Barry Stevens traveled the world on eight deployments and retired as a Gunner’s Mate First Class after 22 years.
After retirement, the 67-year-old veteran still wanted to be involved in the military. So he decided to become a security officer at Camp Mabry in Austin, TX.
Camp Mabry uses some civilian security officers to help protect the base. Stevens had hoped to retire in three years at 70-years-old.
However, a new mandatory Physical Ability Test threatened his job. It included 19 push-ups and 1.5-mile run, but Stevens was given the option to walk 2 miles which he didn’t finish on time back in December 2019. He says he missed it by about two minutes and was let go from his position.
Stevens stated he had arthritis in his knees and back and could not pass the test because of his disability. He showed KXAN’s Arezow Doost documentation from his doctor asking for more time to finish the walk, but he says it was all ignored.
The physical test is now part of the job description for a security officer. It’s classified as a directive and explains that employees need to be able to “move quickly” and take part in a “foot pursuit” in emergency situations.
Stevens ended up getting a lawyer and they have now filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I worked there 14 years and I was dismissed and it was just like bye. That was it. Bye,” says Stevens. “There was no ‘we’re sorry… here is a certificate of appreciation’… and I felt like I was thrown away. I felt like I was thrown away like trash.”
The physical test for security officers comes on the heels of the Army rolling out a new fitness test. The Army Combat Fitness Test or ACFT is expected to be the standard fitness test for all soldiers by this October.
The old test included push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. The updated test covers six exercises over an hour including deadlifts, hand-release push-ups and a 2-mile run. Army officials say this will reduce injuries and get soldiers combat ready. Stevens points out that the directive for security officers cites the Army. “We are state civilian employees. We work for the State of Texas, not the Army,” explains Stevens.
The National Guard Bureau, which oversees guard troops across the country, wouldn’t say if this is happening in other states, but a spokesperson says because of the nature of the job, the Texas Military Department can set this standard.
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Stevens, who is a decorated veteran, says he never dreamed his second career would end this way. “I’ve been a productive state employee for 14 years and… I feel like I’ve been thrown away. Is this how Texas treats its disabled veterans?”