The U.S. Army is considering a new tape test that will help officers measure a soldier’s body fat, according to a new report.
“We want well-balanced soldiers,” Army Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston told Task and Fitness in March. “We didn’t want people to game it so you’d be really strong in one area, but you wouldn’t be well-rounded in fitness overall.”
The previous tape test, which the Army uses to determine body fat content, measured soldiers around their necks, waists and hips. Critics have long called the method outdated and inadequate for gauging fitness, according to military.com.
The new test will only measure around the waist as part of an overall simplification and overhaul in the Army Combat Fitness Test. The previous method, Army Regulation 600-9, gave soldiers standards for their weight based on height, gender and age.
Grinston said one of his primary tasks upon taking his position was to look at how to change the test. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and Army Center for Initial Military Training conducted a study on 2,690 troops and found the tape test failed to accurately measure compliance with body fat standards roughly 35% of the time, Task and Purpose reported. The test also disproportionately affected female soldiers.
An Army major told the outlet he had witnessed troops hitting themselves in the neck to get it to swell and try to make their neck hit the right target for the old test.
“When I initially came in … I heard two questions: ‘What are we doing about [the] Army Combat Fitness Test, followed by ‘what are we doing about body composition?'” Grinston told reporters Wednesday when announcing the new measures.
Grinston visited soldiers at various bases and installations across the country as the part of the test to ensure a proper sample size.
Researchers also found that roughly 10% of soldiers qualify as “overweight,” far below the general population but a troubling figure for the force’s standards.
The study also looked at three different body scanners used regularly in health care and athletics to determine body fat content, but the cost of the scanners, ranging from $15,000 to $100,000, proved too costly and difficult to make accessible to all soldiers at any given time. The same machines showed that most soldiers have more fat than determined through the tape test by as much as 8%.
“I do call it the heartbreaker,” Grinston said of the body scanners. “I thought I was much leaner than I was. And I got on the [scanner], and it broke my heart. So I have a little bit more body fat than I really want.
“We are proposing a way that you can actually get a second opinion before we separate soldiers. I think that giving every chance and benefit of the doubt to soldiers is what we should be doing.”