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Mission Accomplished? U.S. Marine Corps Might Lower Combat Standards For Women


<<enter caption here>> on February 27, 2013 in Parris Island, South Carolina.
Getty - Scott Olson

The first three women to successfully complete the Marine's Combat Endurance Test (CET) have been asked to leave the rigorous, infantry officers training course for failing to meet the physical standards required.

The Christian Science Monitor has details on the three, trailblazing women:

They were physically disqualified from the training last week for falling behind in hikes while carrying loads of upwards of 100 pounds, says Maj. George Flynn, director of the Infantry Officers Course (IOC) at Quantico, Va.

Earlier this month, the women had successfully completed the Combat Endurance Test, the first hurdle Marines must pass to become infantry officers – the quintessential front-line combat job. That accomplishment qualified them for the remainder of infantry officer training, the IOC.

The Monitor points out that it wasn't just these three women who failed, but three men also dropped out at the same stage.

But, according to an analysis done by the Washington Free Beacon, there are interest groups in D.C. that are trying to get the Marine Corps to change the standards in the training course to help pave the way for women to fill combat roles:

Much of the pressure for integrating women into combat arms comes from DC-based pressure groups like the radical feminist Service Women’s Action Network and from activists like (Ret. Army Col. Ellen) Haring. Grassroots support for such a move is more limited.

Among female Marine officers, including those who support the introduction of women into combat arms, and those who are personally ambitious to try the infantry for themselves, I have never heard anyone assert that they would like standards lowered for them, so that they can pass the course. Why would they? It would entirely undercut the value of their achievement, and diminish the overall fighting capacity of the Marine Corps. These officers are Marines first and individuals second. They want to succeed on fair terms.

Since former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat roles, the U.S. military branches have been scrambling to meet a January 2016 deadline that requires them to have incorporated women or come back with a reason – backed by research – why they were unable to accomplish that mission.

According to a report from the Center For Military Readiness titled “Where is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?” the Marines are having a difficult time incorporating women in combat roles, while still keeping the same standards they have vowed to maintain for both sexes.

“Researchers are finding this difficult (actually, impossible) to do, owing to naturally-occurring physical differences that make men significantly stronger,“ the report states.  ”Androgenic hormones that are not going to change account for greater muscle power and aerobic capacity for endurance.”

It's clear that integrating men and women in combat roles will bring on a host of challenges, but should the physical standards set forth for the men charged with the difficult and vital job of fighting our nation's battles in the toughest combat conditions be lowered to accommodate the goal of gender equality?

That seems to be the debate the Marine Corps is faced with right now, as the pressure from the Pentagon intensifies.

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