Army's first female infantry officer says lowering fitness standards for women would put 'mission at risk'
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The woman who became the Army’s first female infantry officer is now speaking out against lowering fitness standards for females in a test that evaluates troops’ combat readiness, arguing that doing so would “not only undermine their credibility, but also place those women, their teammates and the mission at risk.”
The comments from Capt. Kristen Griest, an Army Ranger School graduate, come following reports this month that the U.S. Army is considering revamping the way it scores its new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to account for the biological differences between men and women.
Doing so would stray away from the Army’s original plan for the six-event test to be entirely gender neutral, Military.com reported.
“While it may be difficult for a 120-pound woman to lift or drag 250 pounds, the Army cannot artificially absolve women of that responsibility; it may still exist on the battlefield,” Griest wrote in an essay published Thursday by the Modern War Institute at West Point. “The entire purpose of creating a gender-neutral test was to acknowledge the reality that each job has objective physical standards to which all soldiers should be held, regardless of gender.
Capt. Kristen Griest smiles at the audience gathered during the graduation ceremony of the United States Army’s Ranger School on August 21, 2015 at Fort Benning, Ga. (Getty Images)
(Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
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“The intent was not to ensure that women and men will have an equal likelihood of meeting those standards. Rather, it is incumbent upon women who volunteer for the combat arms profession to ensure they are fully capable and qualified for it,” she continued. “To not require women to meet equal standards in combat arms will not only undermine their credibility, but also place those women, their teammates, and the mission at risk.”
Griest also wrote that “under a gender-based system, women in combat arms have to fight every day to dispel the notion that their presence inherently weakens these previously all-male units.”
“Lower female standards also reinforce the belief that women cannot perform the same job as men, therefore making it difficult for women to earn the trust and confidence of their teammates,” she added.
The ACFT is currently being implemented to replace the older Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which scored troops based on age and gender, Stars and Stripes reported. But its re-evaluation now comes after Congress delayed the ACFT’s rollout over concerns it unfairly disadvantaged female soldiers, the report noted.
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“We are addressing these concerns in coordination with Army senior leaders, Congress, and with those it impacts the most, our American soldiers,” Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training, told Stars and Stripes.
Sgt. Major of the Army Michael Grinston says the review is expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to Military.com. The website reported that all active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers have been ordered to take the ACFT since October 2020, but scores will not count against them until March 2022.
“As the Army’s first female infantry officer, I have long awaited the elimination of a gender-based fitness test,” Griest wrote. “The drastically lower female standards of the old Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) not only jeopardized mission readiness in combat units but also reinforced the false notion that women are categorically incapable of performing the same job as men.
“The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) promised to alleviate these issues by finally assessing women on the same fitness scale as men and setting minimum physical standards based on branch requirements rather than gender,” she added, while also noting that “due to an initial ACFT fail rate of 54 percent among women, activist groups have raised concerns that the test will disadvantage female servicemembers.”
In 2016, Griest — one of two women who graduated from the Army’s Ranger School the year prior — became the first woman named as an infantry officer.
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In August 2015, Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver graduated as Army Rangers, ending its six-decade history as an all-male institution.
Fox News reached out to Griest, the Army’s Center for Initial Military Training and the U.S. Army for further comment.
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