News of the abysmal failure rate among female Marine recruits for combat test standards has reached Congress, prompting heated reactions from GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, who said he’s not at all surprised, but is worried the high failure rate will precipitate lower standards for women.
“This is what happens when you have a military decision made for political ends,” Hunter told The Hill. “Men and women are physically different.”
Hunter said Pentagon bureaucrats are inevitably going to use poor female results to justify lowering standards.
“They’re going to want to be able to say every two out of however many combat jobs are women,” Hunter said. “It’s purely political. They’re going to have to [lower standards] if women can’t do it. If not, then they’ll say it’s not fair. That’s going to be the argument.”
But Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, a noted advocate for women in the military, said the sample size is simply too small to draw any larger conclusions about female performance on combat tests. A total of seven women tried out, and six failed.
“It’s pretty disingenuous to discount an entire gender based on a sample size of seven women,” Speier said. “Using that logic, more men than women failed the test – should we question whether men have the right to serve in combat?”
While it’s true that more men failed out of the tests, that’s only true if evaluated in terms of absolute numbers. When viewed relatively, the failure rate of men overall was only 2.7 percent, compared to the female failure rate of 85.7 percent.
The tests called for recruits to do six pull-ups, a three-mile run in no more than 24 minutes and 51 seconds and 60 lifts of an ammunition can that is 60 pounds. Other components of the test mandate a half-mile run in combat boots in no more than three minutes and 26 seconds.
The new combat test came into effect at the turn of the year, which is when Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat roles to women and ran roughshod over concerns from Marine Corps leadership.
Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has insisted higher combat standards will make the force better as a whole, but said for the women who do make it through, there will be an inevitable adjustment period.
“I think a lot of the talk is more just maybe they’re nervous about the unknown,” Neller told The Associated Press. “But there are some things we’re going to have to work through.”
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