Controversy over Combat
Sarah McQueen

With the media buzzing about women being allowed in combat, there has been much talk about whether women will be able to handle the job or even pass the physical fitness tests currently required.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is lifting the ban and opening up new opportunities for women in the military. Women have been prohibited from serving in any combat arms position, including all Infantry and Special Warfare roles. Although women have not been officially allowed to serve in any of these roles, they have been heading overseas to war zones, where being part of the fray is quite possible for males and females alike.

For example, women were barred from going through training to become an Army Ranger. Army Rangers are an elite light infantry unit, which is a direct combat force.

Rangers must be able to complete 49 push-ups in two minutes, 59 sit-ups in two minutes, six pull-ups, a two-mile run in 13 minutes, a five-mile run in under 40 minutes, a 16-mile hike with a 65-pound pack in 5 hours and 20 minutes, and a 15-meter swim with their gear.

And those are the bare minimum scores needed to pass. The recommended scores are 80 push-ups and sit-ups, 12 pull-ups and completing the runs and hike in less time. These charts can be found at army-special-operations/army-ranger-pft.

Tabitha Starjnski, who served in the Army Reserves and did two tours in Kuwait and Qatar, believes that women are more than physically and mentally capable of meeting these demands.

“There are stats that say we are not as strong, we’re not as fast, but then there’s the few that totally debunk that. It’s all on an individual basis. It really is. You can’t mass lump all women,” Starjnski said.

Starjnski said she thinks allowing women in combat could be beneficial, but it should be on a volunteer basis.

“It’s all based on the individual,” Starjnski said. “We have our physical training tests. We have all these different tests we have to take, mentally and physically. I think that would probably be the best way to determine whether or not they really can do this. I wanted to be a sniper growing up. Obviously, that changed. I never really looked into it, but I loved shooting. I just assumed it was out of my reach.”

The military does have varying standards for physical requirements based on age and sex. For example, a male under the age of 30 in the Air Force would have to complete a minimum of 33 push-ups in under a minute, while a woman must be able to do 18 push-ups in under a minute. The requirements vary for sit-ups and run times as well. As both males and females age, the requirements decrease.

The question everyone seems to be asking is, “Will women be able to live up to the current requirements without having the standard lowered for them?” Starjnski believes some will, stating that she has known women who have passed those PT tests.