More than seven months after the official launch of the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, nearly half of female soldiers are still falling short, with enlisted women struggling the most, Military.com has learned. The data again raises questions about whether the Army's attempt to create a fitter force is creating more barriers to success for women.
Internal Army figures from April show 44% of women failed the ACFT, compared to 7% of men since Oct. 1. "Female soldiers continue to lag male soldier scores in all events," according to a United States Army Forces Command briefing obtained by Military.com.
FORSCOM data includes the results of 106,000 ACFTs taken in the first half of fiscal 2021. This amounts to 27% of women and 36% of men in the force who also have scores logged into the Army's database, meaning the data could potentially be incomplete. FORSCOM tracks 3,400 new fitness tests per week on average.
The Army remains in a beta phase for the ACFT. Until March 2022, scores on the test will not affect soldiers' careers; officials have said they may implement additional changes before then, including gender-specific standards.
The most difficult event for both male and female soldiers is the two-mile run, with 5% and 22% failing, respectively. The run must be completed within 21 minutes.
While the previous Army fitness test's two-mile run actually had a more challenging minimum passing time for most age groups, the ACFT's run takes place after five physically draining events, adding another level of difficulty.
Failure rate by event for men:
Deadlift: Less than 1%
Standing Power Throw: Less than 1%
Hand-Release Push-Ups: Less than 1%
Sprint-Drag-Carry: Less than 1%
Leg Tucks: 2%
Two-Mile Run: 5%
Failure rate by event for women:
Standing Power Throw: 15%
Hand-Release Push-Ups: 2%
Leg Tucks: 22%
Two-Mile Run: 22%
The pass rate for women is up 12% from last year, yet enlisted women continue to struggle the most, with a 53% fail rate. Female officers have only a 23% fail rate, but that's still significantly higher than the fail rate for men, enlisted or officer.
The data attributed most of that progress to a change in late March that added a two-minute plank as an alternative to leg tucks. FORSCOM found 22% of women failed the plank, a substantial decrease from the average 41% fail rate for the leg tuck. The pass rate for men went up by 1%.
Average Scores (360 needed to pass, 600 is the max)
Enlisted: Pass Rate 47%, Average Score 343
Noncommissioned Officers: Pass Rate 65%, Average Score 363
Officers: Pass Rate 77%, Average Score 389
Warrant Officers: Pass Rate 71%, Average Score 370
Enlisted: Pass Rate 90%, Average Score 461
Noncommissioned Officers: Pass Rate 95%, Average Score 478
Officers: Pass Rate 97%, Average Score 500
Warrant Officers: Pass Rate 96%, Average Score 454
"The ACFT -- as part of the Army's overall physical readiness program -- continues to evolve, reduce injuries and empower Soldiers to perform basic Soldier tasks," a FORSCOM spokesman told Military.com in a statement Monday. "The ACFT is in a transitional period. Data already shows that the ACFT is a better measure of a Soldier's ability to successfully complete combat-related warrior tasks and battle drills."
It's difficult to overstate how crucial fitness scores in the Army are, particularly in combat arms units such as the infantry and cavalry. High and perfect fitness scores can open opportunities for schools such as Air Assault and Ranger school, which greatly improve the odds of promotion. Good physical fitness scores can quickly snowball into career progression.
While the majority of women are passing the test, very few of them can get perfect scores. Only 66 female soldiers scored 500 points or higher, compared to 31,978 males. A score of 600 is the max.
The ACFT's impact on women has caught the attention of lawmakers. Last year, Congress passed a measure halting the implementation of the test until an assessment independent of the Pentagon is complete on its impact on recruiting and retention.
Until March 2022, when the Army still plans to make ACFT scores official, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston is urging as many soldiers as possible to take the test and log scores into the Army's database so leaders can make final adjustments.
The 7th Infantry Division and 101st Airborne have the most recorded tests, with 77% and 75% of troops, respectively, having results logged in the system. The 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Infantry Division have the smallest proportion of soldiers with recorded scores, 41% and 38% respectively. Both of those divisions, however, have had recent rotations abroad.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.