Results of the USMC’s second attempt to measure women’s performance in their Infantry Officer Course have been reported. The second experiment again consisted of two female volunteers attempting the Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course. Both women failed the course the first day when unable to complete an obstacle in the time allotted.

In the first test last year, one of the two female candidates failed the PT test the first day, and the second failed a week later based on her inability to maintain the pace physically.

No doubt the heart was willing, but there are physical requirements. Also, and unlike in the Artillery, Infantry and SOF officers have to be able to do what their troops are expected to do in order to get to where the fight is happening.

I approve of the way the USMC is conducting the experiments. It appears standards aren’t gender-normed and requirements aren’t eliminated. The results are proving what many have said: physical performance counts. There’s a lesson there.

I can only hope the Army follows the Marines’ course in this regard. While many believe “if the standards are the same, then women should be allowed to fill any position,” the truth is the Army has NEVER had the same standards. Further, the Army has shown a pattern of behavior of lowering standards or eliminating requirements to integrate the sexes and passing it off as “the same standard.”

PT tests have always had vastly different standards. Why? If they are a measure of combat performance, a combat environment is the same for both genders when the bullets start flying. The truth is the PT test is a general measure of physical fitness and has no correlation to combat. Combat units and certain training routinely raise those requirements for the males only, since they are the only ones in the combat arms (Armor, Arty, Infantry and SF).

Besides the gender-normed general PT test standards, I’ve personally seen two classic examples of lowered or eliminated standards to facilitate integration. At West Point, for instance, there is an indoor obstacle course test (IOCT) that is not exceptionally grueling except for one of its obstacles, and the time standard: men must complete in 3:30 to get a “D”, women in 5:29.

When women were included, obstacles deemed especially difficult allowed for cadets to skip that obstacle after two failed attempts. The problem is, because of men’s much higher time standard, failing to complete an obstacle is a guarantee of failure. So, in order to enable women to pass the course, the Academy added ladders to the course that only women can use and still hope to pass the test. One must also ask, if an obstacle course is to test a person’s ability to negotiate obstacles, why is the women’s standard lower? Will the enemy not shoot them if they negotiate the obstacles at a slower pace? By the way, and as a side point, the obstacle course is not included in class ranking to determine branch selection or first post assignment. Why?

The other example is Airborne School, where students are required to do five pull ups, which is especially important because it is how one steers a chute to avoid other jumpers and obstacles. That standard was initially lowered when women started attending airborne school, and today has been eliminated as a requirement. So at first we are asked to believe that female soldiers won’t have to steer as much in combat, and that today it isn’t as important to justify the changes and eventual elimination of standards?

As the Army evaluates Ranger School, the Infantry courses and Ranger BN and SF selection, I can only hope the Army follows the Marines’ approach. The record is not good. Changing or eliminating standards is something the Army has consistently done and portrayed as something else when integrating the sexes. This can only be avoided if requirements and standard changes are made public, requiring those outside the service to be involved, because only the public is immune to the retaliation service members will suffer if they go public with any misgivings.

What do you think?

(Featured Image Courtesy: NYTimes.com)