First female infantry officer speaks out against lowering fitness standards for women in combat

The U.S. Military Academy held its annual Founders Day dinner March 16, 2021 in the Cadet Mess Hall. West Point Association of Graduates President and CEO Todd Browne, USMA Class of 1985, gave the Founders Day welcome and opening remarks, while the guest speaker of the evening was Capt. Kristen Griest, USMA Class of 2011. Photo by Tarnish Pride

The United States Army’s first female infantry officer has spoken up about the dangers of lowering fitness standards to accommodate women in combat roles for the sake of political correctness- particularly if they aren’t physically up for the task.

Kristen Marie Griest, who earned her Ranger tab in 2015 before being assigned to lead an infantry company, has been avoiding media spotlight for some time.

However, as women continue to fail the Army’s new gender-neutral PT test in shockingly large numbers, the former Soldier felt the need to speak her mind.

“As the Army’s first female infantry officer, I have long awaited the elimination of a gender-based fitness test,” she wrote in the Modern War Institute journal. “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.”

However, the ACFT has proven to be a challenge for women, who still disproportionately fail the test -particularly when involving upper body strength- in alarming numbers.

This, according to Griest, cannot be remedied by simply not playing the game.

“Due to an initial ACFT fail rate of 54 percent among women, activist groups have raised concerns that the test will disadvantage female servicemembers,” Griest wrote. “As such, lawmakers directed the Army to halt implementation of the ACFT until the service can prove it will not negatively impact the recruitment and retention of Soldiers in critical support jobs, particularly those with large female populations. To address this concern, the Army is considering reverting to gender-based fitness scoring for promotion and reducing the minimum standards for combat arms. Based on my experience, I feel compelled to share how this potential reversal in policy will negatively impact both combat arms branches and the women who serve in them.”

Griest argues that reverting to gender-based scoring would not only reduce performance of combat arms units, but also impact morale.

“Without a separate, minimum standard for combat arms, the requirements to join the nation’s combat forces could soon be as low as performing ten push-ups in two minutes, running two miles in twenty-one minutes, deadlifting 140 pounds three times, and performing only one repetition of a leg tuck or, failing that, two minutes of a plank exercise,” she wrote.

Proponents of this ACFT standard will undoubtedly claim that it is an appropriate predictor of success for combat arms Soldiers; as a recent infantry company commander, I can promise you it is not. While these low standards may have seemed adequate in a controlled study, I know from experience that they will not suffice in reality.”

Griest argued that not only will lowering the standards put combat troops at risk and hamstring crucial battle tempos, but it will also make things harder for women- who in many cases only recently broke into the combat arms branches.

“It is wholly unethical to allow the standards of the nation’s premiere fighting units to degrade so badly, just to accommodate the lowest-performing soldiers,” she wrote. “Reverting to gender-based scoring and reducing the minimum standard for combat arms will also hurt the women in those branches. 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.”

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