Skip to comments.51-year-old mom holds her own during Basic Combat Training
Posted on 02/18/2012 8:23:24 AM PST by darrellmaurina
At 9 oclock this morning, Sgt. Sandra Coast will graduate from Basic Combat Training on Fort Leonard Wood, officially beginning her Army career at 51 years old.
According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, the average age for an Army Reserve recruit is about 23, making Coast one of the oldest people to go through Basic Combat Training.
Everybody in the world thinks I am a total nutcase, Coast said. I just want to support our troops. I love all of them.
From 1982 to 1993, Coast devoted her life to the U.S. Navy. She gave up her lifestyle as a Sailor to raise her son, Jeff, who ironically led her back to the military she left behind years ago.
When Jeff graduated high school, he joined the Marine Corps. When I was at the recruiters office with my son, I walked into the Army recruiting office and said I want to join, Coast said.
For as long as she can remember she has had a special place in her heart for troops and a hunger to serve.
I have a friend in the Navy that was emailing me from Afghanistan. Its his third combat tour in seven years. I dont know, I cant explain it, I just had this overwhelming desire to give back to the military somehow. I was doing the same job day after day after day; I cant live my life that way, Coast said. There is more to life than this, so I ended up in basic training.
She was stunned to learn that as a paralegal specialist she would have to go back to basic training this time, Army-style.
I wasnt quite expecting to be running around with a M16 and all of this gear, Coast said. This is nothing even remotely similar to being a Sailor. I was blown away by the total difference of it. We carried M16s during Navy Boot Camp, but we never shot them. Here we are shooting several times a week. Shooting this weapon with all of the gear on takes a toll on me.
Coast started preparing for Basic Combat Training months prior to stepping foot on Fort Leonard Wood.
Before the recruiters would even talk to me I had to lose 30 pounds. I went from sitting at home every night eating ice cream to exercising and watching what I ate. I also started getting up at 4 oclock in the morning to exercise and tried to go to bed early at night. I knew I needed every advantage I could have to get through this, Coast said.
Her 10-week journey from civilian to Soldier was spent in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade. Her first sergeant said when he first heard he had a 51-year-old headed his way he was perplexed, Wow, thats strange, he said. Now, 1st Sgt. John Byars has a new perception of his elders.
I was impressed because she can do everything the younger Soldiers do, Byars said. She never expected us to feel sorry for her. She even got one of the highest Army Physical Fitness Test scores in the company. She is a prime example that age is just a number. She ran faster than Soldiers young enough to be her kids.
Coast even amazed herself when she came in second place during the PT test.
I am still kind of blown away by that. I even ran faster than all but one female, Coast said.
The APFT may have been a breeze for Coast, but she said one of the hardest things for her to adjust to was the divide in life stages between her and her fellow roommates.
Everything about basic training is pretty tough, but living with more than 30 teenage females is one of the hardest things, Coast said.
Despite the age gap, 1st Sgt. Byars said Coast was treated just like every other Soldier-in-training.
We dont treat her any different, and we dont see the privates treat her any different, Byars said.
Coast agreed. They treat me as an equal. The males especially have the utmost respect. They will do little things that they probably arent suppose to do, like give me their seat on the bus and hold the doors for me. Its the little things that mean so much, she said.
Although, Coast recalls an instance during hand-to-hand combat training that was particularly tough for one of her battle buddies.
We had to slap each other in the face. The poor guy that was up against me said I cannot do this, I cannot slap her. I told him I would pay for his counseling when we were done. I was slapping him he finally slapped me, Coast said.
The thing Coast is looking forward to the most today is wrapping her arms around her son.
I am thrilled to wear the title of sergeant in the U.S. Army, but the title that is also very near and dear to my heart is Marine mom. You cant beat that. I feel totally blessed, Coast said.
Pfc. Jeff Coast didnt think his mother was serious when she expressed interest in joining the Army, but recently he started seeing a side of her that was new to him.
She is doing what most people her age would consider crazy, Jeff said. I think she is hardcore. I hope when I get older I am still active and do all kinds of cool stuff.
Sgt. Sandra Coast feels like she made it through boot camp because of the support family, friends and even outsiders expressed to her.
It blows my mind that I am able to accomplish this. I couldnt have done it without the support of my Marine mom friends. I get more mail from them than anybody. That support keeps me going. They are constantly cheering me on. Even random people around here will tell me they are cheering for me. At the dining facility the workers walk up and tell me they are cheering for me, Coast said. I cry pretty much every day. Not a lot because its not an Army thing to do I know, but its mind boggling to me how supportive strangers can be.
She is delighted to be at the end of her boot camp adventure, and thankful for all of the new experiences she had.
This has been very challenging. It makes me realize that I can do all of this. I got to do some really fun things. After the repelling tower, I decided to start rock climbing when I get out of basic training, Coast said.
Coast is also looking forward to her life in the Army Reserve. She said she enlisted hoping to work directly with active duty troops, but instead was attached to a reserve unit. On the plus side she will be able to work near her sons reserve unit.
