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January 3 2014

GI Jane: You Want Me to Do How Many Pull-Ups?

Charlotte Hays

A bit of bad news for those who want GI Jane on the front lines:

More than half of female Marines in boot camp 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.

The headline on Townhall’s posting of this AP story is “Marines Delay Female Fitness Plan after Half Fail.” But note: it’s just a delay, and we know how this “debate” will go as long as President Obama is in office: it will revolve around feminist ideology, not whether women have the physical attributes that are required of soldiers on the front lines.

Starting this year, female Marines were supposed to be able to do at least three pull-ups in their annual physical. Eight pull-ups were required for a perfect score. The military regards the strength to do pull-ups as similar to that for scaling walls, carrying heavy ammunition, and other tasks essential to performing in combat.

So few women were able to meet the three pull-up standard that the Marines put off this requirement and instead gave the women a multiple-choice test—female Marines are allowed to pick either the three pull-ups or a flexed-arm hang. The minimum time would be 15 seconds. Men do not use the flexed-arm hang in their tests.

An official is quoted on how those responsible for training should “ensure that female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to succeed.” I can’t help wondering if ensuring these women success in training exercises and tests isn’t the exact opposite of preparing them to succeed in combat. A Marine who doesn’t have the basic physical strength may also imperil other Marines, both male and female. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought the point of military training is to weed out those who won't succeed, not to ensure that some protected category succeeds.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Preparedness, realizes the risks:

“When officials claim that men and women are being trained the same, they are referring to bare minimums, not maximum qualifications that most men can meet but women cannot," Donnelly wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Awarding gender-normed scores so that women can succeed lowers standards for all. Women will suffer more injuries and resentment they do not deserve, and men will be less prepared for the demands of direct ground combat."

Feminists and the administration, however, aren’t interested in mere physical capabilities for combat—to them, this is a matter of ideology.

If, as appears to be the case, the military becomes primarily a vehicle for social engineering, I foresee a paradigm shift in politics: conservatives, who have long stressed the importance of military preparedness, realizing that the military has lowered its standards, and thus its fighting capabilities, to push a social agenda, may become less hawkish about defense budgets. But liberals, seeing a military that is mostly aimed at promoting gender equality might become more sanguine about military spending.

I think we already are seeing that the right is slightly less vocal about the importance of military spending than historically. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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