Women’s fail­ures on in­fantry cour­ses could test stan­dards

‘Dempsey rule’ prompts re­view of rel­e­vance

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCARBOROUGH

Two years ago, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the na­tion’s top mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, laid down an edict on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to open di­rect land com­bat jobs to women: If women can­not meet a stan­dard, se­nior com­man­ders bet­ter have a good rea­son why it should not be low­ered.

To­day, the “Dempsey rule” ap­pears to have its first test case.

The Marine Corps just fin­ished re­search to see if fe­male of­fi­cers could suc­cess­fully com­plete its rig­or­ous In­fantry Of­fi­cer Course.

A IOC di­ploma is a must to earn the des­ig­na­tion of in­fantry of­fi­cer. Of 29 women who tried, none grad­u­ated; only four made it through the first day’s com­bat en­durance test.

Corps public af­fairs said it did not have the data on which tasks proved the tough­est for women. But one par­tic­u­larly de­mand­ing up­per-body strength test is climb­ing a 25-foot rope with a back­pack full of gear. A can­di­date who can­not crawl to the top fails the test.

Tra­di­tion­al­ists see the 0-29 per­for­mance as a call to arms by those in­side the Pen­tagon who are determined to have sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of women in the in­fantry. They are on the look­out for stan­dards they be­lieve are no longer rel­e­vant in to­day’s bat­tle­field.

“The pres­sure is on the ser­vices from the White House’s po­lit­i­cally cor­rect crowd vis-a-vis Obama’s Pen­tagon ap­pointees, who will force the ser­vices to ac­cept de­graded stan­dards,” said Robert Magin­nis, a re­tired Army of­fi­cer and au­thor of the book “Deadly Con­se­quences: How Cow­ards Are Push­ing Women Into Com­bat.”

In Jan­uary 2013, then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chair­man, ap­peared in the Pen­tagon press room to make a his­toric an­nounce­ment. They had lifted the rule that pre­vented women from serv­ing in di­rect ground com­bat, such as in­fantry, spe­cial op­er­a­tions, ar­tillery and ar­mor.

The can­cel­la­tion be­gan a far-reach­ing process by each mil­i­tary branch to eval­u­ate fe­male can­di­dates and the stan­dards they must meet. The gi­ant study is sched­uled to end in Jan­uary, when De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter will de­cide which, if not all, oc­cu­pa­tions will be opened. If a ser­vice — the Marine Corps, for ex­am­ple — de­cides in­fantry should re­main closed, it must prove why its stan­dards can­not be low­ered.

Gen. Dempsey laid down the law this way: “If we do de­cide that a par­tic­u­lar stan­dard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the bur­den is now on the ser­vice to come back and ex­plain to the sec­re­tary, why is it that high? Does it re­ally have to be that high?”

On its face, the Corps might en­counter stiff op­po­si­tion to main­tain­ing its of­fi­cer stan­dards in light of the fact women have passed en­listed in­fantry school, al­beit a less-de­mand­ing course.

Gen­der neu­tral­ity

Dakota Wood, a re­tired Marine Corps of­fi­cer and an an­a­lyst at The Her­itage Foun­da­tion, said the Corps has to be pre­pared for a bu­reau­cratic fight.

“I per­son­ally think there will be peo­ple in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, both in the ex­ec­u­tive and ap­pointees in DOD, who will pres­sure the Corps, seek­ing the open­ing of all oc­cu­pa­tional fields to women,” Mr. Wood said. “My hope is that Marine Corps lead­er­ship are able to ra­tio­nally jus­tify cur­rent stan­dards


A phys­i­cal de­mands study con­cluded that of the 29 women who tried to com­plete the in­tense In­fantry Of­fi­cer Course, none grad­u­ated.


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