The Marine Corps began recruiting female volunteers for its Infantry Officers Course last year as part of a broader effort to assess how female Marines might perform in assignments whose primary mission is ground combat. So far, none has passed. (Getty Images)
- Filed Under
Two more women have washed out of Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, putting a quick end to the latest iteration of an experiment into which roles female Marines might be able to fill in combat.
The women failed the introductory Combat Endurance Test, a punishing test of physical strength and endurance, officials at Marine Corps headquarters said Tuesday. The latest class began March 28 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., with 110 lieutenants participating. Ninety-six men passed the initial endurance test. Twelve men and two women — the only female Marines taking part — failed.
The 13-week course is considered among the toughest in the U.S. military, and is part of the Pentagon's ongoing effort to determine which additional jobs in combat units should be opened to women. Recently retired Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, announced in January the Pentagon would open about 237,00 jobs across the services, including 53,721 in the Corps. However, the services will continue to conduct their own experiments to determine if certain military occupational specialties should be kept closed to women.
The New York Times reported that one of the women who flunked out of IOC last week had served as an enlisted Marine before becoming an officer. She failed to make it over a horizontal bar on an obstacle course. The second woman was a recent Naval Academy graduate. She did better with the obstacle course, but ran out of time, the Times reported.
Marine officials declined to release any details about the two latest female volunteers. The service is still soliciting women to join future classes of IOC.
The Corps began recruiting female volunteers for IOC last year as part of a broader effort to assess how female Marines might perform in assignments whose primary mission is ground combat. Two women stepped forward for the class that began in September and failed. No other female Marines had participated in an IOC class since until last week.
The military's repeal of the ban on women serving in combat units sets up a fight that goes all the way to senior levels of the services. Senior leaders in each branch will decide in coming years what jobs should be kept open to female service members, with special attention likely paid to communities that require feats of strength.
In particular, senior Marine officials acknowledge they have heard many concerns from rank-and-file personnel about whether the Corps will open to women jobs in the infantry, reconnaissance and special operations communities. All of them require lifestyles that can be punishing, and service members within those communities must rely on each other while living in close quarters during deployments.
The Marine Corps' commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, said he's aware of concerns from infantrymen, and wants to ensure standards are not lowered because of the policy change. In a letter distributed to his general officers the same day the Pentagon announced the policy change, Amos said the plan that he and the other joint chiefs developed calls for a three-year research period before the top officers in the Corps and Army make recommendations to civilian leaders in 2016. He stressed that no decisions have been made, including in the infantry, recon and spec-ops communities.
“I believe we have created the conditions for [the next commandant] to provide his best analytically informed military advice on this critical matter to the civilian leadership, who have the constitutionally enshrined power of final decision,” Amos wrote. “I don't know what my successor's recommendation will be, but the end state is not a foregone conclusion, as some have suggested.”