The Army is using these vitamins and supplements to boost female soldiers' performance
As the military services moved to admit women into previously closed special operations and ground combat jobs in 2016, Army officials were tasked with looking for ways to get the best performance out of female troops in order to minimize injury and boost their opportunities to succeed.
And they discovered one unlikely culprit that was holding some women back: chronic iron deficiency.
While it’s well known that women tend to be more iron-deficient than men for various reasons, the scope of the problem, and its impact on overall performance, was eyebrow-raising.
About a quarter of the women who enter the Army training pipeline have an iron deficiency, said Scott McConnell, who discussed Army Training and Doctrine Command’s efforts to improve training at the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services on Wednesday. After several weeks of training, that figure can double, he said.
“That impacts your body’s ability to carry oxygen to the vital organs. And so iron deficiency can actually be reflected in poor aerobic fitness levels and physical performance,” McConnell said.
In February 2016, the Army announced it would begin providing iron-rich multivitamins to female soldiers. And, McConnell said, the move has made a difference.
“The statistic we have is that the iron supplements can actually shave two minutes off the two-mile run time,” he said.
As services address the challenge of preparing female troops to meet stringent physical standards designed for men, they’re gaining new insights about the way nutrition affects performance – insights that have the potential to benefit the total force.
Since the services began opening previously closed jobs last year in response to a mandate from then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, it has become clear that it’s completely possible for women to meet minimum infantry requirements.
To date, 14 female Army officers, 16 noncommissioned officers, and 21 junior enlisted soldiers have been assigned to infantry positions in the active component and Reserve, according to Army data presented Wednesday.
On the Marine Corps side, nine officers and 63 enlisted women have graduated military occupational specialty school for previously closed fields, including one in the rifleman MOS.
At the same time, it’s evident that women face greater physical hurdles just because they’re built differently than men and have different average capability ranges.
And that’s where tools such as nutrition, supplements and smart training can help.
While the Corps has not announced a specific new supplement regimen, the service is working to overhaul its entire approach to fitness and health with the new Force Fitness Division activated this year. Part of what the division will do, officials have said, is review meal options in chow halls with an eye to making offerings healthier and more conducive to peak performance.
Brian McGuire, the Corps’ deputy force fitness branch head, told DACOWITS members Wednesday that the service is also looking to offer “post-exercise nutritional supplementation” to boost Marines’ performance and recovery. Officials are also setting up some young officers at The Basic School with wearable devices that measure biometrics and performance and may serve as a warning measure against heat sickness and other injuries.
And while standards to enter various ground combat jobs are the same whether you’re male or female, the Marine Corps is making some changes to the way it trains in order to avoid injury while maximizing performance.
“We have reduced running mileage,” McGuire said. “Because lather, rinse, repeat shows us that shorter, harder, faster has equal or greater benefit than longer, slower, less intense.”
On the Army side, McConnell said other aids, such as the calcium-rich performance nutrition bar introduced as a bedtime supplement for recruits earlier this year, are also proving useful.
“We have found that when soldiers have food in their stomach, they are actually less susceptible to heat injuries,” he said. “That’s actually one of the other aspects of this nutrition bar, and who would have thought, in the 21st century, that we’re kicking over that rock and understanding something that we did not understand.”
- Veterans Can Now Apply for VA Identification Cards
- CORRECTED: Tricare Says No Increase for Most Pregnancy Costs in 2018
- Thunderbirds Commander Fired for 'Loss of Confidence'
- US Army to Field New Sidearm Down to Team Leader Level
- Army Reserve Officer Gets 4 Years for Defrauding Government
How African nations boosted a strong anti-terror force to fight jihadis
African nations have decided to battle against the spread of Islamic extremism in Africa. France, along with several European countries, supports them.
Watch the trailer for Clint Eastwood's new Spencer Stone movie
In Clint Eastwood's new movie, "The 15:17 to Paris", he made the boldly cast the three American heroes as themselves. We Are the Mighty has the trailer.
Why the US is suddenly willing to talk to North Korea
The U.S. said it has a direct line of communication with North Korea; coincidentally a day after Dennis Rodman said he wanted to intervene on their behalf.
10 reasons all troops should have a pet
Two of the greatest things ever are pets and our troops coming home. Nothing will pull at your heartstrings like when the two are combined.
12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag yesterday
There are a lot of disasters happening these days. Our resident operator says you need these bare essentials in case of a fast, unplanned evacuation.
These are the insane dangers of being a combat engineer
Once a combat engineer locates an improvised explosive device, the danger's just begun. These guys are tough as nails as they face danger on each patrol.
Yes, the Army has fixed-wing aircraft and it flew this tank for 30 years
This obscure United States Army transport could bring 30 troops or three pallets of cargo to a location where a C-130 Hercules was unable to land.
5 life lessons today's troops could learn from Vietnam vets
The truth is, that old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn't all that different from the men and women fighting today.