2014-01-04 22:13:32 UTC
can't do three pullups, the minimum standard that was supposed
to take effect with the new year, prompting the Marine Corps to
delay the requirement, part of the process of equalizing
physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs.
The delay rekindled sharp debate in the military on the question
of whether women have the physical strength for some military
jobs, as service branches move toward opening thousands of
combat roles to them in 2016.
Although no new timetable has been set on the delayed physical
requirement, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos wants
training officials to "continue to gather data and ensure that
female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to
succeed," Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine spokeswoman, said
Starting with the new year, all female Marines were supposed to
be able to do at least three pullups on their annual physical
fitness test and eight for a perfect score. The requirement was
tested in 2013 on female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot,
Parris Island, S.C., but only 45 percent of women met the
minimum, Krebs said.
The Marines had hoped to institute the pullups on the belief
that pullups require the muscular strength necessary to perform
common military tasks such as scaling a wall, climbing up a rope
or lifting and carrying heavy munitions.
Officials felt there wasn't a medical risk to putting the new
standard into effect as planned across the service, but that the
risk of losing recruits and hurting retention of women already
in the service was unacceptably high, she said.
Because the change is being put off, women will be able to
choose which test of upper-body strength they will be graded on
in their annual physical fitness test. Their choices:
Pullups, with three the minimum. Three is also the minimum for
male Marines, but they need 20 for a perfect rating.
A flexed-arm hang. The minimum is for 15 seconds; women get a
perfect score if they last for 70 seconds. Men don't do the hang
in their test.
Officials said training for pullups can change a person's
strength, while training for the flex-arm hang does little to
adapt muscular strength needed for military tasks
The delay on the standard could be another wrinkle in the plan
to begin allowing women to serve in jobs previously closed to
them such as infantry, armor and artillery units.
The military services are working to figure out how to move
women into newly opened jobs and have been devising updated
physical standards, training, education and other programs for
thousands of jobs they must open Jan. 1, 2016, said Navy Lt.
Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. They
must open as many jobs to women as possible; if they decide to
keep some closed, they must explain why.
Military brass has said repeatedly that physical standards won't
be lowered to accommodate female applicants. Success for women
in training for the upcoming openings has come in fits and
In fall 2012, only two female Marines volunteered for the 13-
week infantry officers training course at Quantico, Va., and
both failed to complete it.
But the following fall, three Marines became the first women to
graduate from the Corps' enlisted infantry training school in
North Carolina. They completed the same test standards as the
men in the course, which included a 12-mile march with an 80-
pound pack and various combat fitness trials such as timed
ammunition container lifts and tests that simulate running under
Officials had added specific training for female recruits when
the pullup requirement was announced in December 2012, and they
came up with a workout program for women already serving.
Military testing for physical skill and stamina has changed over
the decades with needs of the armed forces. Officials say the
first recorded history of Marine Corps physical fitness tests,
for example, was 1908 when President Theodore Roosevelt ordered
that staff officers must ride horseback 90 miles and line
officers walk 50 miles over a three-day period to pass. A test
started in 1956 included chinups, pushups, broad jump, 50-yard
duck waddle and running.
The first test for women was started in 1969: A 120-yard shuttle
run, vertical jump, knee pushups, 600-yard run/walk and situps.