- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 25, 2012

Female Marine officers are unlikely to join the infantry anytime soon, in part because of a lack of volunteers for the Marine Corps‘ Infantry Officer Course, which was opened to women in September.

Only two of about 80 eligible female Marines have volunteered for the course — a grueling, three-month advanced regimen conducted at Quantico, Va., that was opened to women to research their performance.

Of the two female volunteers, one washed out on the first day, along with 26 of the107 men, and the other dropped out two weeks later for medical reasons, a Marine Corps spokesman said.

The research effort was launched after the Pentagon opened to women more than 14,000 jobs that could place them closer to front lines and combat.

The Marine Corps wants to test at least 90 more women in the course before making any decision about women serving in infantry roles, the spokesman said.

Getting 90 more female volunteers may be difficult. About 125 female officers each year enter the Basic School, a prerequisite and candidate pool for the Infantry Officer Course, the spokesman said.

Since September, women in every new class of the Basic School have been given the opportunity to volunteer for the Infantry Officer Course, and they will continue to be offered the chance, he said.

A Marine Corps spokeswoman said no women have volunteered for the next Infantry Officer Course, which begins in January.

Testing and evaluating

The Marines have yet to implement the research option for female enlisted Marines who volunteer to train at the Infantry Training Battalion, the all-male advanced regimen at the Corps’ School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, N.C., a spokeswoman said.

The research is part of efforts to gather information that could help guide decisions on what opportunities can be opened to women.

The Pentagon ordered the services to issue a progress report on the jobs it opened to women and to look into other areas, including the infantry, that could be opened to women.

Those reports and research are to be sent by the end of this month to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who will issue any policy changes and recommendations to Congress.

Since May, the Marine Corps also has been testing women’s endurance and strength.

Tests include lifting a 72-pound machine gun above their heads while wearing a 71-pound rucksack, marching 12 miles in less than five hours carrying a 71-pound rucksack and evacuating a mock casualty weighing about 200 pounds.

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