Marine pullup woman

In January of 2013, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey wrote: “The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously join me in proposing that we move forward with the full intent to integrate women into occupational fields to the maximum extent possible. […] To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our war-fighting capability or the trust of the American people, we need time to get it right.”

At the time I wrote that women are ready for combat roles — and M60s are able to magically fly. The point was that unless the standards were lowered, there was no way that more than a tiny fraction of women would ever be able to meet the physical standards expected of an infantry soldier.

The Associated Press now reports:

WASHINGTON — More than half of female Marines in boot camp can’t do three pullups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year, prompting the Marine Corps to delay the requirement, part of the process of equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs. …

Although no new timetable has been set on the delayed physical requirement, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos wants training officials to “continue to gather data and ensure that female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to succeed,” Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Starting with the new year, all female Marines were supposed to be able to do at least three pullups on their annual physical fitness test and eight for a perfect score. The requirement was tested in 2013 on female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., but only 45 percent of women met the minimum, Krebs said.

Translation: “We need more time to lower the standards in a way that would allow us to spin it as an ‘opportunity to succeed.’ We need data that will allow us to camouflage a set of lower standards for women that public eyes will look at approvingly.”

Three pull-ups is pathetic. If you are a infantryman and you can only do three pull-ups, you should hang your head in shame. That is the kind of weakness that will require your battle buddies to pick up slack — in situations where they already have their hands full. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Here is what I wrote January 23, 2013:

Anyone who has had to carry a SINCGAR (i.e., a heavy-ass radio) on his back during a 25 mile road march, or the M249 SAW — or both simultaneously because the guy in front of him was sucking wind hard core — knows that unless the physical standards are lowered, this is virtually impossible and a horrible idea. Anyone who has had to carry his 250 pound buddy knows that physical standards will have to be lowered to make this happen. Anyone who has had to lug an M60 for any length of time knows that social engineering is going to kill good soldiers. Hence, the time needed to “get it right.” Correction: to get it wrong.

How do you get women to “qualify” for an infantryman’s job? You change the requirements for the gender that generally lacks the combination of upper body strength and stamina to hold the job in the first place. You can’t fool biology, but that never stopped masterminds from playing their little sociological experiments before, has it?

I stand by that. In the end, Company Commanders and First Sergeants will do what they’re told. They will train their soldiers to the best of their ability. But that doesn’t change the fact that lowering standards will needlessly put soldiers’ lives at risk.

Related: Pentagon: Women ready for combat roles — and M60s to magically fly

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

12 comments

  1. Hey Doug, in college, I once met a self described Liberal dude who was a veteran who said, among other things, that woman COULD make it in the armed forces as legit front line soldiers, but that it would take them too long. To remedy this, he suggested that the government give them steroid injections so that they could make basic on time. What do you think about this?

    1. So the suggestion of this liberal guy is to treat women like cattle and inject them with steroids? Or did he just use the euphemism “super solider serum”? 😉

      I believe that a small percentage of women would be able to perform at or above the minimum standard of physical conditioning required to do the job. However, does that percentage warrant the kinds of institutional changes that would be required to make it all work? Good question.

      I think your peer’s answer was very telling. I suppose if we just wait a little longer we’ll all have exoskeletons on the battlefield…so perhaps this aspect of the “women in line units” debate will be rendered moot.

    2. So, you don’t think being injected with steroids to speed things up so that they can meet the standards for basic at a rate males can is a good idea?

  2. Why? What’s the issue with giving woman steroids, with medical supervision, so that they can make basic training at the same time the typical male can?

    1. There are so many things wrong with this conversation I don’t even know where to begin…

      You do realize that the physical upper body strength needed for the job doesn’t end after basic training, right? Are these women going to cycle their steroids for the rest of their military career? Are they going to pack syringes in their rucksacks with them when they go to the field for months on end? When everyone is covered in mud and oil and dirt because they haven’t showered for weeks are they going to call a time out to hygienically attend to female steroidal needs? Will squads stop running lanes and night fires so these women can do their little thing to look like the East German female olympians during the Cold War?

