Friday, May 7, 2021

APFT Exception and Ponytail Authorization

Army Team,


I wanted to update you on two key directives recently signed by the Acting Secretary of the Army:

1.     Allow all SPC/CPLs the choice to voluntarily take an APFT to qualify for or improve their opportunity for promotion.

2.     Authorization for women to wear ponytails in all uniforms at all times.

First, during our transition to the ACFT, we found that a small cohort of less than 5500 Specialists and Corporals do not have a record fitness test on file, and therefore, are ineligible for promotion consideration to Sergeant. This policy will allow all Specialists and Corporals across the force the choice to voluntarily take the APFT.

This allows Soldiers to continue their career advancement while we transition to the ACFT. Army Directive 2021-14 has the full policy, but in general here are the facts:

  • All E-4s are authorized to take the APFT to qualify for or increase their opportunity for promotion.
  • E-4s who take the APFT and fail will not face adverse administrative action.
  • E-4s without a fitness test of record who choose not to take an APFT will not be penalized; however, they will remain ineligible for promotion consideration and counseled on the effects of not taking the APFT.
  • E-4s who are deployed or on a pregnancy/postpartum profile who do not have an APFT will be temporarily granted a minimum passing APFT score (60 points per event) and are eligible for promotion consideration.


Second, in February we expanded guidance on grooming standards after a DOD-mandated review of our policies. Through feedback from the Force resulting in a clear, consolidated policy recommendation from a group of Soldiers, the Army has reconsidered the wear of ponytails.


The specifics of this policy can be found in ALARACT 040/2021, and here are the key points:

·        Women are authorized to wear ponytails in all uniforms on duty.

·        Hair will be neatly and inconspicuously secured in a singular ponytail, two braids, or a singular braid and will not extend past the bottom of the shoulder blades when standing at the position of attention.

·        Ponytails are not required to be tucked into the Soldier’s uniform, but should not hinder their physical performance or increase their risk to safety.


While both of these policies impact a small subset of our Army, it’s important that we all understand and enforce standards equally. I trust our Leaders to know what right looks like and ensure these changes are administered fairly.

Thanks for all that you do for our Nation and our Army.


-16th SMA


Army Directive on Use of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

Acting Sec Army Directive on Grooming Policy


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