Information Center, Soldiers Magazine
"Not for Men Only"
February, 1998, by SSG Alan Moore
There are only about 100 divers in the Army, but when
it comes to female divers there is only one, 2nd Lt. So
Yon Ki, a 23-year-old West Point graduate. There have
been a few female enlisted Army divers, but Ki is the
Army's first female engineer diving officer.
Several times in the past 20 years the diving career field
has been open and closed to females. Few have applied,
even fewer have become divers, said Capt. Dan Menendez,
Army liaison officer at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training
Center in Panama City, Fla.
Regardless of sex or age all divers must be physically
able to do the same job. As a result, one fitness standard
exists across the board. These strict standards have deterred
many females from applying for diver training, Menendez
|Figuring out why
there aren't many female divers is a matter of math, he
said. "Of all the females in the Army, how many can pass
the diver PT test? Of those, how many are engineers? Of
those, how many want to be divers? Naturally, the numbers
dwindle," Menendez said.
When you think about it, the standard is not unrealistic,
"Dive equipment is heavy," she said. "If you're not physically
capable of handling it, you're a hazard and not a help."
A life in the water is nothing new for Ki, who was born
in Korea and raised in California. She was a competitive
swimmer for 18 years. In fact, Ki's military career started
with a recruiting letter from West Point urging her to
join the school's swim team.
"I've always been interested in diving," she said. "But
until I attended the engineer officer basic course at
Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., I never knew the Army had divers."
Dive school was tough for Ki, but she said she never considered
"I was more worried they were going to kick me out, but
instead they took the time to help me realize my weaknesses,"
SSgt. Mike Hanners, an instructor at the dive school,
said Ki was given no breaks or special treatment.
"She made it through because she made it through," he
said. "That's the only reason."
So is Army diving open to enlisted females?
"You bet," said Menendez. "We don't recruit specifically
male or female. We need people who can perform."
© Reprinted with permission from Defense Technical Information