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Posted on Jul 5, 2018 Print this Article

Is the Army Running in a New, Non-PC Direction?

After a decade of pressure to accommodate social agendas, the Army has taken steps to restore sound priorities.  According to recent news reports, the Army has decided to drop unnecessary transgender training, in order to spend more time on combat skills training. 

The move advances priorities set by President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis: mission readiness and combat lethality.  Renewed emphasis and extended time for ground combat training will help to achieve that goal, especially since the Army has not been able to establish a true gender-neutral evaluation system for training for combat arms units such as the infantry.

According to Army Times, the recently-introduced gender-neutral qualification test called OPAT (Occupational Physical Assessment Test) is reducing injury rates among basic trainees and increasing graduation rates:

The OPAT has four events that are considered relatively easy: A standing long jump (160 centimeters), a seated power throw (450 centimeters), a strength deadlift (160 pounds), and a 43-shuttle interval run.  Successful passage essentially means that the recruit is capable of being trained.  Gender differences are apparent, however.

Army Times also reported that in the gender-neutral OPAT, “Between 58 percent and 62 percent of women, regardless of their OPAT category, are injured in basic training.  On the other hand, [only] 25 percent of men are injured.”

Problems with gender-neutrality have also shown up in more advanced training for combat arms units such as the infantry.  The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) remains gender-normed, awarding higher scores to women than are given to men performing at the same level.

In an email to CMR last Fall, a former infantry battalion commander has described how gender equality myths are not consistent with reality:

“When this [women in ground combat] initiative began, the policy-makers said that physical standards would be preserved.  The Army initially said it was going to have a physical test for every MOS.  If a female soldier wanted to be in the infantry, she would have to pass the infantry-specific physical test, which was supposed to be based on what an infantryman had to do.  Males were going to have to take this test as well.

“But I’ve heard there were problems developing this test.  No one could agree on what it should entail, so they never made one.  So, the Army did not wait for a test to integrate women into combat arms – they just integrated them with no test.  This means that, right now, a female in infantry or armor only has to pass the female version of the fitness test twice per year.  Males, on the other hand, have to pass the much harder male test. This is a big problem.”

The battalion commander described the experience of a female soldier who was very fit and scored well on the female fitness test but was unable to lift a stretcher with a male soldier on it.  Whenever this happened, he wrote, she had to call on a male soldier to do the work.

“She was otherwise a great medic and could have fulfilled all her duties away from the front lines.  She likely would have preferred that too – but she was randomly assigned forward because there’s nothing stopping it.  There is no test to ensure that she has the requisite physical strength for that MOS.

“As you know, you can’t bring this up in the Army or you’ll be accused of being anti-woman.  I just want policy-makers to understand that the guarantee that standards would not change was totally false.  Perhaps someone could save the Army from hurting itself because of its fear of being called anti-woman.”

More Time for Training Should be Better Spent

The Army also is increasing the time devoted to training infantry soldiers from 14 weeks to 22 weeks:

These renewed efforts to strengthen combat training could be a sign that officials have decided to restore sound priorities.  A retired Army colonel who remains current on Army training philosophy wrote to CMR in a recent email:

“For sure, the Secretary of the Army’s personal involvement (which isn't needed) in eliminating non-essential training is a positive development.  Good unit commanders should have reduced it all along.  Leaders didn't do it on their own because they were concerned of the penalty for not meeting social proprieties of the previous administration . . . Good start, but a long way to go but they must change the attitude of soldiering and soldiering must be first.  [Additional time] should not be spent on superfluous tasks that do nothing for combat readiness.”

A retired Marine general officer added,

“The importance of this on the psyche of the Army cannot be overstated.  Junior and mid-grade officers, as well as NCOs, who would otherwise survey their challenging tempo, strain on families, substandard pay and ‘vote with their feet,’ may now reconsider.  Senior officers who drank the Kool-Aid may now also reconsider, and the quiescent majority may suddenly find a voice.  Further, the ethos may find its way into promotion boards and the assignment process.  Of course, this depends on strong follow through, and all are watching for evidence of teeth to the policy.” 

The Army seems to be turning a corner, but there is reason for concern about strained resources, including the need for more non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to conduct additional training. 

In addition, many observers expect the Army to proceed according to the PC playbook – meaning, gender doesn’t matter.  But it will.

It is likely that injuries will increase in longer (22 week) infantry training programs, especially among women.  It would be better to address that problem in training rather than on the battlefield, but the Army will have to monitor the situation closely and be completely candid about factors such as recruiting trends and attrition as well as injury rates.

Equivocation and dissembling would be unfair to men, who might receive less demanding training, and unfair to women, who could be set up for failure and receive undeserved blame.  One change the Army can make at no cost is to drop pressures for “gender diversity metrics,” another name for quotas.

Gender diversity quotas of 10 to 25 percent in each of the services cannot be met without adjusting standards down, while denying that anything has changed.  For the sake of national security as well as the future of the Army, officials should keep running in the right direction.

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The Center for Military Readiness is an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) public policy organization, founded in 1993, which reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is available on the CMR website, www.cmrlink.org

To support CMR with a tax-deductible contribution, click here.  You can also support CMR by visiting, liking, and sharing the CMR Facebook page or following CMR on Twitter: @militaryready.

Posted on Jul 5, 2018 Print this Article