Women serving in an experimental Marine Crops unit created to assess how female service members perform in combat roles were injured twice as often as men, less accurate with infantry weapons and slower in completing tactical tasks such as removing wounded soldiers from the field and navigating obstacles, according to the results of a study produced by the service.
The study was carried out over nine months at both Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Twentynine Palms, California. About 400 Marines, including 100 women, volunteered to join the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, the co-ed unit the Marine Corps created to compare the combat performance of male and female service members.
“This is unprecedented research across the services,” said Marine Col. Anne Weinberg, the deputy director of the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office, The Washington Post reported. “What we tried to get to is what is that individual’s contribution to the collective unit. We all fight as units … We’re more interested in how the Marine Corps fights as units and how that combat effectiveness is either advanced or degraded.”
According to an executive summary of the report, released Thursday, Overall, all-male squads, teams and crews demonstrated higher performance levels on 69 percent of tasks evaluated compared to gender-integrated units.
“In addition to performance, evidence of higher injury rates for females when compared to males in performing the same tactical tasks was noted,” the report reads. “The well documented comparative disadvantage in upper and lower-body strength resulted in higher fatigue levels for most women, which contributed to greater incidents of overuse injuries such as stress fractures.”
The results of the study come as the services prepare to submit requests for exemptions to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter this fall, barring women from specific combat roles.