The Army is rolling out a new fitness test: Will it hold back women?

That reflects a significant improvement over last year, when leaked data showed that over 80 percent of a smaller cohort of female test-takers failed the six-event exam. But some women fear they won’t be able to pass even with additional training or will continue to score lower than men, potentially affecting their career prospects in an institution already struggling to shed historical gender and racial disparities.

The test, which will become the service’s official fitness test next month, has prompted a broader debate over whether the service’s focus on fitness and strength will elevate physical prowess over other qualities, such as effective and ethical leadership, or make it harder to retain troops with skills needed in an era of high-tech military competition.

Army officials say the new age- and gender-blind fitness test, the first of its kind in the U.S. military, was developed to reduce injuries and better prepare soldiers

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Army Combat Fitness Test

The SDC is a test of strength, endurance, and anaerobic capacity, which are needed to accomplish high intensity combat tasks that last from a few seconds to several minutes.

Starting position
On the command “GET SET,” one Soldier in each lane will assume the prone position with the top of the head behind the start line. The grader is positioned to see both the start line and the 25m line. The grader can position a Soldier/battle buddy on the 25m line to ensure compliance with test event standards.

On the command “GO,” Soldiers stand and sprint 25m; touch the 25m line with foot and hand; turn and sprint back to the start line. If the Soldier fails to touch the 25m line with hand and foot, the grader watching the 25m turn line will call them back.

Soldiers will grasp each strap handle, which will be positioned and

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