The documents, first reported by the Associated Press, outline the Marine Corps’ attempt to implement new standards meant to establish a physical foundation for Marines, both men and women, trying to get into physically demanding jobs known as combat arms.
At the beginning of the year, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter ordered that all previously closed jobs such as infantryman, artilleryman and tank crewman be opened to the entire military. In response, the Marine Corps set out to adjust some of its older standards to ensure that those applying for physically demanding combat jobs would be tested differently, even before their first day at Marine Corps boot camp.
According to the documents, the Corps set out a road map with two distinct routes: gender-neutral and gender-normed.
Gender-normed applies to all Marines going into jobs not considered combat arms, and that route consists of the same standards that the Marines have used for some time. This equates to one initial physical test with gender-based minimums for men and women (think 1.5 mile run in 13 minutes 30 seconds for men and 15 minutes for women) before they go to boot camp, and gender-based physical fitness tests once they graduate from boot camp and are in the Corps.
The gender-neutral track, however, is just that, and is designed for men and women who wish to go into combat jobs. Failing a gender-neutral evaluation prior to boot camp, in boot camp or at the specific job training school means that the candidate is “reclassed” into a different, noncombat specialty.
According to the documents, the old, one-size-fits-all approach to certifying Marines for ground combat jobs was “too low,” in that candidates needed to “simply pass” with minimum scores to get into physically demanding jobs.
“Higher fitness was more predictive of success in [job training] and in the operating forces,” the documents say.
Now, for Marines to get into combat jobs, the Corps is looking at a composite of two physical fitness tests, known as the PFT (the standard physical fitness test) and the CFT (Combat Fitness Test). To move into combat jobs, men and women alike will have to meet certain scores on what is known as the Military Occupational Specialty Classification Standard (MCS). This applies to commissioned officers and enlisted Marines hoping to enter combat jobs.
If a Marine’s MCS scores are satisfactory, the final physical hurdle involves passing the final test in job training, known as MOS Specific Physical Standards (MSPS). Depending on a Marine’s job, this could involve a roughly 15-mile road march or hauling artillery rounds from one station to another.
According to the documents, of 5,916 Marines who were evaluated by their MSPS from Jan. 1 to May 17, only 12 failed and were reclassified to noncombat jobs. Three of the 12 were women, and only 20 women were evaluated in total. The three women were trying to become combat engineers and failed the individual skill called the “simulated HESCO lift.” The drill requires that the Marine raise a 100-pound weight from the floor to above his or her head.
“In those ground-combat-arms jobs, being strong is a requirement, and these initial standards are all relevant to the continued success of our Marines,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dent, a Marine Corps spokesman.
“Gender is irrelevant; performance is key,” he added.