented by April 1, 2022.
In the meantime, he said every soldier would take the test on April 1, 2021, and those scores would be recorded in the digital training and management system (DTMS) but would not be linked to anyone’s name.
“[It’s] extremely important for us to know and get the information that we that we can pull and say, you know, do we have the right version; are we, you know, going in the right direction according to data,” Grinston said.
“It is still a requirement to put it in the digital training and management system, but it’s not linked to any one. There’s no administrative actions,” he added.
The test changes came after female veteran advocacy groups during the Obama administration pushed the military to develop gender neutral combat fitness standards, arguing women could meet the same standards as men and should be graded the same in order to be afforded the same promotion opportunities.