Marines delay female fitness plan after half fail
Female recruits line up at the Marine Corps Training Depot on Parris Island, S.C. More than half of female Marines in boot camp can't do three pull-ups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year. So the Corps is delaying the requirement. All the service branches are working on devising standards, training and other policies needed to open thousands of combat roles to women in 2016. AP Photo
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. 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.
Officials felt there wasn’t a medical risk to putting the new standard into effect as planned across the service, but that the risk of losing recruits and hurting retention of women already in the service was unacceptably high, she said. Because the change is being put off, women will be able to choose which test of upper-body strength they will be graded on in their annual physical fitness test. Their choices:
∎ Pullups, with three the minimum. Three is also the minimum for male Marines, but they need 20 for a perfect rating.
∎ A flexed-arm hang. The minimum is for 15 seconds; women get a perfect score if they last for 70 seconds. Men don’t do the hang in their test.
The delay on the standard could be another wrinkle in the plan to begin allowing women to serve in jobs previously closed to them such as infantry, armor and artillery units. The military services are working to figure out how to move women into newly opened jobs and have been devising updated physical standards, training, education and other programs for thousands of jobs they must open Jan. 1, 2016, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. If they decide to keep some closed, they must explain why.
Military brass has said repeatedly that physical standards won’t be lowered to accommodate female applicants. Success for women in training for the upcoming openings has come in fits and starts.
In fall 2012, only two female Marines volunteered for the 13-week infantry officers training course at Quantico, Va., and both failed to complete it. But the following fall, three Marines became the first women to graduate from the Corps’ enlisted infantry training school in North Carolina. They completed the same test standards as the men in the course, which included a 12-mile march with an 80-pound pack and various combat fitness trials such as timed ammunition container lifts and tests that simulate running under combat fire.