U.S Army Considering A New Physical Assessment Test

Ivette Tufino (third from left), an Army unit supply specialist at the Fort Jackson training base in South Carolina.

For nearly 40 years the Army has had the same physical training test, known as the Army Physical Fitness Test, which held women and men to different physical standards.

However, last month, at the AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, the Center for Initial Military Training introduced a new physical assessment test, which they claim will be gender and age “neutral” and will hold men and women to the same physical standards.

A 1994 federal policy banned women from serving in combat jobs, such as infantry, combat and special operations. However, that policy was reversed in 2013 under President Obama and the Army was required to implement women into these new roles. “By the end of 2017, more than 600 female soldiers were in infantry, armor, and artillery positions,” according to a report by The Army News Service.

Yet barriers still remained. The old physical assessment test, first implemented in 1980, held women to lower performance standards than men, thus creating a gender gap.

“In the past, qualifications may or may not have had anything to do with the job at hand,” said Kara Dixon Vuic, author of Girls Next Door, a book that looks at tensions around American women’s involvement in the military. “You don’t need to do push-ups to fly a fighter jet,” she added.

The new test, expected to be implemented in 2019, is still in development. But many are hopeful that it will shift expectations of what women can and cannot do.

“Rather than have a test which focuses on what an individual can do by sex or age, we changed to one that focuses on your ability to meet the needs of the Army,” said Michael McGurk, director of research and analysis at the Center for Initial Military Training.

“I don’t think just determining someone’s ability to run really fast in a certain amount of time should be considered a valid exam,” said Waldemar Borrero, an Army motor transport operator from Poconos, New York.

“I hope it changes the belief that women cannot perform to the same standards as men,” said Kelly Kennedy, co-author of Fight Like a Girl, which explores how women are trained in the military. “I ran slowly when I joined and dreaded taking the PT test every six months. But after 20 years out of the Army, I started running again. Now as a 48-year-old woman, I can meet the standard for running that I couldn’t meet when I was 17. This has to be about training.”

Ivette Tufino, Army unit supply specialist from Islip, New York, believes the new test will weed out those who only perform the bare minimum.

To prepare for the new assessment, soldiers will now have to improve all aspects of their fitness. The test stresses multiple components and is designed to prepare troops for the possibility of combat. “Even being stationed in an office building in the U.S. is no longer a guarantee of safety and exemption from the risks of combat,” said Michael McGurk from the Center for Initial Military Training.

Long Island’s Army Recruiting Office in Hempstead, New York has yet to enlist women into combat, but in a recent interview, U.S. Army Recruiter Cory Krigbaum told this reporter that he believed “anyone would want the best of the best fighting the nation’s war on the frontline.”

As long as you have the proper technique the smallest women can perform the same or better as the largest, physically fit man, agreed Ivette Tufino.

“Rethinking different regulations, I think is changing what everyone is expected to do,” said Kara Dixon Vuic, who hopes that “having the same standards will lead to people in the military seeing each other as equal.”

“In the end who would you want protecting you?” asked Cory Krigbaum, U.S. Army recruiter. “The most qualified person.”