Women in Combat: How Should It Be Done?
The first two women to begin one of the Marine Corps toughest combat courses washed out within a week this fall. The Corps had temporarily lifted the restriction on women attending its Infantry Officer Course—one of the toughest schools in the U.S. military—in a nod toward greater equality through its ranks.
After both failed to make it beyond one week, what’s next for female Leathernecks, or women in other services,who want to work in combat units?
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 included a provision instructing the military services to study the professional restrictions on female soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. The Army and Marine Corps do not allow women to serve in combat units—infantry, artillery or armor—and special ops units in all the services are largely restricted to men.
[Related: U.S. Military Women Exposed to More Combat Than Ever Before]
In an effort to see if those restrictions are outdated, the Corps established a planning team in Jan. 2011 to review its policies toward women. Among the scrutinized topics was the idea of opening up the brutal, nearly three-month Infantry Officers Course to women.
This latest experiment began this fall with two young female second lieutenants, whose identities and military occupational specialties, or MOSs, were not released to protect their privacy, the Pentagon says. They volunteered to enter fall IOC class, beginning Sept. 24.
About a quarter of the men who begin this sought-after course wash out before graduating.
Unlike other schools the Marine Corps offers for both male and female candidates, the first women to enter IOC were held to the same physical standards as their male counterparts.
One of the women dropped out on the first day (along with about 30 men) in the initial strength evaluation. The other passed the initial combat endurance test, but left after a week due to an injury.
The Corps produced a research plan obtained by U.S. News that shows its analysis so far.