Few women will qualify for land combat: report

Loophole feared in ‘gender-neutral’ qualifications

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It sent a memo to Capitol Hill titled “The Women in Service Restriction Review,” in which it talks of developing a “predictive mechanism.”

The memo says the Corps is first “validating” the standards for each combat job. It then will test a sample of male and female Marines against the same standards and use the scores as a predictive indicator when recruiting women.

Yet, at the same time the Marine Corps is saying it is rechecking its standards, it also is vowing not to change them.

“The Marine Corps‘ high standards cannot be lowered, nor can we artificially lower them to ensure a certain percentage of females will qualify,” the memo states. “Conversely, we will not artificially raise standards.”

“Lifting a 95-pound artillery round must be done by a Marine, either male or female,” it adds.

The Corps already has tried one experiment.

In October, two female lieutenants entered the grueling, all-male Officer Infantry School, but both dropped out within the first three weeks of the three-month course. Two other female Marine officers have applied for the school this spring.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer, has drafted legislation he thinks will close the law’s gender-neutral loophole. It would require the services to lower qualifications for men if standards are adjusted so that women can enter combat units.

“There’s an expectation that the [Defense] Department will look to either create a multitier system or try to lower standards across the board,” Mr. Hunter told The Times. “At a minimum, there needs to be a backstop to ensure standards remain the same.

“If they want to lower standards, they are going to have to lower them for everyone, and I don’t think they are prepared to do that, nor is it in our best interest,” he said. “We need to maintain the high level of readiness that we have.”

While pro-military conservatives concede there are not enough votes in Congress to put the women-in-combat ban into law, Mrs. Donnelly said they should try.

“Legislation mandating equal standards for direct ground combat training will not solve the problem,” Mrs. Donnelly told The Times. “Instead of dual standards, there will be lowered standards — equal but far less demanding than the male-oriented standards right now.

“The only way to preserve superior training that prepares men for direct ground combat against the enemy, and to preserve civilian women’s exemption from Selective Service obligations, is to codify updated, reality-based regulations that affirm women’s direct ground combat exemptions,” she said.

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