Last month we published an article about the Army Combat Fitness Test. Specifically, it outlined how leaked results from the Army’s initial test period showed 84% of women are currently failing the test. The same contributor had written about the Army Combat Fitness test in the past – how it would impact the Guard and Reserve, and also how the new test was complicating a system that has always been pretty straightforward (it’s not hard to misinterpret a test based on a run, sit-ups and push-ups – add in a host of new elements and equipment, and things get more complicated).
Each of those posts did well, but there was something about the spotlight on how women were performing on the test that set off a firestorm of debate and comments – we received more than 700 comments from readers about the ACFT. After personally reading each of them, it’s clear – the U.S. Army (or internet trolls) is passionate about fitness.
I’m an Army girl – I worked for the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, spent significant time at a number of Army installations, and am the daughter of a U.S. Army Vietnam War vet. One of my favorite military bloggers once noted we all have our favorite flavor of military ice cream – and despite the fact that my husband spent years working for the Air Force and I now live outside of Offutt Air Force Base – my favorite flavor will always be Army green.
The thought of putting on my Hooah pride and taking the ACFT intrigued me – even if my chances of failure seemed pretty high. I’ve had four kids, and running late is my typical cardio. But I love a challenge, and with so much divisiveness and contention surrounding the test, I wanted to see how I could stack up.
Calling in a certified fitness trainer and with the help of a CrossFit-esque gym, I put the test, to the test. Did I fail? Absolutely. Did I have fun doing it? You bet. The amount of equipment required for the test certainly stands out right away. Critics have argued it’s not an easy test to train for in that respect – and I’ll agree. That said, I’ve never pulled a sleigh in my life (other than pulling my kids up the hill on a snow day), and I was able to pass all aspects of the Sprint-Drag-Carry with ease (I equated the kettlebell carry to carrying two tired toddlers home after a long day at the zoo – been there, done that). Another criticism that I can agree with is the difficulty in scoring the test. The deadlift is more of a squat, as my trainer pointed out. And what makes for a perfect hand release push-up? I certainly don’t know.
My nemesis was the same exercise that foiled the vast majority of women and even quite a few men – the leg tuck. After four kids, my core strength is obviously a bit out of shape. All the yoga in the world will not get your legs up to your elbows without some upper body strength. And here is where the gender divide starts – I obviously have less upper body strength than all of those guys skipping leg day at Gold’s Gym (you know who you are).
Could I train my way into passing the test? I think so, and I might try. Or I might go to Starbucks and drink my second peppermint mocha of the day. It’s hard to say. I’m also not going to take an official stance on the test – the U.S. Army may be my favorite flavor, but this isn’t my test. I trust those in uniform to weigh in, and I can count on Army leadership to change (or lower!) the standards if they decide they need to.