Female di
The Marine Corps tested females in front line combat units
aka Infantry. The Marine Corps did not lower the standard and allowed females
to participate and qualify for the infantry officers course. The Marine Corps
passed to congress and higher that it would not be a good idea ton implement women into the infantry. What does the
Marine Corps know?  They only have been fighting our nations wars, that's all. Well, to already
cluster strike an idea that apparently everyone in the room already knows the
results except those in DC, a female Marine gives her two cents. But hey, it’s
only another Marine telling everyone, it’s a bad idea. Let’s do it anyway!!! Brilliant.


The Marine Corps Times recently published a
handful of articles in regard to opening Infantry Officer Course (IOC)
to females and the possibility of integrating women into the infantry
community. In mid-April the Commandant directed the “integration” of the
first wave of female officers into IOC this summer following completion
of The Basic School (TBS). This action may or may not pave the way for
female Marines to serve in the infantry as the results remain to be
seen. However, before the Marine Corps moves forward with this concept,
should we not ask the hard questions and gain opinions of
combat-experienced Marines (male and female alike) as to the purpose,
the impact, and the gains from such a move? As a combat-experienced
Marine officer, and a female, I am here to tell you that we are not all
created equal, and attempting to place females in the infantry will not
improve the Marine Corps as the Nation’s force-in-readiness or improve
our national security.

As a company grade 1302 combat engineer officer with 5 years of
active service and two combat deployments, one to Iraq and the other to
Afghanistan, I was able to participate in and lead numerous combat
operations. In Iraq as the II MEF Director, Lioness Program, I served as
a subject matter expert for II MEF, assisting regimental and battalion
commanders on ways to integrate female Marines into combat operations. I
primarily focused on expanding the mission of the Lioness Program from
searching females to engaging local nationals and information gathering,
broadening the ways females were being used in a wide variety of combat
operations from census patrols to raids. In Afghanistan I deployed as a
1302 and led a combat engineer platoon in direct support of Regimental
Combat Team 8, specifically operating out of the Upper Sangin Valley. My
platoon operated for months at a time, constructing patrol bases (PBs)
in support of 3d Battalion, 5th Marines; 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; 2d
Reconnaissance Battalion; and 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. This combat
experience, in particular, compelled me to raise concern over the
direction and overall reasoning behind opening the 03XX field.

is driving this agenda? I am not personally hearing female Marines,
enlisted or officer, pounding on the doors of Congress claiming that
their inability to serve in the infantry violates their right to
equality. Shockingly, this isn’t even a congressional agenda. This issue
is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of
civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense
Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS). Their mission is
to advise the Department of Defense (DoD) on recommendations, as well as
matters of policy, pertaining to the well-being of women in the Armed
Services from recruiting to employment. Members are selected based on
their prior military experience or experience with women’s workforce
issues. I certainly applaud and appreciate DACOWITS’ mission; however,
as it pertains to the issue of women in the infantry, it’s very
surprising to see that none of the committee members are on active duty
or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to
the issue they are attempting to change. I say this because, at the end
of the day, it’s the active duty servicemember who will ultimately deal
with the results of their initiatives, not those on the outside looking
in. As of now, the Marine Corps hasn’t been directed to integrate, but
perhaps the Corps is anticipating the inevitable—DoD pressuring the
Corps to comply with DACOWITS’ agenda as the Army has already “rogered
up” to full integration. Regardless of what the Army decides to do, it’s
critical to emphasize that we are not the Army; our operational speed
and tempo, along with our overall mission as the Nation’s amphibious
force-in-readiness, are fundamentally different than that of our sister
Service. By no means is this distinction intended as disrespectful to
our incredible Army. My main point is simply to state that the Marine
Corps and the Army are different; even if the Army ultimately does fully
integrate all military occupational fields, that doesn’t mean the Corps
should follow suit.

I understand that there are female
servicemembers who have proven themselves to be physically, mentally,
and morally capable of leading and executing combat-type operations; as a
result, some of these Marines may feel qualified for the chance of
taking on the role of 0302. In the end, my main concern is not whether
women are capable of conducting combat operations, as we have already
proven that we can hold our own in some very difficult combat
situations; instead, my main concern is a question of longevity. Can
women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat
operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical
issues that go along with integration?

