The latest version of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) will be gender-neutral in how performance is measured but will establish separate ranked tier systems for men and women, military officials said Monday as they rolled out the latest tweak to the Army‘s physical performance standards.
Army leaders said that both male and female soldiers will be measured on the same numerical scale of 360 to 600, with a 360 score being the minimum threshold. In other words, a man and woman who run a mile in the same amount of time will have their performance measured equally on that point scale, and they will receive the same score.
But from there, the results will be separated out by gender in what Pentagon officials say is a recognition of reality. The changes come amid criticism that previous tries at a truly “gender-neutral” test resulted in high failure rates for female soldiers.
Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, told reporters Monday that the new system achieves “two objectives.”
“First, it fosters and recognizes above-average physical performance,” he said. “Second, it accounts for the recognized physiological differences between men and women and removes the direct competition between men and women in the service.”
The new system, known as the ACFT 3.0, is being rolled out over the next year and the Army said that “full implementation of the ACFT may start as early as March 2022.”
While soldiers of both genders will have their performance measured equally on the numerical scale, the results will then be broken down in a five-level system that separates the top-performing women from their male counterparts.
The top 1% of both genders will be in the “platinum” level, officials said, with the top 10% being the “gold” category. The top 25% will be considered “silver,” and the top 50% “bronze.”
The last category of “green” will be those who met the 360-point minimum threshold.
Because of how the results will be divided, the respective top 1% of male and female soldiers could be significantly different in terms of actual fitness test scores.
Still, officials insist that the fitness tests remain equal because men and women are technically scored the same.
“It is still age and gender neutral,” said Sgt. Major of the Army Michael Grinston.
The updated ACFT also makes the plank a “permanent” alternative to the leg tuck in measuring a soldier’s core strength. While some male soldiers struggled with the leg tuck, officials said it mostly impacted women.
“We needed to implement an alternate event for the leg tuck. We did see soldiers struglging with this event, predominantly women,” Sgt. Major Grinston said.
The new core strength standard is either a two-minute plank or a minimum of one leg tuck.