      If you have to use steroids and receive special medical treatment in order to meet the requirements necessary to do the job, then perhaps that job isn’t for you.

    2. Hrmmm…what do you think of this anecdote he gave about an old woman who he said asked him if the locals of Afghanistan were something akin to backwards savages?

      Admittedly, this guy seemed pretty anti-conservative, as he mentioned the fact that he liked the fact that the group he was in didn’t have any conservatives in it…and the funny thing is that he comes from north Georgia.

    3. Are all people from the Middle East backwards? No. Of course not. But look at Iraq right now. The Obama administration didn’t get a Status of Forces Agreement with them. Fine. We can argue about the implications of that all day. And now? Fallujah has fallen. There is a reason why the Middle East looks like…the Middle East, so in that sense I can’t blame little old ladies for wondering what the heck is going over there.

      Was this classmate an infantryman? I find it hard to believe he was in a Company of fellow infantryman and didn’t know any conservatives. In fact, I’d say that is almost impossible. I went back down to Benning a few years ago to have a few beers with a buddy of mine and (shocker) I met guys I would definitely categorize as conservative.

    4. I think he actually had a role as something else…something involving computers and graphic design…I’m not sure if that’s enough to paint a picture of EXACTLY what kind of role he had.

      Speaking of combat, you ever see it? You were a tank person, right?

    5. I enlisted out of high school in the 90s and got out in 2000. I don’t know if you were following the blog at the time, but I wrote about my feelings on my service here: Remembering 9/11 and the ‘what if?’ that never ends

      When I exited the service in August, 2000 I was generally of the mindset that I had fulfilled some sort of unspoken patriotic duty. In my mind, war could have broken out at any time — but it didn’t during my enlistment. I was under the impression that any war that involved the United States would take place years after I was in any position to help out. After returning to civilian life, working so hard to get into a prestigious university, taking out college loans and charting out a new path for myself, 9/11 suddenly had me second guessing everything. My friends were being sent to Afghanistan, and then Iraq. While I was in Southern California reading and writing my friends were being shot at. In California I was dating the woman who would ultimately become my wife, and yet there was always a part of me that screamed “You should be over there!” And I wasn’t. How many of my tears are of guilt and remorse I guess I’ll never know.

      I also expanded on my time in the military after my buddy James recently came to visit me in D.C. We were roommates over in Germany.

      While the bombs went off we honored the fallen

      Long story short, James was my roommate years ago in Charlie Co., 1/18th Infantry Battalion in Schweinfurt, Germany. I got out and he stayed in. But the thing about military friendships is that they are often times iron clad. While our lives took two very separate paths years ago, the experiences we shared bonded us in a way that no matter how much time goes by, we will always be able to pick up right where we left off. It’s as if nothing has changed — because it hasn’t. We are opposite sides of the same coin; I am the civilian, and he the full time soldier. Had things gone slightly different for either one of us, the roles would probably be reversed. What is most important is that at our core is a respect and admiration for the war fighter — and each other — that can only come from having spent time in the field.

      I was an 11M. My MOS doesn’t exist anymore… I drove Bradley Fighting Vehicles for awhile, I was a dismount for a stretch there and then finished up my last few months in HQ when the 1SGT found out during a room inspection that I could type.

      I’ve found that depending on the MOS, you’re going to get a very different type of guy. Someone who enters the service as a cook for instance is going to be nothing like an infantryman. Even across the different branches the politics will very. To me it’s pretty common sense: Get a bunch of guys together who openly love their country, respect the Second Amendment, believe in good and evil, etc. and you’re going to have a ton of conservatives. I’m sure someone will say that I’m implying liberals don’t love their country. I’m not saying that, so please don’t even go there.

  3. Hey Douglas, are you going to comment on the fall of Felluja in a blog entry, because if you are, the question I’d ask concerning the Iraq War is more than willing to be posted there instead and clutter this page.

    1. Yes, I’ll probably do that. It might not be until late tomorrow night or Monday afternoon due to my work and travel schedule trying to get back to D.C. from Montana.

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