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Defense Technical 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 said.

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, said Ki.

"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 quitting.

"I was more worried they were going to kick me out, but instead they took the time to help me realize my weaknesses," she said.

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 Center/Soldiers Magazine


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