“A Challenge for Female Marines”


Some might challenge the irreducible strength standards demanded of Marine Corps infantry officers. But being able to lift oneself—while wearing body armor and carrying a pack—up and over walls is essential in modern combat. So is being able to move a wounded fellow Marine across a field to safety, or to haul part of a dismantled mortar to an ambush site.

We would put Marines in danger and risk mission failure by lowering such requirements. Moreover, no female Marine officer would be able to command the respect of the enlisted Marines in her platoon without holding her own physically. She wouldn’t have to be the strongest among them, but a certain minimum level of strength is an essential prerequisite.

O’Hanlon isn’t a noted right-wing reactionary. Your thoughts?



  1. R. Hollander says:


    and from an exchange between two Washington Post bloggers named "Independent" and "Marsha":


    "It will be interesting to see if the Marine Corps can conduct this test within the stated framework of the full Infantry Officer's Course and as they say "let the chips fall where they may" or whether the powers of political pressure will force diminishment of parts of it to allow women to pass. That has been the pattern in the past, so no one should be surprised if it happens. As the author of this article says, infantry combat is about killing people and being an infantry officer means leading your young people towards death: there can't be any compromises in that part of warfare. If women make it through this course well, it will demonstrate that some women can succeed in the mental and physical rigors of infantry leadership. This test will not answer the questions of whether young enlisted women will succeed as infantrymen in combat or whether mixing young males and young females in a rifle company will enhance or inhibit their combat effectiveness. War hasn't changed a bit and the penalty for failure is more deaths of our own young people and failure of our country's missions."


    "Why assume that rifle companies have to be mixed — an all-female rifle company might be astonishingly effective. Having worked with both mixed teams and all-female teams in various ways over the years, I'd go with an all-female team every time."


    "Hi Marsha – That would sound like a solution except rifle companies don't operate by themselves. They are part of battalions, which are in turn part of regiments/brigades, etc. A female-only unit would of necessity be in close proximity with the male units and nature would tak eits course. The other issue is attrition. When a unit takes casualties, the members will need replacement. Would we have to maintain a separate pool of female replacements to fill in for the missing dead and wounded? The biggest issue is the question of whether we can effectively train young women to kill people in person. We have a bare ability to do this with young men and their store of testosterone. Even after intense screening and training, only a proportion of young men actually aim their weapons with deliberation in combat. Will we be able to get a majority of young women to do what the infantry is designed to do? Experience with other experiments with women in combat has not been good in this aspect. Even the Russians disbanded women's units when the emergency had been reduced. Infantry is not a "career opportunity"; it's miserable isolated murder and that will never change."


    • Lt Col P says:

      Thanks, Guns!

      Marsha is an idiot. "All-female rifle company might be astonishingly effective." Yes, but it would probably be astonishly ineffective. The Marine Corps could probably field one all-female rifle company, which would have a fraction of the combat-effectiveness of its male counterparts. And doing so would be a gross waste of time and effort. Let's leave the grunt-ing to the men.

      • OscarCitadel82 says:

        Lt Col P saying Marsha is in idiot is a breath of fresh air. However, in recent years people have shyed away from calling people like Marsha an idiot. That just created more space for idiots and it did not reduce their numbers amongst us.

        Idiots like the deer population will multiply if there are no known predators. For the deer, that would be hunters thinning the herd. For idiots, it is just people placing them to the litmus test of common sense

        If we fielded an all female infantry Marine rifle company, would the enemy be obliged to field an all female force on the objective?

        I believe that there are very fit young ladies in the Marines and they can serve just about anywhere. They are probably too few in number to concentrate in one unit.

        • Maj W says:

          I don't think I've read a finer, more concise explanation of how best to combat the PC crazies among us! Bravo Zulu sir. That is going on my corkboard.

  2. Mike Burke says:

    here's another take on the issue: http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-11

    I am pretty much agnostic on this issue. I am long retired and served in logistics units, even within an armored divison. So my expertise is limited. And the last time this debate roiled in these pages, I was certainly in the minority in believing that some women could be as good at being infantrymen as some men. I still hold that view, in part because of the many tough women soldiers I worked with while in the Army. So I await the results of the Marine Corps test.

  3. UltimaRatioRegis says:

    If you cup your ear, you can almost hear the drip, drip, drip of the political pressure from DACOWITS to make the standards at the Infantry Officers' Course more "reasonable" (read "passable") for female Lieutenants. And when will someone from DoD lean on the Commandant's desk and say "General, we would like this next experiment to be a success." And he in turn will tell CG MCCDC the same, until the downhill roll hits the Commanding Officer of IOC, who is told that "x of the x number of female Lieutenants WILL complete the course successfully".

    Sorta like Kara Hultgreen with a pack on. Except she won't just take an aircraft with her when she is found unequal to the task, but a whole platoon of Marines.

  4. John Minehan says:

    People who meet the standards, should get the chance.

    • Jim Burke says:

      OK, sir but which standards? The ones in place today or the ones that will be massaged in order to turn out more than one or two XX 2nd Lts from IOC?

    • OldChief says:

      The standards for the leaders should be equal for every Marine in a given position. A bullet from a female Marine is as deadly as one from a male Marine. However, if a Marine can't get into the fight because of an inability to clear obstacles, carry a load, or get to the fight in time, that Marine and that Marine's bullets are useless.

      High physical standards do not discriminate against females. They discriminate against the physically weak.

