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Letters to the editor: Weight standards and equality

May. 29, 2013 - 06:36PM   |  
(GovMedia)
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WEIGHT STANDARDS SLIP

I just read the article on body fat measurement discrepancies [“D at best,” May 20]. I’m appalled at the thought of people having inaccurate body fat determination. Unfortunately, the tape test was directed by the Defense Department. In many cases, the standard is not enforced anyway.

I served as the weight control noncommissioned officer for a Reserve unit in San Antonio. At the time, the command was still new and not fully staffed. We had about 120 personnel at the time. I was assigned to the unit before its activation in 2008. When I looked through the packets, I saw that many of the people had been on the weight control program since 2007. Some had been on it longer. I used a log sheet to track progress or lack thereof. I made sure that the supervisors of these people were counseling their troops and turning in copies for the weight control packet. I maintained this until December 2011, when I was reassigned.

Between 2009 and 2011, I repeatedly submitted the names of the personnel who were not showing progress. These people — despite being flagged in the personnel system for height, weight and physical training failure — were never processed for discharge. One soldier, I found out later, was discharged a year after I left the unit because he was barred from re-enlisting. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and 317 pounds. He was on the program the whole time I ran it.

I retired this year, and I had occasion to visit my old unit, two years after I left. There are soldiers still there who were on the weight control program, and they have shown no signs of improvement. One has been on the weight control program for five years and is a consistent Army Physical Fitness Test failure. This is unacceptable, and it needs to be fixed. A new system would be nice, but the standards, inaccurate or not, are the standards, and they must be enforced.

Master Sgt. Douglas R. Tolliver (ret.)

Converse, Texas

GENDER EQUITY

I was dismayed to see the Military Times’ editorial [“Wrong fight, wrong time,” May 13] dismissing the MARCH for Military Women Act as “a solution in search of a problem” and “a political football.” This is a misleading, unfair characterization that contributes to and is a part of a military culture in great need of close examination.

My long history of work protecting members of our military speaks for itself, from my successful fight to recall 16,000 pieces of faulty body armor from Iraq that left our soldiers vulnerable to injury and death, to my advocacy in preventing sexual assault in the ranks, most notably the provisions of my Force Readiness Protection Act which became law in 2012, giving women in the military who are sexually assaulted access to a proper support network and the right to an expedited base transfer.

The MARCH for Military Women Act of 2013 would simply extend to women in the military the same rights civilian women have when it comes to their reproductive health.

When women tasked with defending our Constitution are having their constitutional rights restricted, that is a problem in search of a solution, not the other way around.

Just last year, women in the military were granted the right to insurance coverage for an abortion in the case of rape or incest, thanks to provisions drawn from a previous version of this legislation. It is unfathomable that it took until 2012 to treat our servicewomen in these circumstances fairly.

The MARCH for Military Women Act of 2013 will be an important step toward treating our servicewomen equitably by allowing them fair access to their constitutionally protected choice to use their own financial resources in seeking reproductive health care.

I refuse to apologize for fighting for the equal and fair treatment of the women and men who so honorably serve our nation.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y.

Washington, D.C.

THE ABUSE OF POWER

Sexual abuse in the military is all about the abuse of power. How many assault cases are perpetrated by lower-ranking on higher-ranking members? Any? If these were crimes of passion, rank would be arbitrary. These crimes involve the premeditated methodical use of the power that higher-ranking members have over lower-ranking members.

The nearly complete absence of checks and balances of power needs to change. Training will change nothing until fundamental structural changes are implemented. Taking the power of prosecution out of the hands of perpetrators, the immediate superiors of the abused, would be a start. Retribution is easy when the truth value of a statement is taken to be a function of rank. Lower-ranking service members are not believed when contradicted by higher-ranking service members.

Service members assault themselves and each other at a rate higher than the enemy assaults them. Suicide takes more lives than the enemy. This is what happens when a military is overused, as ours has been. It is time for Congress to step up its oversight role and halt all forms of abuse.

Former Cpl. Robert Eckert

Fort Wainwright, Alaska

PRAYER AND THE ARMY

I am a German immigrant who assimilated into American culture and proudly served in the Army and National Guard for 27 years. I am almost glad that I’m nearing the end of my career. Uncle Sam is trying to ban public prayers in formation and remove anything that has to do with Christianity. Like the serial numbers on the rifle scopes. Every soldier I know says a prayer before he goes into battle. There is nothing wrong with making peace with our maker and trying to get a last blessing in case you don’t make it back. No one in my unit complains when our chaplain gives a benediction at drill weekend. As I have to bite my tongue about gays in the military, anti-Christians who are offended can bite theirs. It is OK to come out and say you’re gay, but not to pray in public. Not in the Army that I loved.

Sgt. 1st Class Peter Bronndus

Louisville, Ky.

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