We’ve covered more than a few news items here about Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (who is rapidly proving to be one of the worst appointments in presidential history) and his push to force women into combat roles in the military. This has been particularly unsettling to the Marines, where pretty much everyone who’s ever actually dealt with the corps is worried about lowering standards and reduced combat effectiveness. But despite the continued efforts of Mabus, there is still the issue of passing the physical requirements to be considered. The most recent standards for making the cut in the Marine Corps are proving daunting for female applicants and for more than a few of the men as well. (ABC News)

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits — and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits — failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

To be honest, I’m shocked that even one out of seven women are passing the demanding physical challenge of these tests. For that matter, seeing all but 4 out of 150 men passing the test is rather surprising. The fact is that boot camp is hard. I only had to go through Navy boot camp (which any US Marine to this day will tell you is the equivalent of 12 weeks at a spa with maid service and five star food) and the failure rate for the men was higher than that. Of course, the screening process to even get into the program is more rigorous from what I’ve heard, so that probably accounts for much of that shift on the men’s side.

As far as the female recruits go, those tests are simply too much for most of the women you will meet. That’s not a misogynistic dig at the fairer sex, but just a fact of life. When is the last time you tried doing fifty pull-ups in proper military style? I can assure you that I couldn’t do it today and it was a bit of a struggle when I was a lean lad of 17 who worked summers on a farm before going into the service. The upper body strength required is not typical among women to say the least. (That’s not to say that no women can do it… it’s just not the norm.) And those miles long marches they’re talking about? That’s not the same as going for a hike. You’re carrying equipment which adds up to half the weight of another full grown man on your back. It’s pretty brutal.

Why do the Marines do this? As their leadership notes, it’s because they build better Marines who are ready for war.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”

I remain personally opposed to having any women in any direct combat roles on the battlefield, but that’s a fight I’ve obviously lost, along with the rest of the crusty old dinosaurs out there. But if we’re going to do it, then everyone ready to charge the front lines as one of our Marines needs to be able to fulfill all the duties. This isn’t a plot to keep women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. It’s a program designed to build up the rough individuals who may be called on to do what’s unimaginable to most of the rest of the country when push comes to shove.

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