  5. Russ says:

    This nonsense needs to stop. Even if we could identify the one percent of women who could complete the course, the question remains: why? To provide career opportunities? For "fairness?" If the CMC were serious, a more sensible step would be to one set of physical standards for all Marines, right now. Yep, pull-ups, sit-ups, three mile run, and CFT. When 90% of the WMs fail those minimum requirements, you'll have a starting point, but very few women left. When you put what's left through infantry school, the three freakish specimens who make it will make for a nice recruiting poster to pass around the high schools and to the parents. They can then be assigned a permanent bodyguard, maybe a squad, to protect them from a battalion of horny grunts. 'Cause we all know how sensitive and caring grunts can be. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  6. Slater says:

    Trying to even fathom this push to get females in the Infantry…I like how they haven't talked about getting them in the Armor branch. The Corps has done it right though, considering 25% of those that report to IOC fail the E Course the first day and are reclassed. I fear though the Army won't maintain the standards.

  7. DaveO says:

    All this is being done to undermine the Marine Corps combat capabilities.

    And, oh look! A new little war has been ginned up to be the laboratory and "prove" women are natural infantryfolk.

  8. GunnyP says:

    From a Grunt and instructor of Grunts.

    Coming from a family of coaches, I have seen a high-end sampling of female athletes. I have at times found physical "specimens" that could perform certain aspects, sometimes at a high level (e.g. a sub 18:00 3 mile run time, swim quals, marksmanship etc) – but I have never found one that would succeed at what is expected in the infantry. This is the same reason you do not mix men and women "specimens" in the NFL, college football, wrestling, boxing, MMA, etc. They would get hurt. Badly.

    After 22 years – objectively – I have not met a female yet that could handle the full spectrum of what is asked in the infantry. This is not misogyny as some would argue – it is fact tempered with the most basic-level of common sense observation. Asking us as a service to locate the few women who could and then accept the changes required of us is the height of PC lunacy. If any of these "female-in-the-infantry" proponents ever – EVER – saw us on a 30 miler with full gear and ammo – angry men moving unwieldy, heavy gear quickly – they would apologize for the idiotic side bar and move on to some other PC argument. I have a tough enough time getting the .50 cal receivers and 81mm mortar tubes 30 miles on the backs of grown men as it is.

    Suggesting for a moment that there are female specimens that would like to be infantrymen. We would spend our time looking for and vetting these exceptions – taking a slot that the taxpayers assigned for the specific purpose of making a purebred Marine infantryman at the lowest possible cost – rather than concentrating on the candidates that have the highest statistical probability of succeeding because they have the muscle mass and inclination towards violence to do what is asked of them. Also, contrary to popular opinion, the Israelis do not utilize women in the infantry for combat operations. Been there. Asked them directly.

    The infantry environment is BRUTAL and singular in purpose – to close with and destroy. As such, it is psychotic, crazy, violent, intensely competitive, unforgiving, and to some degree cannibalistic of the weak – even the temporarily injured. Expecting accommodations, exceptions, or dilutions will not work – and invites disaster in so many ways. Being in the infantry and fighting is not a right. Combat does care about equality. To the point, the environment is specifically designed to locate and exploit inequality. Show me an all female unit? I will show you where the next attack is coming. Combat is about size, strength, power, speed, aggression, and controlled application of violence. "Equality" in the infantry means equivalent strength and fighting power, nothing more.

    At one level, this question is the same as gays in the military – it is largely about the removal or control of sexual interactions on the front lines where the chain of command has to remain pure and unadulterated. We receive and give orders likely to result in death. Soap opera BS caused by clandestine or overt sexual interactions affects the delivery and execution of these harsh orders. Even the Romans sequestered gay fighting men to the same unit for this purpose – essentially sexual containment. The Marine Corps in general, and the infantry in specific is not WalMart – whereas the Air Force can fly home to a base somewhere that has layers of civility that can accommodate looser command structures – we cannot afford sex anywhere near fighting positions. I have seen an entire chain of command leveled by the presence of a single female and consensual sex. Deployed male units in proximity to women (even a lone woman from another service) lose focus. The focus becomes the sex not the mission.

    Think we can control sex in field? Young females and males located in proximity to one another in field environment or anywhere else will find a way to f@@k each other – even when directly ordered not to do so under full penalty of the UCMJ. I have caught them having sex in the Port-o-Johns, a water bowl trailer, a parked amphib, during a Catholic mass in a pew, in a mess hall during chow hours, adjacent bushes with a two minute window, and in darkened corners of MOUT towns (giving multiple – again consensual – blow jobs). It is impossible for ANY Platoon Sergeant to regulate. I ask those who are considering this garbage to consider that my job is already hard enough.

    No women in the infantry.

    • VMI Warrior says:

      Very well put Gunny. I have served in all male combat arms, mixed combat support and all male (by chance, not design) combat support units. Without exception morale and readiness was better in all male units.
      As XO in a Basic Combat Training company, I too had ample opportunity to see the ingenuity of young troops acting on primal sexual urges. The chapel, barracks stairwells and port-a-john latrines were a favorite, but the most memorable was the 2 love birds I found in the dumpster behind the chow hall. You're right, you can't stop young love, let alone young lust….

    • DaveO says:

      Thank you Gunny – you've made the best argument on this subject that I've seen in a quite a while.

      • GunnyP says:

        The sad part is that those in charge pushing this issue won't listen, and if they listen they won't hear. They have immovable Hollywood illusions (GI Jane, the fictional WM in Aliens, etc) that they hold onto in hearings that cannot be moved with facts or testimony from subject matter experts. It is similar to the DADT issue. The Commandant asked to have DADT to remain in effect for the sexual containment reasons stated above. He was ignored. The DOD sent out survey after survey to the Marine Corps. We said "bad idea." We were ignored. Obviously Hollywood knows best. Who knew.

  9. R. Hollander says:

    Gunny P said it best.