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Army’s first female infantry officer blasts lower standards for women

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One of the US Army’s first female infantry officers is speaking out against the military’s combat fitness test revisions — warning the changes “undermine their credibility” and place missions and soldiers “at risk” — after changes were made to allow women to pass at a higher frequency.

Speaking in an interview with the Washington Post over the weekend, Capt. Kristen Griest pushed back against accusations of “internalized misogyny” over her stance on the Army Combat Fitness Test, implemented last October.

“I’m here saying, ‘Women can do more than we think.’ I have learned this,” she told the paper. “Your gender is not as much of a limitation as you think it is.”

Greist, 32, said she had avoided speaking to the media since her history-making achievement, but decided to come forward publicly to voice her concern about the changes being made to the original Army Physical Fitness Test.

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Capt. Kristen Griest
Capt. Kristen Griest has said the changes place soldiers at risk.

“This is everything that all of us women in combat arms have been fighting for at least the last five years,” she argued.

The original test required individuals to complete dead lifts, a two-mile run, push-ups, a shuttle run, a medicine ball throw and leg tucks. The newest version replaced leg tucks with a plank.

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A leg tuck requires a person to hang from a bar and pull their knees up near their shoulders.

About 54 percent of women failed the APFT last year, while only 7 percent of men did.

In an effort to bridge that gender gap, the military introduced plans to score men and women separately as they compete for promotions.

Women became eligible to serve in all jobs in the armed forces under President Barack Obama in 2014.

While the move has allowed females to enter new ranks and opened the door for more inclusion, it has not taken away from concerns about the systemic reports of sexual assault and harassment in the military.

Then U.S. Army First Lieutenant Kirsten Griest (center) and fellow soldiers participate in combatives training during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Georgia.
Then-US Army 1st Lt. Kirsten Griest (center) and fellow soldiers participate in combatives training during the Ranger Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
REUTERS

Greist initially slammed the changes in an op-ed for the Modern War Institute, which is operated by the US Military Academy, in late February.

Spc. Michelle Green, combat medic, Medical Command, South Carolina Army National Guard, crawls out of an obstacle during the South Carolina Army National Guard Best Warrior competition at the Fit to Win obstacle course, Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Spc. Michelle Green, combat medic, Medical Command, South Carolina Army National Guard, crawls out of an obstacle during the South Carolina Army National Guard Best Warrior competition at the Fit to Win obstacle course, Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
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“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,” she wrote at the time.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Hannah Whitney, a platoon leader assigned to Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division runs during the Army physical fitness test event for the expert soldier badge at Honor Field, Fort Polk, Louisiana.
US Army 1st Lt. Hannah Whitney, a platoon leader assigned to Alpha Troop, 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, runs during the Army physical fitness test event for the expert soldier badge at Honor Field, Fort Polk, Louisiana.
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division

“Critics might suggest this opinion makes me uncaring about equity or unsympathetic to women, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, it is because I have failed almost every first attempt at a military task — from applying to West Point to graduating Ranger School — that I know first contact with failure is not a cause for concern.”

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