On Nov 21, three female Marines graduated the basic infantry course at the School of Infantry – East at Camp Geiger, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. A fourth completed the course but was unable to graduate due to injury, keeping her from taking the final Combat Fitness Test. She will be held over until she can complete the test.
As Gunny Hartman would say, “0300, Infantry. Congratulations, you made it!” Of course, none of these women are actually going to an infantry unit. They will be sent to their contracted MOS schools, then to whichever unit they were originally slated for.
The press is talking this up as three women completing the Corps’ “gruelling” infantry course. Any Marine infantryman can tell you that SOI is the easiest part of an infantry career. SOI provides the infantryman with the most basic level of training. Infantrymen are really made in the Fleet, once they report to their units. Eight weeks of tightly scheduled and controlled training is not the same as four years of field exercises, deployments, and, albeit not as often today as it was even a couple of years ago, combat.
It should also be noted that fifteen female Marines began the course. Only four completed it, and only three graduated. That’s a one-in-five success rate. Even the Basic Reconnaissance Course doesn’t have that high an attrition rate. Furthermore, so far, females at the Infantry Officer Course have a 0% success rate, most failing in the first week.
All reports show that many of the social problems predicted with women in the infantry did not happen with this class. Before anybody starts crowing about that, however, it should be pointed out that given the highly political nature of this experiment (and it was an experiment, nothing more, make no mistake about that), both the instructors and students were under a huge amount of scrutiny, and would have been made aware of that on a daily basis.
Overall, while it may be providing all sorts of congratulatory press for the “women in combat” proponents, this “historic” occasion really hasn’t proved much of anything. And it can also be argued that, in a period where units are having to skimp on training because of budget cuts, that spending the money to put students through a course for an MOS they won’t even serve in is a massive waste of taxpayer money and the Marine Corps’ time.