Even before former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles on Jan. 24, the Marine Corps had been experimenting with the move by letting women officers try out Marine infantry training.
So far, however, no female Marines have come close.
Last fall, the first two female volunteers dropped out from training at the challenging Infantry Officer Course, the schoolhouse that turns basic Marine officers into future combat leaders. One survived for two weeks before succumbing to an injury, and the other left after being unable to complete the endurance test on day one (along with 26 men).
Now, two more women have dropped out of the course on the first day of training (along with 12 men), according to Dan Lamothe at Marine Times. In a statement, the Marine Corps said that 96 officers had passed the first-day screening.
The 13-week course is absolutely grueling, with constant physical and mental stress, and little sleep or food. Each year, 25 percent of the Marines who apply drop out.
"The women are expected to do everything that the men do," Marine Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers told First Coast News. "We haven't changed anything."
For example, the average infantry officer carries over 70 pounds of gear in combat — but it can typically be more with the addition of radios, extra ammunition, and heavy machine guns.
The Marine Corps will continue with the experiment — a Marine Corps spokesperson told us two more female officers would begin training in the summer — and a report from all the military services is due back to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel by May 15, according to NBC News.
The hope is that some of these officers will be able to finish training. But some in the combat arms fields worry the standards will eventually be lowered, especially with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs alluding to that possibility:
"Importantly, though, if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn't make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high?," said General Martin Dempsey on Jan. 24.
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