A fascinating piece (with equally compelling photos) in today’s NYT about how the US Marine Corps trains its infantry officers. There was a recent conversation on this blog about the wisdom of militaries accepting women as combatants. One aspect of this NYT piece is that the USMC will soon open its Infantry Officer Course to female candidates. MP+

8 July 2012
A Grueling Course for Training Marine Officers Will Open Its Doors to Women
QUANTICO, Va. — Under the searing sun of one of the worst heat waves in decades, a sweat-drenched Marine second lieutenant stepped from the woods on the base here and reported to an infantry captain standing on a dirt road.

The captain handed the lieutenant a sheet of paper. “Write your name and the time on this card,” the captain said. “You have five minutes to take this portion of the test. Do not use any reference materials. When you are done, return this card to that captain” — he nodded to a huge, tattooed man a few yards away — “and he will tell you what to do next. Begin.”

The lieutenant dropped to the dirt beside other sweaty young officers and removed a pen from his soggy uniform. Another officer, his time up, approached the second captain, who took the card, expressed disgust that the lieutenant had not written his name at its top and pointed him to a laminated sheet of paper displaying a grid coordinate.

That coordinate was where the lieutenant was expected for the test’s next stage. When the lieutenant plotted it on his map, he saw that like many of the preceding stations, it was miles away. He shouldered his pack, slung his rifle and began to jog. The temperature hovered near 100 degrees.

This was one sequence in the Combat Endurance Test, the opening exercise in the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course — one of the most redoubtable male-only domains in the American military. And this session of the course could be the last male-only class. Beginning in September, the corps says, female officer volunteers will participate here, part of a study to gauge the feasibility of allowing female Marines to serve in more extensive combat roles.

Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers, the commander of the Basic School, which oversees the course, said he had no special concerns as the course prepares to accept women. “Nothing more so with women than with men,” he said.

“We expect them to be fit enough to go through the course when they get here, just like the men are.”

Read the whole piece here.

0 Responses

  1. Interesting, I read a good piece written by a female Marine Engineer Captain recently, who had done several tours of Iraq and A-stan, she disagreed with women doing the IOC, her arguments were well researched and based on experience, her main argument was that she agreed females could be fit enough to pass the course, however long term service in the job would be near impossible due to the wear and tear of the combat environment on the female body, she explained that she had started her career as an extremely fit individual, but after several tours her body was worn out, she had severe muscle atrophy and even ended up sterile, I imagine the article would also have an effect on her promotion prospect, I hope not, it was a brave article.

  2. Thanks, Dan. I foound the article you mentioned. The author is Capt. Katie Petronio and there is a link to a video interview with her here: https://cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2012/07/10/exp-early-petronio-women-combat-one.cnn

    Her article can be found here:

    I got the impression from the NYT piece that the Corps is willing to open the IOC to female candidates but is not willing to change its standards, so as one might imagine, it will be a long time before they have any meaningful statistics to judge the experiement by.

    Capt. Petronio raises another point when she talks about the damage her body suffered from "an excessive time in full combat load". Several mil bloggers have noted that western militaries today impose stupid loads on their soldiers. Some of load comes from wanting to achieve max force protection, hence body armour and flak vests, and then there are the incredibly heavy rucks, which force troops to drink more water in hot environments, thus to carry more, etc. You reach a point where the load is just wrecking people, especially people trying to fight a lighter, more nimbler adversary. But I digress.

  3. Thats a good point, I remember a story from WWI, I think it was the battle of the Somme, the first British attack, the troops were ordered to carry full loads , as much as they could, hence they were very slow to cross no mans land, resulting in extraordinary casualties, I agree, with secure supply lines, our troops are overloaded.