Thoughts on the Army’s new fitness standards

Princess welding a sword.

The Army’s announced that they’re going to be revising the physical training standards so it’ll be one standard for both men and women.  The current standard–probably the same one I had when I was in–had the same elements, but were adjusted for the women.

Or, basically, the original physical training test was developed with the strengths of men in mind.  Most women don’t have the upper body strength to do 42 push-ups.  The Army treated the women like men and just adjusted the standards by gender.

The men hated it.  They always thought the women were getting over.  No one seems to grasp that women have different body types, or that they were treating women as if they were men.

For example, make a fist and hold it up next to the fist of a person of the opposite gender.  Women’s fists are at an angle; men’s are straight.  It makes a difference in how women hold a sword–and they are taught to sword fight like a man (this came from a science fiction con I went to).

I remember going on Battalion runs, which I despised, because the sergeants would gather up all the stragglers at the end and try to embarrass us.  The stragglers were always women.  No one did the math and grasped that the average woman was a whole lot shorter than the average guy.

What I think is going to happen is the Army is going to set the standard to what the guys can do.  Then two things will happen:

  1. The women will get injured trying to keep up with the guys.  I got shin splits trying to march with a 6’4″ guy setting the pace. He had ten inches on me.
  2. The women will fail physical training tests and be kicked out, and the military will lose its diversity.

And I’m not talking diversity of gender…but diversity of experience.  If the only tools you have are a hammer, then everything will look like it can be fixed with a hammer.  The military already has a problem with getting rid of their technical skill.  My brother was an Oracle programmer, and they reclassified his job, merging it with a computer operator.  Then they told him he needed to change his job and get retrained.  He thought that was crazy and got out.  I’ve seen more recent stories on the Army doing this to people will skills they really do need.

The solution?

Woman running

This is just me, but the focus should be on fitness.  It sounds like it is, but it actually is focused on failure or success, and how many points you get.  It’s like being graded in school for how fast you run.

One possible option is a run timed based on your height and age.  That’d take care of the problem of a 5’4″ woman trying to run to a time set for an average man.  But it would also be fairer for the shorter guys.  And it might save on the injuries that send people to sick call, and eventually to the VA.

Also maybe rethink the other two exercises (push-ups and sit-ups).  The women have a lot of trouble with push-ups, and the men tend to have a lot of problems with sit-ups.  Maybe instead of standardized testing for this, a required extra credit exercise that a soldier could pick from a list.  It wouldn’t be scored in the same way, but maybe on how many you did, rather than how many you do based on your age.  More you do, more points.

No one will probably do anything like this though.  I imagine the Army will test the pilot, find out they’re losing all the women, and switch it back.  We’ll see.

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Montage image of all the covers from Remembering Warriors

Men and Women Military Living Together? Shocking!

The Marines Corps has some growing pains with regards to women living with the men in the field.  Any one of the military services are notorious for being slow to change, and this particular change is pretty glacial.

“You’re going to have sex, you’re going to have love, you’re going to have relationships, and it’s going to overly complicate the command structure,” Marine veteran, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, told the Marine Corps Times.

Army was doing what the Marine Corps is fighting at least twenty-five years ago.  When I deployed with my unit to Desert Storm, our platoon stayed together in one tent.  Two women, the rest men (don’t recall how many, but it was not more than eight).  It did not destroy the morale of our platoon, and we did have sex.  It did not complicate anything.  We just put up cloth walls for privacy, which everyone did, because there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy to start with.

Eventually, as we got more women assigned the unit from the inactive reserves, then we split off into two women only tents.  The other woman and I were disappointed; it was much better being with our platoon.

Yes, we did have some issues with soldiers having sex and one who got pregnant–but it wasn’t because they were living in the same tent.  It was because we were there under very stressful circumstances and also because we were there for a long time.  It’s one part of the war experience that military tends to pretty much pretend like it doesn’t exist, then blame the women for being there, as if only one person was responsible not the stressful situation.

The Mad Rush of the Holidays

I ended up dropping off the face of the earth for my novel project for about a week.  With the holiday ramping up, work got really crazy because everyone was trying to get everything done before they went off on leave.  Of course, the culture now seems to be everyone waiting until the last minute, then screaming, “Help!  It’s an emergency!” By then it is, but it’s pretty bad to have to prioritize the emergencies to which is more urgent.

So when I got home, brain wasn’t functioning much (remember Buffy: “Tree pretty.  Fire bad.”). Yeah, it took me a few days to recover, and I’m going to take advantage of the four day holiday.

Word count total: 3600

Total words: 14300


My family has some origins in Thanksgiving, including one that I found out this week.  My great-great…grandfather John Adams (no relation to the president) was on the second ship that arrived at the Plymouth site.  It was funny reading a book that described the men there as “lusty young men.”

One does not think of their grandfather as a “lusty young” man!

He married my grandmother there, then died during an illness that swept through the colony.

The thing I found out this week is that Mayflower was owned by the Vassall family, who is also related to us.  William Vassall came over to the colony on one of the later ships, though he later had a spat over religion and left for Barbados.  His daughter married John’s son, James.

And, while I think the news sat on this story for timing, archaeologists think they discovered the site where the Pilgrims lived.

Military Stuff

The Army is the only service without a museum.  But they’re building one in Virginia.  The ELC (they don’t define it, at least not that I could find) looks interesting: It’ll be virtual training exercises so anyone can get the soldier’s experience.  That’ll be pretty fun.  When I was at Fort Lewis, one of the coolest training exercises was a computer simulation of calling down artillery fire.  We map it out and see the results on the screen.  Since that was a good 25 years ago, these are sure to be much better than that.

