Commandant, Marine Corps Times reach coverage agreement on Infantry Officer Course


A woman participates in the Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Va., in October as part of research into the future roles women could have in combat. (Photo by H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos made headlines last week when he challenged me in a letter to the editor published in Marine Corps Times to attend the service’s difficult Infantry Officer Course as a participant. The invitation was issued after he took umbrage with a recent story I wrote that had a headline saying two female volunteers for the course “flunked” IOC last month as part of ongoing research into which roles service members can fill in combat.

I met with the commandant Monday morning at the Pentagon to discuss the issue. By mutual agreement, we decided that it would be best for all involved if I cover IOC in July as an observer, rather than as a participant. Like the 100-plus lieutenants who will be there, I’ll be dropped in the woods at Quantico, Va., before dawn July 2 and spend a full day in the field during the arduous Combat Endurance Test, IOC’s entrance exam. I will follow and report what I see, in similar fashion to what I have done during three embedded assignments in Afghanistan.

I can’t speak for the commandant, but I’ll say that I think this decision is grounded in common sense and respect for the lieutenants — male and female — taking the course. Women attending the course is a big deal in the Marine Corps, and I’ll be allowed to cover it while at the same time not becoming a sideshow distraction for individuals who will in some cases soon be faced with life-or-death choices.

I accepted the commandant’s invitation because it was the only option I had at the time that afforded me access to IOC. Upon further reflection, it seems like doing so would be a burden to both instructors and students. I look forward to covering IOC in a traditional sense, and appreciate the commandant’s willingness to discuss the issue. My first goal remains writing with honesty, thoroughness and respect about the service and the challenges it faces.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Dan — will there be female Marines in the course that you’ll observe? If not, this whole evolution is pointless. After all, it’s not IOC that is of interest, rather that the standards of performance of Marines, regardless of gender, are consistently evaluated at IOC.

  2. an outside observer on

    Who cares if you’re a distraction? The LTs’ big boss man ran his mouth, and he should realize that words are more than, well, just words.

  3. A former 0311 on

    The big issue is whether or not the Corps will lower infantry officer standards to appease a minority. Affirmative action has no place in the infantry. As a former infantry NCO I’d be happy to serve under a female officer – IF she can keep up. No exceptions.

  4. The course of action that you and the Commandant settled on, is the proper way. Distraction from a correspondent of any sort is still a distraction. Just the fact you are there is enough of one. You have a job to do and so does the Commandant. I think this as a good a solution as one could expect.

  5. Ohio State is a den of shame… famous for creating “so so” leather artists that create depictions of big ole hill billies hoarding cats.

  6. Eric, the commandant said this morning during congressional testimony that there are currently five female volunteers for the July course. They can still change their mind and decline, but the odds are high there will be several there.

  7. Just curious, but isn’t distraction what happens in the real world when the enemy is shooting at you, your comrades are yelling for help, and the guy on the phone is asking you what’s going on, all while you are trying to make those very crucial life or death choices?

    Why would your presence be a detriment to this training?

  8. Dan — awesome! I hope there are. It sure does make for a more interesting piece. OK, I admit it; I’m going to read your copy regardless, but I want to know (and I presume that many of your readers are in the same boat) that the Marine Corps is allowing you to see exactly what they are doing to screen and evaluate IOC participants fairly. And maybe get to see a female Marine kick ass at IOC. How cool would that be? Looking forward to your articles.

  9. “They gave it a run after being recruited to help the Corps in this experiment,” Lamothe wrote. “Still, they didn’t pass. That means ‘flunked,’ ‘failed,’ ‘washed out,’ etc., are all accurate. We want to be sensitive, but we also need to accurately report the news.”

    You certainly have a job to do as a journalist, but the Commandant most likely “took umbrage” with the way the article was obviously sensationalized, like so many other MC Times articles. I’m not surprised that you seem to defend the title though, as the larger world of journalism seems to embrace sensational terms like “slammed”, or “blasted” which weren’t in common usage even a few years ago.

    “Failed to complete” is a perfectly accurate and suitable expression that you could have used. You just took the low road to sell copy, and the Commandant called you on it.

    Enjoy the terrain.

  10. I do not think the terms “failed,””flunked,” or “washed out” were by any means inappropriate or offensive, and by no means did Dan Lamothe take the “low road” by using them. This is the Marine Corps we are talking about. The Infantry Officers Course at that. Do you think when a male “fails to complete” the course, as you so eloquently put it, he is saved from hearing those terms used in an effort to save his feelings? No. He couldn’t hack it. Why should we be any more politically correct when describing female Marines washing out of the course?

    This is our culture. The words that Mr. Lamothe chose is how we would describe it in our own words. I see nothing inappropriate about that.

  11. I have to agree with Adam. While ‘flunked’ may be slightly sensational, it’s pretty accurate when describing someone not making it through the first day of a course. Dan, I’m definitely looking forward to reading your stuff in July.

  12. I agree that that the “offensive” words used in the article were not (offensive). With that said, I support the CMC for defending the very demanding IOC program. I also think that the MC Times staff is doing a terrific job while the US military (and the USMC specifically) is immersed in a ill-advised and ill-conceived social experiment that is brought on by the Kool Aid drinkers who are hellbent on the total destruction of our once-great nation.

  13. Who said the words were offensive? That is not the point. Lamothe is not part of our culture and really doesn’t rate to sensationalize the IOC process. As I said, that’s why the Commandant called him on it, and it’s why he backed down from going all in.

  14. JES, Stafford, VA on

    I am not trying to be politically correct here, but the women volunteering to enter the IOC are a cut above the normal female graduates of TBS. “Failed to successfully complete” is just as accurate and less demeaning to those women who are trying to help the USMC with this training evaluation.

    LtCol USMC (Ret)

  15. Pingback: Battle Rattle » Two more female Marines fall short at latest Infantry Officer Course

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