On 21 November the Marine Corps will likely graduate its first three Infantrywomen (one was hurt in the final week and complete a final PT test with the following class). A huge congratulations is in order to the women who will complete the Marines’ enlisted basic Infantry course. It is a significant personal accomplishment for these women. 23 additional women (from 39 that started) are in the pipeline spread over three classes.
That said, I predict two out comes. One is that those with an agenda will claim an uncontested and total victory making the case that women belong in the Infantry and secondly many of the wrong lessons will be learned.
Time will show a list of articles claiming uncontested and total victory. The wrong lessons can be identified here.
Three of 15 women will graduate an 80% failure rate for a course that typically drops 1% of the men. Will there be a discussion of whether a failure rate 80 times the male rate is an efficient use of military resources? I doubt it. The first wrong lesson will be that there is a reason to practice this kind of inefficiency.
The Marines have stated they only intend to introduce women into the Infantry in enough numbers to create an environment where women will have female peers and role models, a cohort. Even if the Marines forced every female Marine to undergo enlisted Infantry training they will not have a cohort of women (keep in mind that 20% pass rate is with a hand selected group). Some will think this test proves the Corps can create enough Infantrywomen to build a cohort throughout Infantry units in the Corps.
Let’s say the Corps individually controls Infantrywomen assignments to artificially create select units with a cohort of Infantrywomen. Which Marine regiment would volunteer for the honor? How will targeted units be looked upon by other units? Again, is this efficient? Are the plusses of having infantrywomen worth the turmoil?
Basic training is exactly what it sounds like, basic. It is not a guarantee that a graduate will successfully serve in the Infantry where the standards are in actuality much higher. Infantry units march much farther than 12 miles and under heavier loads than during basic. Minimum PT standards will get you through to basic graduation. At a regular unit it will land you on the remedial PT program on your free time and be treated with disdain during the duty day. Some will draw the incorrect lesson that women have met the standard and can be successful Infantrywomen solely based on completing basic. The truth is far different with 2nd & 3rd order effects that aren’t so obvious.
Where did these women graduate in comparison to their whole class? Maybe the three women graduating are randomly distributed from the top graduate to the last, doubtful considering the exceptionally high failure rate. If women graduated among the lower performing Marines it is likely they will continue to struggle if assigned to regular units with all the issues alluded to above. Further, the military does not habitually select its leaders from its most challenged performers. Why condemn women to compete against male physical standards (if we are actually going to have one standard) and remain at the lowest grades? Do we relax standards to promote Marines who maybe don’t perform as well as their male peers? Do we maintain separate gender physical standards but tell Marines the normed score is what counts? What impact would those courses of action have on the unit? That seems confusing and diametrically opposed to stated goals of equality.
Wait! These women aren’t going to units. The test volunteers are not being assigned to Infantry units or even assigned the 0311 Marine Infantry specialty. The Corps is putting women through basic training only to determine what standards should be to enter the Infantry but not what the standards should be in units. Is their performance going to be extrapolated? Maybe that is a pending incorrect lesson learned?
Recently, it’s been learned that the ten female candidates selected for the Marine Infantry Officer Course were not measured against the male PT standards unlike the men. They were allowed to use the female gender normed standard. Male candidates must attain the highest scores on the male scale to even be considered a candidate for MIOC. Isn’t this preferential treatment? Doesn’t this discriminate against lower scoring males because their scale is tougher? Nine of the ten women failed the initial entry obstacle course. The tenth was unable to complete the first week of training due to a stress fracture. This is exactly how the Army has been doing female integration for decades where standards are called the same, but aren’t.
The process goes on. Women will be integrated no matter what the lessons are.