Men are too rough to train with, Army tells women
The Daily Mail (UK) ^ | November 6, 2005 | Andrew Wilks
The Army is abandoning mixed-sex training units because too many female recruits are getting injured trying to keep up with their male counterparts.
From next April, women will be placed in their own platoons and although the training regime will remain the same, it will be conducted at a pace 'sustainable and commensurate with their physical profile'.
Army chiefs hope the changes will greatly reduce drop-out rates among women after research showed female recruits are up to nine times more likely than men to be discharged through a training-related injury.
Dr James Bilzon, the Army Training and Recruitment Agency's senior scientific adviser, found that women are getting hurt as they try to match men in arduous drills and marches wearing full combat gear.
His research showed that, in general, women are less able to cope with the sudden introduction to the exhausting exercise regime demanded by the Army.
The most common complaints are stress fractures to the shin and thigh bones, and pelvic injuries caused by attempting to keep up with the longer stride patterns of men.
'Men are stronger and more robust and it's silly to pretend otherwise'
Dr Bilzon said: "There is a high incidence of training-induced overuse injuries and associated medical discharges among trainees with lower levels of aerobic fitness, particularly females."
He added: "Female recruits are three-to-four times more likely than males to be medically discharged with a training injury, a figure which may be as high as nine times in some training units."
The changes will end a decade of mixed platoons and are a rebuff to modernisers who insisted women soldiers should be treated equally.
Confirming the move away from mixed-sex training, Colonel David Eccles, Chief of Staff at the Army Training and Recruitment Agency, said: "From spring 2006 all initial training for the British Army will be organised along the lines of single-sex platoons at the Army Training Regiment at Pirbright."
Colonel Bob Stewart, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his service in Bosnia in the early Nineties, said it was "hardly surprising" the Army could not train men and women together.
"Men are stronger and more robust and it's silly to pretend otherwise. It seems that at last the Army has woken up to the fact that women are different - something blatantly obvious to anyone," he added.
The Adult Learning Inspectorate, which assesses training standards for youngsters, had urged a rethink of the Army's 'gender-free' policy.
It found that shin bone fractures in women had risen from 12.6 per 10,000 personnel to 231.2 since the introduction of mixed-sex training, while all injuries among women rose from 467 to 1,113 per 10,000. Women currently serve alongside men in all aspects of Army life apart from infantry and tank units and last year 815 women enlisted.