- The Washington Times
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Lowering fitness standards for women would jeopardize readiness in combat units and do nothing to dispel the notion that they can’t perform to the level of male soldiers, said the first woman to become an infantry officer in the Army.

In an essay posted Thursday for West Point’s Modern War Institute, Capt. Kristen Griest said the Army shouldn’t go back to the old system where men and women were graded differently on PT tests. 

“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,” said Capt. Griest, one of the first three women in the Army to graduate from the Army‘s grueling Ranger School course in 2015.

But the ACFT has become a hot button issue after high failure rates from women were recorded during early testing. Some critics have been saying that a gender-neutral physical fitness standard isn’t fair to women in the Army. The debate prompted lawmakers in Washington to tell the Army not to implement AFCT until they can prove it won’t negatively impact recruiting and retention of women.

Capt. Griest acknowledged that she failed her first attempt to take the ACFT but continued training for several weeks and passed. She said an initial high failure rate during the test’s implementation period should not be a cause for concern on the part of women in the Army.

“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,” she wrote.

As a former infantry company commander, Capt. Griest said allowing gender-based fitness standards would degrade a unit’s ability to fight as ill-prepared soldiers succumb to fatigue and injury during operations.

“Missions will be delayed and other soldiers will be overburdened with the weight of their unfit teammates’ equipment,” she said. “This scenario is inconvenient and bad for morale during a training exercise; in combat it could be deadly.”

What’s more, holding women in the Army to lower standards reinforces the notion that they aren’t able to carry their weight on the battlefield, she said.

“It is incumbent upon women who volunteer for the combat arms professions to ensure they are fully capable and qualified for it,” Capt. Griest said. “To not require women to meet equal standards in combat arms will not only undermine their credibility but also places those women, their teammates and the mission at risk.”

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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