Army Chief Rejects 1 Fitness Standard for Men, Women: Says Idea Would Foster Mediocrity

By Scarborough, Rowan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

Army Chief Rejects 1 Fitness Standard for Men, Women: Says Idea Would Foster Mediocrity


Scarborough, Rowan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The chief of staff of the Army told a House panel yesterday he is "absolutely" opposed to enforcing the same physical fitness standards for male and female soldiers.

Questioned about the Army's sexual-harassment problems by the House National Security subcommittee on military personnel, Gen. Dennis Reimer testified that using one standard for all ages and both sexes could "compromise" performance by lowering goals for men.

"My guess is you would go toward a very mediocre standard," Gen. Reimer said. A devoted runner, he said the important point is to extract the same level of effort from every soldier.

His statement brought a sharp response from Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat. Mr. Taylor argued that eliminating the double standard would improve women's self-esteem and prevent the type of sexual abuse suffered by female trainees at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeast Maryland.

Mr. Taylor said both male and female trainees complained to him that basic training is "too easy."

"Why not have one standard? Why not raise the bar a little higher?" he said. "I think the problems at Aberdeen would not have happened."

Army Secretary Togo West said the Army's combat-fitness experts are studying if women can be held to a more rigorous fitness level.

But he added, "I'm not sure today either you or I can make one single standard work."

He said goals are set based on a person's age as well as sex, so it would be difficult to have the same two-mile run time for a 50-year-old and a 19-year-old.

Mr. Taylor said his focus is on young recruits, not senior personnel.

Brig. Gen. Evelyn P. Foote, the vice chairman of the Army's Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment, told the subcommittee female soldiers "don't want to be treated differently because they are women."

The testimony came during a hearing on the report from the panel. Mr. West named the seven-member military group as a response to incidents of drill sergeants and other instructors sexually abusing female trainees at Aberdeen and other training bases. …

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