The Marine Corps opened its grueling Infantry Officer Course to women in 2012, part of the Pentagon’s effort to assess how it should integrate female service members into more jobs. The assessment is now closing to volunteers on schedule with a stark statistic: Women who have tried the course so far are 0 for 29.
The Infantry Officer Course (IOC) that began April 2 included two women who fell short during its initial Combat Endurance Test (CET). The endurance test is the initial phase of IOC, a daunting test of physical strength and will that includes an obstacle course, grueling hikes through Quantico’s wooded hills and assessments of skills like weapons assembly and land navigation. Nine of the 90 men who attempted the most recent course — 10 percent — also were cut during the endurance test, said Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman.
The news, first reported by Marine Corps Times on Tuesday, will be used as evidence by those who think there is no place for female officers in the all-male infantry, in particular. The research is part of a three-year project mandated in January 2012 by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said the services must integrate women into all jobs by 2016, or request exceptions based on rigorous analysis.
The Marine struggled to find enough volunteers to further their research, eventually changing the criteria last summer to allow seasoned lieutenants and captains to attempt IOC as long as they completed the male version of the service’s annual fitness test, which requires at least five pull-ups, and a combat fitness test.
At Quantico, women who want to be ground intelligence officers will still be allowed to attempt the Infantry Officer Course (IOC), and must pass it to get the job. The position — which isn’t in the infantry, but frequently works alongside it — was opened to female officers in October 2013, but no woman has passed the prerequisites to do so.
The Marines also opened infantry training for enlisted troops to women in 2013, and they have fared better. As of February 2015, 358 women had volunteered, and 122 (34 percent) have graduated, said Krebs. Those who have completed it so far have gone through only on an experimental basis, and will not be allowed to be infantrymen.
Other parts of the military have handled their research differently — especially the Army and U.S. Special Operations Command.
Beginning April 20, the Army will allow women who have completed a difficult preliminary course to try Army Ranger School. The women will be allowed in on a one-time basis as part of the research. If they pass, they’ll be allowed to wear the coveted Ranger tab, but they will not serve in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment. So far, 12 women have passed the prerequisite Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC), with one more round to go.
Special Operations Command, meanwhile, recently surveyed its troops about whether women should be allowed to serve and found some skepticism. Like the conventional force, its leaders will have to present a convincing case to senior Pentagon leaders if it wants to keep women out of certain jobs.