Marine Corps Maintains Standards – 29 Women Apply, 29 Women Fail

By Thomas E. Cheever, P.E.

Since 2012, 29 female Marine officers have been accepted into the grueling Marine Infantry Officers course. Only four survived beyond the first day, and none have completed the extraordinarily tough course with challenges designed to prepare officers to lead Marines into combat.

 marine corps

A female in the IOC course at Quantico- MarineCorps Times photo


Marines Lead From the Front

Make no mistake about it, Marine officers are tough, hardened leaders. Marine leadership philosophy is simple – set the pace, lead by example. That means infantry officers have to be physically fit and mentally tough. They do not rest until every one of their marines rest. They do not eat until every one of their Marines eat. They do not falter, they do not waiver.

The Marine Officers Infantry Course is designed to challenge and test future Infantry Marine officers. It is a tough course. The attrition rate among male officers is 25%. Day one includes an initial Combat Endurance Test (CET).   A daunting test of physical strength that includes an obstacle course, grueling hikes through Quantico’s wooded hills and  assessments of skills like weapons assembly and land navigation.

In 2013, then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the repeal of regulations exempting women from serving in combat roles. Allowing for integration over several years, or explain why women should not be allowed into certain programs, each service began researching how best to comply with the Obama administration ‘gender neutral’ policy.

Reality Hits Home

Secretary Panetta said, and Obama officials repeated, that standards would not be compromised. The Marine Corps, knowing any compromise in standards is a disservice to all Marines, allowed women to enroll into the Infantry Officers Course (IOC) under the exact same standards as their male counterparts.

Normally open to 2nd Lieutenants after graduating from The Basic School, the Marine Corps opened the IOC to seasoned female lieutenants and captains with the pre-condition they complete the male version of the Marine Corps annual physical fitness test of at least 5 pull ups and a combat fitness test.

Every Marine at IOC undergoes a Combat Endurance Test (CET) the first day. 25 of the 29 failed the CET on the first day. The remaining 4 failed to graduate.

Enlisted infantry Marines must attend and pass infantry training. As of February, 358 women Marines volunteered to attend enlisted infantry training. Of those, 122 or 34% have completed the training. Since the course was offered on an experimental basis, female graduates will not be allowed to serve as Marine infantrymen.

Marines versus Army

Army Ranger School has similar goals as the Marine Corps Infantry Officers Course. On April 20th, the Army will allow women who have completed the difficult preliminary course to enroll in Army Ranger School. An experimental program, Ranger School is being offered to this one time to evaluate women in combat roles. Upon completion the female soldiers will be allowed to wear the Ranger tab on their uniform, but so far will not be allowed to in the Army’s elite Ranger Regiment.

With one more round of assessments scheduled, 12 women have passed the preliminary Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC).

Special Forces Operators Have Doubts

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing, Army General Bennet Sacolick, Army’s director of Force Management and Development for Special Operations, said the men of Special Operations (Navy SEALS, Army Delta, etc.) will get a say on whether they want women on their small teams.

General Sacolick is less worried about women meeting the physical standards required for Special Operations troops, than their ability to adapt to the social and behavioral demands and dynamics of the small unit tactical teams of 12 or less.

Of over 68,000 people serving in U.S. Special Operations Command, about 18,000 serving in positions currently closed to women were surveyed about the role of women in Special Forces operations.  Survey results have not been released, but the 50% response rate received is indicative of how sensitive the subject is to the Operators.

Political Correctness Experiment

There are many roles for women in the military.  From office workers to combat pilots, women serve with honor and distinction.  Military training is designed to elicit the best of the best placing the most qualified people in leadership roles.  If women can meet the standards set for men, they should be allowed to serve.  If they can’t, they can’t and should not be forced into roles to foster the president’s gender neutral military experiment.

Unqualified is unqualified.  Political correctness in the military will get men killed.