We knew this was coming for a while, but apparently the Marines have moved full speed ahead on evaluating women for all combat roles. This will be rolling out over the course of many months as they evaluate how well female warriors can adapt to the needs of the Corps without compromising on the requirements for the job.

In combat, the No. 4 cannoneer on an artillery crew must heave 100-pound rounds, one after another, into the loading tray of a 155 mm howitzer.

In the North Carolina woods these days, the job sometimes falls to a crew member who weighs just slightly more than the artillery shell she has to lift. “Everybody thinks that we’re not good enough and can’t do everything males can do,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Vicki Harris, a 4-foot, 11-inch, 110-pound military clerk from Cambridge, Ohio. “I want to get out there and prove them wrong.”

Lance Cpl. Harris is part of a large-scale Marine Corps experiment intended to settle the question once and for all: Can women fight in ground-combat units alongside men? The Marines have gathered 400 men and women for a unique experiment to find out.

After the group finishes training next year, researchers will observe the men and women during a series of live-fire attacks and, with high-tech sensors, assess how troops of different sizes and sexes perform together in combat.

I weighed in on this nearly two years ago, stirring a lot of debate, so there’s really no need to go into it again. I don’t want to see women serving on the front lines in combat roles. I realize that’s an unpopular position, but so be it. Now we’re moving into the testing phase of this proposal, and only time will tell.

The early results still don’t make this look like a sure thing. The duties that these valiant female warriors are being asked to perform are not easy for a lot of the significantly larger guys. The women will be asked to drag a wounded comrade to safety under simulated battle conditions, among other things. If the guy weights 180 or 200 pounds and the woman checks in at around 100, that’s a challenge. There were previous tests conducted which also highlighted serious issues. One early test was postponed when more than half of the female recruits were unable to do three pull-ups in the required time.

Marine training is probably the most brutal of all the forces. (Certainly more difficult than what we had to do in the Navy.) They seem to be giving the women a fair shot to prove that they can perform the same tasks, but it looks to be a given that the majority of women are simply not big enough and muscular enough to do what they typically ask of the male marines. (And a LOT of the men wash out of training too.)