The U.S. Army's top enlisted leader unleashed a Twitter rant Sunday morning aimed at shaming unit leaders into administering the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston told unit leaders in the operational force that they need to make the ACFT a priority so their soldiers' scores can be entered into the Digital Training Management System, or DTMS. That will build more data to evaluate the official replacement for the Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
"It doesn't help me to tell soldiers to 'take the test' when our leaders are hiding equipment away in the [Conex box], and company commanders are refusing to schedule the test. (Your Soldiers are pretty vocal about that last point on Instagram, btw)," Grinston tweeted.
"We're preparing the way-ahead for ACFT. At the end of the day, policy needs to be DATA DRIVEN. So far, only 24% of the total Army has uploaded scores into DTMS, and only 7% have taken it more than once," he tweeted. "So again, leaders, administer the test. Upload scores into DTMS."
Grinston's Twitter lecture comes as Army leaders are wrestling with how to keep the ACFT gender-neutral while also figuring out a fair method to assess scores for male and female soldiers at promotion time.
The ACFT is also under congressional scrutiny. A requirement in the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act has resulted in the Army launching an independent review of the test, which is more challenging than its predecessor, to ensure it's fair for all soldiers.
All soldiers in the active-duty, National Guard and Reserve force have been authorized to take the ACFT since Oct. 1, 2020, but test scores will not count against troops until March 2022.
"There are still no admin actions (good or bad) from taking the test. But that data is crucial to helping us inform policy moving forward," Grinston tweeted. "The test will remain gender neutral to pass. Every soldier must do the same amount of each exercise to be a soldier. Only one scoring table."
But the Army recently confirmed that the service is evaluating a new version of the ACFT that could create "gender-specific" evaluation categories for promotions.
The move would backtrack on the Army's original plan to have the new six-event test be gender-neutral in all aspects in recognition of data showing that physiological differences cause individual scores to differ by 100 points on average by gender, according to an Army official familiar with the effort.
The ACFT 3.0 will likely eliminate the three separate scoring categories for military occupational specialties and move to a single scoring standard for all soldiers.
But instead of judging men and women's raw scores against the same rubric, the Army is proposing separate percentile bands for men and women that would be gender-blind when soldiers go before a promotion board.
"This test is NOT designed to exclude or disadvantage any group. … There are still a lot of policy Qs on using it for promotion/assessments, but the answers have to come with testing data," Grinston tweeted. "We need to baseline the Army on these minimums during the next year before final implementation which is still on track for March 2022."
Grinston also pointed out that women account for "less than 8% of all testing data we have. And the majority of that is from operational units. We can't (and shouldn't) make decisions based on this information."
One commenter, who goes by username Pam Pam, said that the "fact there's less than 10% females that have taken it says a lot. They're either reluctant to take one, or COs to have them take it."
Some commenters pointed out that leaders need to be held accountable for not administering the ACFT.
A commenter going by the name SJJ tweeted, "Until there are 'real consequences' for plain ole not doing what is right, then you will always have leaders/subordinates not doing what's right."
Commenter Andy W, who said he is an Army warrant officer, agreed. "There's a lot of truth there--I'd also add that until it's a commander's priority, it's not a priority."
More than one commenter said that the equipment needed to take the ACFT has not been fielded to all units yet.
Grinston was quick to respond, telling commenters to message "me your unit. Equipment is 100% fielded. Someone needs to open the [Conex box]."
In June 2019, the Army struck a $63.7 million deal with Atlantic Diving Supply Inc. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Sorinex Exercise Equipment Inc. in Lexington, South Carolina, to supply 36,608 battalion sets of fitness equipment.
The ACFT is nearly twice as effective as the APFT in predicting a soldier's ability to conduct basic warrior tasks and battle drills, Grinston said.
"Meaning, if you JUST PASS you're more likely to be able to perform the basic tasks (react to contact, move through an obstacle, move a casualty, throw a grenade, etc) than if you can pass the APFT," Grinston tweeted. "The readiness imperative here is clear."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.