Hollywood Military: Turning Down Promotions

Still picking on Star Trek here, though I’ve seen this example on shows like Criminal Minds where a really good promotion is offered to a character and they turn it down to stay with the ship/group/etc.

The Hollywood Version:

In one of the early episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation, Riker is offered command of a ship and turns it down so can stay on the Enterprise.  He is later offered command again and turns it down again, for the same reasons. After the second time, Starfleet warns him he might not have another opportunity.

In a way, it’s kind of a pointless episode because we all know the actor isn’t leaving, so Riker’s going to turn it down.  But they make it kind of noble, like he’s turning down opportunities because he’s doing good where he is.

The Military Version:

The Army—and probably the other services—want you to progress in your career.  So much so that they provide opportunities for going to college, such as a program on Fort Lewis where you could go to school on work time.

In fact, you’re expected to progress.

If you don’t, that’s a big problem.  The Army has a time in service/time in grade thing set up, so if you have too much time and haven’t progressed, they’ll kick you out.  There is no option other than to progress.  You can’t homestead where you are.

We had a first sergeant in charge of our company (first sergeant is like a high up personnel manager).  He liked working with the troops, and being a first sergeant gave him first hand experience with that.  A promotion opportunity opened itself up so that he could be a command sergeant major, which would have put him in a more administrative position.

He didn’t want it.  He wanted to stay where he was.

The battalion’s sergeant major told he had two choices: Take it or retire.

So my first sergeant retired.

Hollywood makes it sound like it’s a noble thing to turn down a promotion, but to the Army it’s more like “What’s wrong with you?”

Mandatory Fun in the Military

We’ve got a summer office party in a few weeks.  Hopefully the weather will be nice.

It’s scheduled for a workday, but attendance is optional.  I know a lot of my coworkers won’t go, preferring to work.  I’ll be attending, for the very reason it’s optional and honestly, no work!

But when I was in the army, a day like that was quite a bit different.  They were called unit organizational days.  Always indoors at someplace like the enlisted club or community center.  Food, music, dancing.  You could bring your spouses.

It was always on Saturday, when we were off. We were REQUIRED to attend.

And, of course, for those, we had to stay there for the entire time, like we were punching a time clock.  Usually they bussed us over, so we really had no choice about how long we stayed.  I’m an introvert, which means I get my energy from solitude and quiet, not from crowds, so it was exhausting to stay that long.

Mandatory fun is not fun.

Military Readings around the Web

Way too many articles I see in the press sensationalize some negative aspect of being a veteran or being in the military.  The worst offense for me is portraying women veterans as victims.  So I always look for articles that are more positive.

Why Women Veterans have Become so Entrepreneurial – from Inc Magazine

V-Wise – This is a program that brings women veterans together at a conference for training on both how to start a business and how to grow one.  I wish I’d seen this last year, since they had one in my area.  I shall have to monitor the site, since I’m not flying across country in January!

A soldier and her Kevlar helmet

When I was in the Army, I wore a helmet that was made of Kelvar.  We called it a Kevlar, rather than a helmet.  Like any piece of a soldier’s uniform, it took on a second life, and there were some tall tales …

Rumors were sometimes passed down the convey lines during Desert Storm.  One of the soldiers was said to come from a convoy, removed his Kevlar and discovered a bullet hole in it.  Doubtful if it was true—if it was hard enough to lodge in the Kevlar, he would have felt the impact.

Another story that circulated—much to the chagrin of the woman soldier who was in my unit—was that she had mixed up her Kevlar with a four star general’s, so she was wearing his.  It was not true.  Trust me, she would have noticed.  Just soldier boredom.

But an interesting fact is that the material used for our Kevlar helmets, and in the flak vests was invented by a woman, Stephanie Kwolek.

Navy discontinues its blueberry uniforms

Uniforms are an important part of life for both soldiers and the military.  For the soldiers, it’s what they wear, every day that they report to duty.  For the military, and especially the higher ups, it’s a way to make their mark on the service, and a very visible one, before they retire.

And usually, it’s not for the better.

Navy Discontinues Navy Working Uniform Type I Uniform

Last week, the Navy announced that they would be discontinuing their blue camouflage uniforms, nicknamed “blueberries.”

Trust soldiers to come up with an insulting nickname.

The uniform popped up when all the services were trying to show they were unique by coming up with their own camouflage (blame the Marines.  They started it).  But if you served on a ship, what good would camouflage do?

Needless to say, the uniform wasn’t much liked.  The Army also changed its uniform not too long ago.

The Army excursion into uniform change: the beret

I was still in the Army when the much hated berets were introduced.  It was a hat that never made sense.  The one we originally wore was like a square off ball cap with a brim.  Perfect for doing details and grubby work.  It wasn’t very expensive, and it could be thrown in the wash when the brim got all sweaty.   Also could be folded up and stuck in a pocket.

But beret?

It was wool and had this leather band around the bottom.  Cost a lot for a hat.  Had to be dry cleaned.  Really?  Let’s see, I went to the field and it rained for the entire week.  Then there was Desert Storm where the sweat didn’t just transfer to the hat; it imprinted.  A fussy beret would not have worked.

Somehow, no one thought about anything beyond what it looked like.

How do military personal get the new uniforms?

The military does not make the soldiers rush out and buy the new uniforms, which would be quite a hardship.  There’s a fairly long period where the old uniforms can wear out and be replaced by the new styles.

An interesting bit of trivia:  Despite being in the military for so many years, I cannot spell camouflage!  I had it three times above, and not one was spelled correctly.  It’s a very confusing word!