Woman who failed a front­line in­fantry f it­ness test is given a ‘pass’ by the Army ...un­til fu­ri­ous male sol­diers who HAD com­pleted course staged a re­bel­lion

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Mark Ni­col

A FE­MALE soldier was al­lowed to con­tinue on an Army se­lec­tion course even though she failed a vi­tal fit­ness test – trig­ger­ing a re­bel­lion among male troops who had passed.

Cor­po­ral Daisy Dougherty was hop­ing to be­come one of the Army’s first fe­male in­fantry in­struc­tors fol­low­ing the land­mark de­ci­sion last year to let women join com­bat units and Spe­cial Forces.

The first stage in the se­lec­tion process re­quired her to prove her fit­ness by com­plet­ing an eight­mile march in un­der two hours over ar­du­ous ter­rain while car­ry­ing a heavy pack and a ri­fle.

De­spite be­ing a qual­i­fied per­sonal fit­ness trainer and a mem­ber of the Army’s ath­let­ics squad, the 29-year-old took too long to fin­ish the chal­lenge. Un­der course rules, she should have been im­me­di­ately ejected and sent back to her unit.

But Cpl Dougherty – the only woman on the course – and 14 oth­ers who also failed were told they could carry on, spark­ing a fu­ri­ous back­lash among the 75 sol­diers who passed the test.

The sol­diers rounded on com­man­ders at the In­fantry Bat­tle School in Bre­con, Mid-Wales, ac­cus­ing them of low­er­ing stan­dards to suit women. When top brass re­fused to back down, troops con­tacted The Mail on Sun­day to ex­pose what they claimed was ‘pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion’.

Fear­ing a pub­lic back­lash if they al­lowed her re­sult to stand, com­man­ders backed down and asked Cpl Dougherty and the other sol­diers who failed the march to leave.

Last night, a soldier on the course said: ‘The blokes were livid be­cause it is writ­ten in black and white in the course hand­book that if you fail the march, you’re pulled off the PSBC [Pla­toon Sergeants’ Bat­tle Course] im­me­di­ately. There is no re­view.

‘Com­man­ders wanted to get Cpl Dougherty through the course, al­most at any cost, even if she wasn’t fit enough and even if that meant le­niency be­ing shown to weaker male sol­diers who also failed the march. We couldn’t believe they were still on the base and at­tend­ing classes. It took a re­volt among the troops and some peo­ple go­ing to the Press to get this stopped.’

When De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson an­nounced last year that women could join in­fantry reg­i­ments, of­fi­cials in­sisted stan­dards would not be re­laxed and said fe­male can­di­dates would have to be as fit as male sol­diers.

For­mer SAS com­man­der Tim Collins said that the Army faced a stark choice: ‘We can ei­ther aban­don our abil­ity to com­plete gru­elling mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in or­der to fall into line with po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness or ac­cept that there are some things fe­males can­not do bi­o­log­i­cally.

‘If stan­dards are mod­i­fied to ac­com­mo­date women, this will be ut­terly mis­guided.’

Cpl Dougherty, from Bul­ford, Wilt­shire, has now re­turned to her unit in the Royal Army Phys­i­cal Train­ing Corps. It was un­clear last night whether she in­tends to tackle the PSBC course again.

To date, only one woman has passed the seven-week course, which in­cludes ar­du­ous field ex­er­cises, mil­i­tary tac­tics and weapons skills.

Of­fi­cial MoD sources ad­mit­ted last night there had been ‘up­roar’ on the course fol­low­ing the march and that it had taken more than a day for a de­ci­sion to be taken on the fate of the 15 sol­diers, in­clud­ing Cpl Dougherty. They added that she had been taken off the course fol­low­ing a ‘re­view’ of her re­sult.

Last night, Colonel Pe­ter Stitt, Com­man­dant of the School of In­fantry, said: ‘In­fantry cour­ses are some of the most de­mand­ing in the Army and not ev­ery­one is ready to un­der­take them at their first at­tempt.

‘Those not mak­ing the ini­tial stan­dard will re­ceive feed­back on their per­for­mance and have the op­por­tu­nity to at­tempt the course again later on in their ca­reer.’

TOUGH GO­ING: Army fit­ness in­struc­tor Daisy Dougherty pic­tured dur­ing a cross-coun­try run

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