I wanted to go active duty, but they are not taking people as old as me for active duty. So, I got attached to a virtual unit. Everything I do will be by the internet and phone, Coast said.
Being in Army Basic Combat Training left Coast with a new respect for combat Soldiers and a new respect for herself.
Their gear is heavy and they are doing this constantly. We have some really awesome troops out there, Coast said. I am 51-years-old, and I can do this.
Yep. The top women’s endurance athletes have always been somewhat older. That doesn’t tend to be the case in the same way for men, however.
Basic Combat Training is called “basic” for a reason. The reason it sounds so tough to non-military audiences is because you are taking civilians who may not be used to a rigorous and demanding lifestyle and introducing them to a basic (minimum level) military lifestyle. What you do after BCT determines whether you are true Combat Arms or Combat Support/Service Support (every Army needs a top notch tail)....and the duties and additional training you sign on for tells you how tough you really are, not some age/gender adjusted standards PT test....former 19D4X.
No, they raised it to 42.
Clarification: The item to which you've linked here was dealing with a former Air Force combat pilot criticizing Rick Santorum’s views on women in the military.
I disagree with the combat pilot's criticism of Rick Santorum. I agree with her being able to serve as a combat pilot. I'm fully aware that combat pilots can be shot down and have horrible things happen to them. If the woman wants to take that risk, that's her choice.
I'm not sure what “women in the front lines” means anymore considering that we no longer have fronts in modern combat and virtually everybody is a potential target — even, as we found out on 9/11, people wearing Class A uniforms at duty stations in the Pentagon, along with their secretaries who in some cases were burned alive in their offices.
You will not find me supporting women in infantry positions or other roles which require brute physical strength as an ordinary requirement to perform their regularly assigned duties. That would be a significant misunderstanding of my views.
I think I recall seeing World War II posters recruiting women with slogans such as “free a man to fight.”
The United States made the decision to allow women in the military, not just as a wartime emergency measure during World War II but in permanent roles beyond nursing positions, all the way back in the late 1940s. This is settled law and has been since before the Korean War broke out.
I have no problem with women in the military, and neither has the majority of Congress for nearly six and a half decades. I have a big problem with women in jobs they can't physically perform — or men either, for that matter.
@ little jeremiah: I'm aware of the situation with Israeli female soldiers. They're facing a situation that we have not had in the United States for at least a century and a half, in which every able-bodied adult, whether male or female, needs to be able to defend their home, their property and their life. They also draft women, which virtually nobody in the United States would support. I'm not sure the parallels to an all-volunteer American force are close.
@ Future Snake Eater: You and I agree on the problems of repealing DADT and the danger of the drive to allow women in infantry positions. My read of the situation is that the next election will end the danger from radical feminists for a while, and hopefully something will be done about open-and-out homosexuals. I hope the court martial of the Wikileaker and his gay hacker buddies will show people in Congress who are actually open to debate why homosexuals present a real security risk, not just a theoretical risk, and this specific homosexual caused the worst security breach of classified documents in American military history.
Saturday, February 18, 2012 11:12:58 AM · 19 of 44 lefty-lie-spy to darrellmaurina: “Wow. Can I still joi. The reserves at 41? Ive always wanted to enlist. I live in Tokyo now, but would love to join the reserves. If anyone knows if this is possible please let me know.”
The short answer is that so much depends on specifics of your situation that I can't give a useful answer; you need to talk to a recruiter. Some things may be waiverable even if the rules say “no.”
The longer answer is that after 9/11, due to the need to expand the military force and some very aggressive individual efforts by a few people to get into the military who didn't meet age rules that were at the time non-waiverable, several states started accepting people up until age 42 into the Army National Guard for those states. The program was later expanded to the Army Reserve; I don't remember at this point if it was ever officially extended to active duty Army for initial enlistment but there are people who started NG or Army Reserve and later went active duty. As others on this thread have said, the actual age of maximum acceptance depends on whether the person was prior service military and whether they have critically needed skills.
The recent drawdown of the military is making it considerably more difficult to get waivers of all types, not just for age restrictions. Again, specifics vary so talking to a recruiter about your situation is really the only way to get accurate answers, and the answer you get today may not be the answer you would have gotten a year ago or the answer you'll get next year.
Didn’t the article say Army RESERVE?
Reserve has different standards than regular Army
doesn’t it? Just asking..
Our future enemies are lauging out loud. God help us if we ever are forced to fight a "real" war, as in, Normandy, Okinawa, etc.
Amen to your 37.
Whoops, I meant 32.
She may have gotten a great SCORE, but take a look at HOW the PT tests are scored.
A 20 year old guy has to do 71 pushups to get a 100%, while a 51 year old woman just has to do 34 (a 20 yo woman needs 42).
A 20yo guy needs to do a 2 mile run in 13:00, a 51 yo gets 100% with 17:36.
A 20 yo guy is expected to do 3 pull ups. A 20 yo girl is expected to be able to hang from the bar for 15 seconds.
