These days, a visit to a local Army recruiting office may include a new set of gymnastic tests to help determine what military jobs a recruit is physically capable of performing.
Potential soldiers will be asked to run, jump, lift a weight and throw a heavy ball in order to help the Army decide if the recruit can handle a job with high physical demands, or if they should be directed to an alternative assignment, one that’s less strenuous.
The development of the new tests was the result of the Pentagon opening all combat posts to women, which means setting physical standards for every job that both men and women will have to meet.
As part of the effort, the Army plans to increase the number of female recruiters to better target women. The goal is to add 1% each year for the next three years in order to get at least one woman at each of the Army’s more than 780 larger recruiting centers across the country.
Right now, only about 750 of the 8,800 Army and Army Reserve recruiters are women.
As women move into combat roles, Army commanders want to have women in leadership positions across the force to serve as mentors. In particular, Army leaders want more women as platoon and drill sergeants as recruits go through basic and advanced training.
Last December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the military services to allow women to compete for all combat jobs. But he and other military leaders have been adamant that the physical standards for the jobs will not be lowered in order to allow more women to qualify.
Brig. Gen. Donna Martin, deputy commander of Army Recruiting Command, said that despite the added recruiting efforts, there may not be a flood of women rushing to compete for combat jobs. But she said the Army may see an eventual increase in women enlistments as they note the array of options.
“I think it’s all about awareness—about a choice,” Martin said. “It’s not forcing any women to go into combat arms. It’s about making them aware that this is a choice.
“It’s the whole question of can you have it all,” said Martin, who has been in the Army for 29 years, has been married for 21 years, and has a 19-year-old son. “You can have as much as you want.”
The new physical tests are meant to evaluate all recruits—men and women—in order to judge their core strength and endurance. Recruits still will have to take routine physical evaluations and aptitude tests.
It is estimated to cost roughly $3 million to get all the testing equipment to the Army’s 1,300 recruiting locations.