Sage Santangelo, a Marine Corps lieutenant and one of the first few women to have participated in the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course writes in the Washington Post about why she thinks she failed her attempt. the main reason, she thinks, is because it was the first time that she had to do something at the male level of fitness;
I absolutely agree that we shouldn’t reduce qualifications. For Marine infantry officers, mistakes mean risking the lives of the troops you are charged to protect. But I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are.
The Basic School, where I reported after graduating from Bowdoin College in 2012, has long been co-ed. But 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.
I guess what she’s saying is that women, if they’re to be expected to meet men’s standards in physical endurance and fitness, the entire force should train to the same standard from the beginning, something I can’t disagree with at all. But then she complains that she wasn’t afforded a second shot at the course.
I also would have liked to have had the opportunity to try the course again. The Marine leadership has said it doesn’t want female lieutenants taking the course multiple times, at least until combat positions are available to women, because it doesn’t want to delay the rest of their training. Yet many of the men who failed alongside me in January are back at Quantico, training to retake the course in April.
Well, in the Marine Corps’ defense, I’d guess that because this is a test phase for the program that will only ultimately end in a report on the Secretary of Defense’s desk, and since the Marine Corps doesn’t want to chew it’s fat twice, the report should mirror the results of first time participants, since those are the people that the Marine Corps wants to graduate most. It might not be fair to LT Santangelo personally, it’s fair for the test phase.
She also complains that there is little time for perspective infantry students to prepare themselves physically for the course. I wonder, then, why are there any infantry officers in the Marine Corps. Some make through despite the challenges the lieutenant has cited, and many of those made it through the first time.
While I agree with her that fitness standards should be universal irrespective of sex – a female clerk should be at the same level of fitness as a male clerk – even though she only had a month between her basic course and her infantry course, that was still time enough to prepare for the infantry course. It’s a time management thing.
Like I said, any accommodation for women in this phase would skew the results for the study, and although it doesn’t seem fair for the women taking their shots at IOC now, in the end, it will give a more accurate picture of the overall program in the end. She says that she doesn’t want the standards lowered for the Course, and this is the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen.