- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Two female Marine lieutenants have failed in their bid to complete the Corps’ grueling, all-male Infantry Officer Course (IOC).

The women’s recent washout after only a few days in the course follows the failure of two other female officers attempting to complete the same program in October.

The Corps now stands 0-4 in its search to find female Marines who have the physical strength and endurance to complete one of the most rigorous infantry schools in the military, located at the Quantico, Va., base.

Of 110 lieutenants in the first phase of the course, called the Combat Entrance Test, 14 failed, including the only two women, according to the Marine Corps Times.

“We will continue to solicit women to take part in the IOC program,” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Richard Ulsh told The Washington Times. “I don’t know how [the failures] could stretch to mean something broader than what you’ve got.”

In January, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, announced that the Pentagon had lifted a longtime ban on women serving in direct land combat jobs in infantry, armor and special operations units.

The armed services have until May 15 to submit to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans for integrating women into all military jobs, including those involving direct ground combat.

Gen. Dempsey has made it clear that if any service wants to continue the ban for certain jobs because the demands are too high, then the service should provide a good reason why those standards should not be lowered to allow women to succeed.

To that end, the Corps has begun an evaluation to try to identify the qualities women would need to qualify for the rough-and-tumble life of an infantryman.

A Corps memo sent to Congress, and obtained by The Washington Times, said it is developing a “predictive mechanism.”

“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.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer, has drafted legislation aimed at preventing the military from lowering standards as a way to make sure women qualify for combat jobs.

Mr. Hunter plans to try to attach his proposal to the 2014 defense budget when the House Armed Services Committee takes up the bill in May.

While the Marines Corps has conducted two test runs, the Army and special operations, such as the Navy’s SEALS, have yet to introduce women into their direct land combat training courses.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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