Women are struggling with the new Marine Corps fitness standards according to data obtained by the Associated Press.
By a staggering margin, six out of seven female recruits seeking to gain combat roles in the military have failed the new Marine Corps fitness program. Of the 1,500 male recruits, 40 have failed to pass the fitness standards which is made up of ammunition-can lifts, pull-ups, a 3 mile run and combat maneuvers.
The number of females passing and taking part in the standards reflects the difficulty they are having with the training necessary to complete the demanding job as well as the interest females have in the roles.
The test, which is taken 45 days into basic training forces recruits to work in jobs that are less physically demanding.
The high rate of failure for women is causing concern in Marine infantry units where they would have to carry around backpacks, gear, equipment and ammunition in tough conditions and through difficult obstacles, and in close combat.
And while jobs may be open to women, not many women are actually interested in the combat jobs.
Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said he wasn’t surprised that few women are interested in the combat jobs.
“Some of them are not interested at all, some want just to make it gender neutral and we’ll just figure it out,” Neller said. “The majority of them, when you get them together, they say, ‘Look, I’m not really interested in this. I love being a Marine, I like what I’m doing as a Marine. And I’m really not interested in this, but I don’t want you to tell me I can’t try.'”
Marine leaders say they are weeding out less powerful Marines through the new fitness standards which were produced after the Pentagon’s decision to allow females to serve in combat roles and front-line jobs like infantry and artillery roles.
“I think that’s made everybody better,” Neller told the Associated Press in an interview. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”
The seven women that are already serving in combat roles are Marine officers that requested open combat posts. One recruit has not reported to boot camp after enlisting for an infantry job. One was injured during the infantry officers course and is waiting to retake the course. Two of the recruits have graduated from the artillery course, one ranked third in her class and the other with honors. Three others participated in infantry research programs and will take advanced infantry training and then report to battalions in the fall.
The 167 women who are performing non-combat duties in front-line units have asked to work in front-line combat units but are currently working in logistics, communications or intelligence.
Marine Corps leaders in the past have mentioned their disinterest with allowing women in combat roles in the military, citing studies that showed mixed-gender units not performing as well as male-only units.
Officials say that the standards for entering combat roles will not be lowered despite the female recruit passing rate only being 14% compared to the mens 97% passing rate.
According to the new fitness standards all of those that failed will not move into combat roles, while in the past, those that failed would eventually make it into those roles.
Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said that the transition will be a work in progress and Marines will have to adjust to previous all-male units. “If you can carry the weight and you can do the job, and you’re smart and you’re a good leader, and you’re a person of character and quality and set a good example, people will follow you,” Neller said during an interview in his Pentagon office. “I don’t think it really matters who you are.”