David Martosko, Daily Mail (London), December 28, 2013
The U.S. Marine Corps has quietly walked back a 2012 directive from the service’s highest-ranking officer that would have rejected female recruits and officer candidates who can’t perform three chin-ups as part of their physical fitness training.
The reason–55 per cent of the women attempting the test are failing. Just one per cent of men can’t complete the exercise.
‘Women aren’t able to make the minimum standard of three pull-ups,’ Marine spokesman Capt. Eric Flanagan told reporters on Friday.
The startling admission, and the military’s course-correction, came after just three out of 15 females successfully graduated from the Marine Corps’ enlisted infantry training course in November.
The new rule, set to go into effect on January 1, would have changed the previous requirement–in place for more than a decade–that requires female Marines to execute a ‘flexed arm hang’, holding on to a pull-up bar with their elbows bent for 70 seconds.
2013 was to be a ‘phase one’ transitional year, according to a November 2012 directive from Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos, with females having a choice of which test to attempt.
‘Phase two will commence on 1 January 2014,’ Amos had ordered. ‘Pull-ups will replace the FAH [flexed arm hang] portion of the PFT [physical fitness test] . . . To pass the pull-up portion of this event, females will be required to execute at least three (3) pull-ups.’
Now, with a 180-degree pivot in the face of widespread failures, Marine commanders’ early predictions that the change was a no-brainer seem more optimistic than realistic.
In November 2012, Major General Bob Butcher told KGTV-10 in San Diego that women ‘are getting closer and closer to combat, and they need to be in top physical condition as well.’
‘We decided to execute because there is no reason why we shouldn’t do this,’ Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills told a reporter for the corps’ website a year ago.
‘Women are fully capable of accomplishing it. It’s more recognition of the changing role of women, the changing capabilities and the changing demands that we place on them.’
Mills said then that the Marines would initially set the bar at eight pull-ups for a perfect score, or three for the minimum passing grade, ‘and then we will raise or lower that after we see how our female Marines do in the year.’
They didn’t do so well, according to a report from National Public Radio.
As the U.S. armed forces integrate women into combat roles, some fear putting them in harm’s way without preparing them for the rigors of active fighting. Female Marines will be eligible to participate in combat-ready forward units in 2016.
Marine officers declined to speak with NPR on the record, but conceded the pull-up requirement was being put off because it would cost them both new recruits and active Marines.
Females can serve in most Marine units but, just like their male counterparts, they can be discharged from the service if they fail an annual physical fitness tests.
Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, told NPR that ‘young women, in spite of all the training and all the best intentions, are not going to be the equal of young men in terms of upper body strength.’
His new book, ‘Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat,’ argues that Pentagon gender politics are sacrificing combat readiness on the altar of political correctness.
Other experts, female Marines among them, insist that women can meet the new standard if they spend enough time in the gym. And 45 per cent of them are making the grade.
‘Females need to realize we all have to start somewhere, and we have more than enough time to prepare for this,’ Corporal Ada Canizaleztejada told Marines.mil in December 2012.
‘About a year ago, I was only doing two pull-ups. I began weightlifting and targeting specific muscles beneficial for doing pull-ups, and now I can do nine.’
Corporal Michelle Brinn told a defense website a few weeks earlier that she reached the goal after a half-year of intense workouts.
‘Six months ago, I couldn’t do one pull-up, my triceps were non-existent, and my biceps were about as hard as a pillow-top mattress,’ Brinn confessed.
But ‘a month into my new workout regimen I was able to perform three proper pull-ups and have since worked my way up to 12,’ she said.
Lance Corporal Ally Beiswanger, who co-hosts the official ‘Corps Report TV’ program on YouTube, said in a November 2013 broadcast that ‘last year, I could barely do one pull-up, and now I’m up to eight. ‘So I’m taking advantage of the extra time to complete my goal of 12.’
A Marine Corps Web page set up to help female recruits cope with the new physical fitness standard is still active, but the testing requirement now appears destined to be a historical footnote.