Retired Army Col. Ellen Haring complained the fitness standards for the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course (IOC) are far too stringent because no women have passed, generating major backlash and an open letter from a Marine Corps infantryman setting her straight.
In an op-ed for Marine Corps Times published Saturday, Haring noted all eight of the women who passed the Combat Endurance Test, yet flunked out of of the IOC, failed when they had to hike while carrying loads over 100 pounds.
The current requirement for infantry officers in the Marine Corps is that they carry a load of up to 152 pounds for 9.3 miles, while completing the hike an appropriate time.
Haring poked around and polled several Marine infantry officers to determine how often it is they actually carried loads that heavy for that long a period and for that kind of distance in an operational setting.
It turns out that as far as Haring is concerned, the answers she received indicate that there are very few cases in which officers would have to carry that kind of weight in the field.
“So my question to the Marine Corps is — where did they get these standards, who validated them and who can actually meet them?” Haring wrote. “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.”
The implication of Haring’s piece is that the current fitness standard needs to be dropped. That captured the attention of the Marine Corps community, though not in a particularly friendly way.
In a letter at Funker530, a Marine infantryman identified only as “Josh” excoriated Haring for interfering in the standards of another service and gave numerous reasons justifying why the load-carrying requirement is important for the IOC in the Marine Corps.
“First and foremost, stay in your lane. This is an easy enough rule to follow, and you’ve probably bashed it into the skulls of every soldier you have ever had in your charge. Since you are A. Not in the Marine Corps, and B. Not ever going to attempt to join the Marine Corps infantry, the entire situation at Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course has absolutely nothing to do with you, and your thoughts on the subject really do not matter to the Marines,” the infantryman wrote.
Josh further noted that carrying that amount of weight was common practice in conventional settings like World War II and the Korean War, where Weapons Company platoons carry heavy loads of “machine gun and mortar assets” for line companies.
For Josh, dropping the fitness requirement just to let women in constitutes a slippery slope.
“If the Marine Corps lowers the golden standard for their main element leadership on the battlefield, what is stopping them from further dropping the bar for all Marines in all job fields?” Josh argued. “Excellence comes at a price, and our nation’s enemies don’t give a damn about how politically correct and diverse our warrior class looks. All they care about is defeating our nation on the battlefield, and that is not something the institution of the United States Marine Corps will ever allow to happen as long as there is breath in the lungs of any U.S. Marine on this planet.”
In early 2015, Elaine Donnelly, director of the Center for Military Readiness, told The Washington Times that the entrance of women into combat roles would mean that standards in the Marine Corps would come under fire, due to ideological pressure — in effect anticipating the argument Haring made Saturday.
“Over time, and it wouldn’t be long, the ‘Dempsey rule’ would apply, meaning, ‘If it’s too hard for women, it’s probably too hard,'” she said.
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