• Marines New Physical Standards For Ground Combat Roles May Deter Females

    The Marine Corps has unveiled new, gender-neutral physical standards for 29 ground combat jobs, making it much harder for potential candidates—male or female—to succeed.

    Officials introduced these new rules for military occupational specialties like infantry, artillery, combat engineering and others Sept. 30, Marine Corps Times reports.

    Some of the new standards apply to all 29 jobs, while others are more specific. One of the all-encompassing rules is that Marines need to be able to evacuate a casualty and conduct an MK19 grenade launcher lift. In other cases, standards vary by job and include tasks like swimming 2,000 yards or scaling a wall.

    The standards arrived a day before the deadline to submit an exemption request. The goal of keeping some combat roles male-only came about following results from the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force. Although the full report from the nine-month experiment is not yet available, the service released a four-page summary of the findings, which kicked off major controversy and tension between the Marine Corps and the Navy.

    The findings indicated that all-male units outperformed mixed gender units on 69 percent of combat tasks. Female Marines sustained injuries at a much higher rate than male Marines. They were slower, failed to perform as well as males on firearm accuracy tests, and often failed casualty evacuation simulations. Most of the women dropped from the experiment due to injury, and by the end, only two were left standing.

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter will make a final determination on whether some combat roles can remain male-only by Jan. 1. But in the event that he refuses to consider any exemptions, the new physical standards may act as de facto barriers to women and will likely even exclude many men, as well.

    “If you’re [5 feet, 6 inches tall] and 120 pounds, you have virtually no chance of doing this job, whatsoever,” Capt. Mark Lenzi, commanding officer of the weapons company during the experiment, told Marine Corps Times.

    Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has criticized the study results, arguing that only individual performance matters, and so if any female Marines meet the standard, they should be allowed to serve in closed-off, ground combat roles. Talk of averages is irrelevant.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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