If women were put through the tests to the exact same standards as the men, essentially no women would pass, which is why there are different standards.
My guess you’re also ok with butt pirates openly serving in the military. Country is so f-ed.
......and that's the nut of it right there... cause nobody gets left behind. It isn't that the fat cow can't run. It's an indication that she'd have a hard time humping it for 20 miles or so if she HAD to.
But if she's incapable of going fast enough, then she's a drag on those that can and ALL of them get killed.
Team, Unit, Corps... one Corps, one unit, all brothers...
the weak link gets you dead. that's why you try to get everybody squared away and fighting all as one. Cause you are just a single piece of a entire unit and the weak one will sink the rest. THAT is what combat and war is all about. Finding the weak link and then just destroying everything you can associated with that weakness.
Fat cows and homosexual drama queens like the one that released all the classified documents is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just one more way they socialist/communist/ anti-American quislings are doing in order to destroy our country. Destroy education, destroy the economy, destroy the armed forces and the rest is one strong man/group away from a bloodless coup.
51 posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 3:20:06 PM by central_va: “My guess youre also ok with butt pirates openly serving in the military. Country is so f-ed.”
You guessed wrong.
Ideally I’d like to see all homosexuals kicked out of the military as a security risk. That’s not politically possible and the best we can realistically do is try to get DADT (don’t ask, don’t tell) reinstituted.
This article is not talking about women in designated combat units, but rather a woman veteran of the US Navy joining the Army and serving as an E-5 paralegal. Women have been doing that sort of work on an emergency basis in uniform since World War II, and on a permanent basis since the late 1940s. She has received combat training to prepare her for things that are unlikely to happen, but the reality of our modern combat situation with no front lines is that if her Army Reserve unit gets activated and deployed, anybody could get attacked at any time, and therefore everybody needs to be prepared.
@ PapaBear: We agree on the scoring of the PT tests. However, note this item from the article: “Coast even amazed herself when she came in second place during the PT test. ‘I am still kind of blown away by that. I even ran faster than all but one female,’ Coast said.”
If the reporter is correct — and she works for Army Public Affairs with her work being reviewed by a retired LTC who serves as her editor so it should be accurate — she's talking about coming in second-place overall on scoring including the men, but second-place in actual speed among the women.
Pretty good, I'd say, for a 51-year-old competing against people who are mostly in their teens or twenties.
I suppose I ought to add that the retired LTC who edited this article, although he's now in Army Public Affairs, retired as an Army infantry officer. His immediate supervisor, the Fort Leonard Wood chief of public affairs, was an Army engineer officer before he retired from active duty. At least one of those two men started his career on the enlisted side of the house before becoming an officer. I know very little about the reporter who wrote the story, except that her position typically gets filled by Army spouses, but I think it's pretty clear both of her bosses know what they're doing in making sure her facts are right.
Yeah, but it's not just her risk. What about the S&R guys who will be dispatched to pick her up, usually where the action is hottest? What about her wingman, who will fly cover for her until the S&R arrives? What about the mission that doesn't get accomplished because she's been splashed?
Women (generally) do NOT have the upper body strength to handle the high-G maneuvers necessary in a combat aircraft. Granted, she flew 'hogs... not exactly F-16s performance-wise, but a beautiful machine in its own ugly way. But a SAM doesn't turn more slowly just because you're a woman and can't maintain your break...
You need to become better informed. For simple example, if it were a settled issue this controversial article would not have been published.
The practice may have gone on for decades, but the issue is far from settled. Conservatives believe in a strong military, and as several Freepers have pointed out succinctly, females in the military very often interfere with that goal.
“The Army is ordering its hardened combat veterans to wear fake breasts and empathy bellies so they can better understand how pregnant soldiers feel during physical training.”
This foolishness is going to get us all killed.
Women in finance, legal medicine, were fine. As you should know, before the left got it's way in the 1070s, females were restricted to not exceed 2% of the force.
I do realize that when colonels and generals talk, and even when senior enlisted personnel talk on the record, their words are chosen carefully knowing they can come back to haunt them. I don't expect someone with the rank of O-5 or above to risk career by being candid in public.
However, I can say that in the last decade of living and working outside both Army and Air Force installations, I have never heard a single colonel or general, or any senior enlisted person, ever even one time question the appropriateness of women serving in uniform.
Women serving in combat is a whole different ball game. That's not the issue here, and yes, I've heard a lot of very “politically incorrect” complaints off-the-record about the push by liberals to put women in combat positions, but not about women in uniform in non-combat roles.
As for why the article was published by Army Public Affairs, I can ask the Guidon editor and the Fort Leonard Wood chief of public affairs, but knowing the people involved, I am certain they did not view it as a controversial article but rather as a “good news” article. I have not heard even one tiny muted critic locally, and a lot of loud praise.
I suppose some will take that as proof that TRADOC has gone soft. Maybe. But it seems pretty clear that whether to have women in uniform isn't an issue for the modern military -- the question is where and how they should serve, not whether they should serve.