The Marine Corps has been sending female volunteers to its Infantry Officer Training at Quantico, Va. since late 2012. But while female Marines hump gear, navigate land, and climb ropes alongside their male counterparts, one officer says Marine women still aren’t getting a fair shot.
Second lieutenant Sage Santangelo writes in a Washington Post op-ed that part of the reason that all 14 women who have attempted the course have washed out is that male lieutenants can opt to retake the course if they fail to succeed the first time, while females must move on to training in their non-infantry military occupational specialties after one attempt.
Here are the most thought-provoking points she makes:
5. The idea is to provide an equal opportunity.
Santangelo quotes former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying that “If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job . . . then they should have the right to serve.”
She points out that women should have the same opportunity to succeed that men have in order to accurately judge their ability to meet the qualifications.
4. Women have already succeeded alongside men on the front lines.
Santangelo describes National Guard soldier Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, who earned a historic Silver Star in 2005 by organizing a counterattack against insurgents using grenades and grenade launcher rounds. Her unit killed 27 enemy, and Hester personally took out three insurgents.
The point being, evidence suggests that women can succeed in infantry alongside men, and we should question why success in IOC has eluded them so far.
3. Female officers currently lack the strength training that male officers receive.
Physical double standards persist. In the Physical Fitness Test, for example, a male perfect score is achieved by an 18-minute three-mile run, 20 pull-ups and 100 sit-ups in two minutes. A female perfect score is a 21-minute three-mile run, a 70-second flexed-arm hang and 100 sit-ups in two minutes. There was a move to shift from arm hangs to pull-ups for women last year. Yet 55 percent of female recruits were unable to meet the minimum of three, and the plan was put on hold.
2. But female Marines will be stronger on their second try.
[Marines are] more likely to pass the second time around… The uncertainty makes the test overall much more difficult than any of its individual parts. Some of the details change for each new class. But the male lieutenants who have taken it before have an advantage in that they know generally what to expect.
1. The reason for keeping women from taking the course again often doesn’t apply.
Santangelo writes that she was scheduled next to attend Marine flight school in Pensacola, having washed out of IOC in January, but she’s preparing to fill a position that will not be open for 12 months. The argument that the Marine Corps needs to move women along to their ultimate occupational specialty, then, can fall apart.