As a young lieutenant, I
fit the mold of a female who would have had a shot at completing IOC,
and I am sure there was a time in my life where I would have volunteered
to be an infantryman. I was a star ice hockey player at Bowdoin
College, a small elite college in Maine, with a major in government and
law. At 5 feet 3 inches I was squatting 200 pounds and benching 145
pounds when I graduated in 2007. I completed Officer Candidates School
(OCS) ranked 4 of 52 candidates, graduated 48 of 261 from TBS, and
finished second at MOS school. I also repeatedly scored far above
average in all female-based physical fitness tests (for example, earning
a 292 out of 300 on the Marine physical fitness test). Five years
later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have
greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long
careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand
experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we
haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical
issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have
on females.

I was a motivated, resilient second lieutenant when I
deployed to Iraq for 10 months, traveling across the Marine area of
operations (AO) and participating in numerous combat operations. Yet,
due to the excessive amount of time I spent in full combat load, I was
diagnosed with a severe case of restless leg syndrome. My spine had
compressed on nerves in my lower back causing neuropathy which
compounded the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. While this injury has
certainly not been enjoyable, Iraq was a pleasant experience compared to
the experiences I endured during my deployment to Afghanistan. At the
beginning of my tour in Helmand Province, I was physically capable of
conducting combat operations for weeks at a time, remaining in my gear
for days if necessary and averaging 16-hour days of engineering
operations in the heart of Sangin, one of the most kinetic and
challenging AOs in the country. There were numerous occasions where I
was sent to a grid coordinate and told to build a PB from the ground up,
serving not only as the mission commander but also the base commander
until the occupants (infantry units) arrived 5 days later. In most of
these situations, I had a sergeant as my assistant commander, and the
remainder of my platoon consisted of young, motivated NCOs. I was the
senior Marine making the final decisions on construction concerns, along
with 24-hour base defense and leading 30 Marines at any given time. The
physical strain of enduring combat operations and the stress of being
responsible for the lives and well-being of such a young group in an
extremely kinetic environment were compounded by lack of sleep, which
ultimately took a physical toll on my body that I couldn’t have

By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle
atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs
to buckle with the slightest grade change. My agility during firefights
and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously
hindering my response time and overall capability. It was evident that
stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of
gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than
that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical
conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction
of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic
ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a
genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and
physical changes endured during deployment. Regardless of my
deteriorating physical stature, I was extremely successful during both
of my combat tours, serving beside my infantry brethren and gaining the
respect of every unit I supported. Regardless, I can say with 100
percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I
could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked
beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me
facing medical separation long before the option of retirement. I
understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am
confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women
into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a
colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for

There is a drastic shortage of historical data on female
attrition or medical ailments of women who have executed sustained
combat operations. This said, we need only to review the statistics from
our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant
difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At
OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically
low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower
rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because
they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at
a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same
trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13
percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found
not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both
of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are
easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender.
The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent.
Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly
higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women.

have been many working groups and formal discussions recently addressing
what changes would be necessary to the current IOC period of
instruction in order to accommodate both genders without producing an
underdeveloped or incapable infantry officer. Not once was the word
“lower” used, but let’s be honest, “modifying” a standard so that less
physically or mentally capable individuals (male or female) can complete
a task is called “lowering the standard”! The bottom line is that the
enemy doesn’t discriminate, rounds will not slow down, and combat loads
don’t get any lighter, regardless of gender or capability. Even more so,
the burden of command does not diminish for a male or female; a leader
must gain the respect and trust of his/her Marines in combat. Not being
able to physically execute to the standards already established at IOC,
which have been battle tested and proven, will produce a slower
operational speed and tempo resulting in increased time of exposure to
enemy forces and a higher risk of combat injury or death. For this
reason alone, I would ask everyone to step back and ask themselves, does
this integration solely benefit the individual or the Marine Corps as a
whole, as every leader’s focus should be on the needs of the
institution and the Nation, not the individual?

