Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece. The writer is not employed by Military Times and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Military Times or its editorial staff.
Eight women have now successfully completed the Combat Endurance Test (CET) at the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course (IOC), the Basic School commander told the Defense Advisory Council on Women in the Services, Sept. 13. Colonel Mark Clingan said the CET is a screening tool used to weed out officers who are not likely to pass the course. However, none of the eight women who passed the CET graduated IOC.
Interestingly, Clingan further reported that six of the eight women had passed the CET in the top 50 percent of their class and two of the women had passed in the top 10 percent of their class. All eight who passed the CET were later eliminated during hikes when loads began to exceed 100 pounds. When committee members asked how it was that enlisted Marine women had been so much more successful in infantry training, they were told that infantry officers must be able to carry a "sustainment load" of up to 152 pounds for 9.3 miles at a 3-mile-per-hour pace in order to graduate from their course, while loads are much lighter (62 pounds) for enlisted Marines. According to Clingan, basic enlisted infantry training trains Marines to a much lower bar with the expectation that once they reach their units they will be trained up to meet the 152 pound, 9.3 miles at the 3-mile-per-hour standard.
Later in the briefing the Marines showed a slide that quoted the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act which requires that occupational standards "accurately predict performance of actual, regular and recurring duties of a military occupation."
During the break, I asked one of the Marine representatives how often Marines actually carry 152 pounds that distance and he said "infrequently." I was still curious, so I polled a few Marine infantry officers to find out how often they had carried loads of 95 to 152 pounds during their deployments. I was a bit surprised by the responses because I thought the requirement might at least come close to some operational example. However, one infantry officer with two combat deployments, one as a weapons company commander said, "I'm trying to imagine the type of fighting and tactical task that requires you to move around administratively in an AO with 150-plus pounds on your back… Nothing is impossible, but trying to come up with a situation, mission and METT-T where this would be required is… a unicorn in my opinion."
I also received this response: "I won't lie, I can't get my mental digits around 152 pounds. At an actual unit, that is just a non-starter to me (but) I can totally see the staff at IOC running wild just to see what the lieutenants can handle and endure as part of the rite of passage that is IOC."
And then there was this response; "On the regular infantry battalion side, I would challenge anyone to go to Camp Pendleton and find a platoon or company in the fleet that can meet that standard (152 pound load/9 miles/3+ mph) or that is spending the time to work up to that standard."
So my question to the Marine Corps is -- where did they get these standards, who validated them and who can actually meet them? They don’t appear to be operationally based and it sounds like no Marine infantry unit can meet them. They certainly aren’t
regular or recurring
requirements to be a Marine infantryman -- which means they don’t meet legal standards.
Retired Army Col. Ellen Haring is a fellow at Women in International Security, where she directs the Combat Integration Initiative project. Haring is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earned her doctorate from the George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
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