The three female Marine officers who made it through the grueling first exercise of Infantry Officer Course at the start of October were asked to leave after falling out of two hikes, Marine Corps officials said this week.
The second lieutenant and two captains were dropped from the 13-week course held aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, about two weeks after it began. The Marines got further in the course than any other women since IOC opened to female volunteers on an experimental basis in late 2012. Only one other female officer has gotten past the notoriously difficult combat endurance test that kicks off the course; she was forced to drop out about a week later due to stress fractures in her foot.
Capt. Maureen Krebs, a spokeswoman for Headquarters Marine Corps, said the three officers were dropped from the course after failing to keep up on two long hikes while carrying a load of up to 120 pounds. The load represents a day’s meals, clothing, supplies and assault gear for a 20-mile march into combat, according to Krebs.
Infantry officers are required to maintain a pace of 24.8 miles in eight hours, or approximately three miles per hour, carrying their approach-march loads. Marines who fall more than 100 meters behind the unit and are unable to catch up are taken the remainder of the distance in a vehicle.
“The big thing in this is, they’re expected to lead that tactical movement as an infantry officer,” Krebs said.
During the training, units took two marches, one seven-mile march at Quantico followed by a nine-mile march the following week.
“Three men and three women failed to complete those two tactical movements,” Krebs said. They were all asked to leave the Infantry Officer Course (IOC).
This course was the first since the Marines began to allow female officers to volunteer for the IOC. The change came as a result of the Department of Defense ordering the Marine Corp to collect data on women in combat fields ahead of a 2016 deadline to make a decision on opening these fields to women. The goal is to find ways to integrate women into combat roles without lowering standards.
According to a report out this month from the Center for Military Readiness, “Researchers are finding this difficult (actually, impossible) to do, owing to naturally-occurring physical differences that make men significantly stronger. Androgenic hormones that are not going to change account for greater muscle power and aerobic capacity for endurance.”
Some of the findings of the Center for Military Readiness interim report show significant gender-related differences in physical strength. In 2013, the USMC Training and Education Command (TECOM) studied data from 409 male and 379 female volunteers, finding significant gender-related disparities on the Physical and Combat Fitness Tests (PFT and CFT) in events measuring upper-body strength and endurance, things that are essential for survival and mission success in direct ground combat, according to the report. The study found:
- In a Pull-up test of upper-body strength used in the PFT, women averaged 3.59 pull-ups, compared to 15.69 for the men − more than four times as many.
- The Clean & Press event involves single lifts of progressively heavier weights from the ground to above the head (70, 80, 95, 115 lbs.), plus 6 reps with a 65 lb. weight. In this event 80% of the men passed the 115 lb. test, but only 8.7% of the women passed.
- In the 120 mm Tank Loading Simulation, a gunnery skills test, participants were asked to lift a simulated round weighing 55 lb., 5 times, in 35 seconds or less. Quoting the report, “Less than 1% of men . . . [compared to] 18.68% of the women . . . could not complete the tank loading drill in the allotted time.” The report added, “It would be very likely that failure rates would increase in a more confined space [such as a tank].”
- In the 155 mm Artillery Lift-and-Carry, a test simulating ordnance stowing, volunteers had to pick up a 95 lb. artillery round and carry it 50 meters in under 2 minutes. Noted the report, “Less than 1% of men, compared to 28.2% of women, could not complete the 155 mm artillery round lift-and-carry in the allotted time.” If trainees had to “shoulder the round and/or carry multiple rounds, the 28.2% failure rate would increase.”
- On the Obstacle Course Wall-with-Assist-Box test, a 20” high box, (used to simulate a helping-hand) essentially reduced the height of the 7 ft. wall to approximately 5’4.” Quoting the report, “Less than 1.2 % of the men could not get over the obstacle course wall using an assist box, while wearing [protective equipment] . . . [compared to] 21.32% of women who could not get over the obstacle course wall . . .”
The report concluded, “None of the USMC research results produced so far support activists’ theories that women can be physical equals and interchangeable with men in the combat arms. Reliance on unrealistic “best case” scenarios would impose heavy burdens on women and put all troops at greater risk.”