Which leads one to
really wonder, what is the benefit of this potential change? The Marine
Corps is not in a shortage of willing and capable young male second
lieutenants who would gladly take on the role of infantry officers. In
fact we have men fighting to be assigned to the coveted position of
0302. In 2011, 30 percent of graduating TBS lieutenants listed infantry
in their top three requested MOSs. Of those 30 percent, only 47 percent
were given the MOS. On the other hand, perhaps this integration is an
effort to remove the glass ceiling that some observers feel exists for
women when it comes to promotions to general officer ranks. Opening
combat arms MOSs, particularly the infantry, such observers argue,
allows women to gain the necessary exposure of leading Marines in
combat, which will then arguably increase the chances for female Marines
serving in strategic leadership assignments. As stated above, I have
full faith that female Marines can successfully serve in just about
every MOS aside from the infantry. Even if a female can meet the
short-term physical, mental, and moral leadership requirements of an
infantry officer, by the time that she is eligible to serve in a
strategic leadership position, at the 20-year mark or beyond, there is a
miniscule probability that she’ll be physically capable of serving at
all. Again, it becomes a question of longevity.

Despite my
personal opinion regarding the incorporation of females into the
infantry community, I am not blind to the fact that females play a key
role in countering the gender and cultural barriers we are facing at
war, and we do have a place in combat operations. As such, a potential
change that I do recommend considering strongly for female Marine
officers is to designate a new secondary MOS (0305) for a Marine serving
as female engagement team (FET) officer in charge (OIC). 0305s would be
employed in the same way we employ drill instructors, as we do not need
an enduring FET entity but an existing capability able to stand up
based on operational requirements. Legitimizing a program that is
already operational in the Corps would greatly benefit both the units
utilizing FETs and the women who serve as FET OICs. Unfortunately, FET
OICs today are not properly screened and trained for this mission. I
propose that those being considered for FET OIC be prescreened and
trained through a modified IOC with an appropriately adjusted physical
expectation. FET OICs need to better understand the infantry culture and
mindset and work with their 0302 brethren to incorporate FET assistance
during specific phases of operations to properly prepare them to serve
as the subject matter experts to a regimental- or battalion-level
infantry commander. Through joint OIC training, both 0302s and FET OICs
can start to learn how to integrate capabilities and accomplish their
mission individually and collectively. This, in my mind, is a much more
viable, cost-effective solution, with high reward for the Marine Corps
and the Nation, and it will also directly improve the capabilities of

Finally, what are the Marine Corps standards,
particularly physical fitness standards, based on—performance and
capability or equality? We abide by numerous discriminators, such as
height and weight standards. As multiple Marine Corps Gazette articles
have highlighted, Marines who can run first-class physical fitness tests
and who have superior MOS proficiency are separated from the Service if
they do not meet the Marine Corps’ height and weight standards.
Further, tall Marines are restricted from flying specific platforms, and
color blind Marines are faced with similar restrictions. We recognize
differences in mental capabilities of Marines when we administer the
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and use the results to
eliminate/open specific fields. These standards are designed to ensure
safety, quality, and the opportunity to be placed in a field in which
one can sustain and succeed.

Which once again leads me, as a
ground combat-experienced female Marine Corps officer, to ask, what are
we trying to accomplish by attempting to fully integrate women into the
infantry? For those who dictate policy, changing the current
restrictions associated with women in the infantry may not seem
significant to the way the Marine Corps operates. I vehemently disagree;
this potential change will rock the foundation of our Corps for the
worse and will weaken what has been since 1775 the world’s most lethal
fighting force. In the end, for DACOWITS and any other individual or
organization looking to increase opportunities for female Marines, I
applaud your efforts and say thank you. However, for the long-term
health of our female Marines, the Marine Corps, and U.S. national
security, steer clear of the Marine infantry community when calling for
more opportunities for females. Let’s embrace our differences to further
hone in on the Corps’ success instead of dismantling who we are to
achieve a political agenda. Regardless of the outcome, we will be
“Semper Fidelis” and remain focused on our mission to protect and defend
the United States of America.

Related articles

Pentagon to Lift Rule Excluding Women From Combat
Will 'equality' now mean lower standards?
Only Two Female Marines Step Forward For The U.S. Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course


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