Thursday 21 September 2017

Soldier to appeal her discharge over failed fitness tests

Pte Cheryl Mellett leaves court
Pte Cheryl Mellett leaves court

Breda Heffernan and Tim Healy

AN ARMY private who was told she was being discharged because she failed fitness tests has said she is not a lazy person.

Pte Cheryl Mellett (35), from Athlone, Co Westmeath, said she was disappointed after losing a High Court challenge to prevent her discharge and will appeal.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, she said there was "absolutely no equality in the Army".

She added: "There are dozens of people in the same position as me and many a lot worse. I know two officers who are 10, 12 years serving and who have never passed a fitness test.

"There are people who are grossly overweight in the Army."

Pte Mellett joined the Defence Forces as a naval recruit in 2004 and passed a fitness test that year.

She suffered a "traumatic personal experience" while in the Naval Service in 2006 and sought a transfer to the Army, which was granted.

However, the High Court heard she gained considerable weight in the following few years and failed fitness tests between 2006 and 2009.

She also suffered a number of setbacks, including a gall bladder operation in September 2010, and she slipped on ice and injured her back in January 2011.

Counselling

The following month she was told she was being given four months to pass another fitness test. "This was an "impossible task", she said.

She began attending counselling sessions and started training at a local sports centre outside of work hours.

In April 2011 she achieved the necessary Body Mass Index to undergo a fitness test, but was not allowed to take it as she was reported as suffering from a medical condition.

In February 2012, her commanding officer recommended in a letter that she be given more time to achieve the necessary level of fitness.

However, a month later, Major General Boyle ordered her discharge and scheduled it for May 2012. Pte Mellett was granted an injunction preventing her discharge.

"My grandfather was 42 years in the Army and my brother and uncles are in the Army," she said. "Since 2009 I've lost six stone and I worked very hard to achieve that. I'm not a lazy person. I struggle a bit with my weight, but I lacked support in the Defence Forces."

In his judgment yesterday, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, found Pte Mellett was well aware of the sole reason for consideration of her discharge.

Pte Mellett, who remains a member of the Defence Forces, told how last December she ran 10km each day for three days, raising €4,500 for breast cancer research.

Irish Independent

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