Women’s failures on infantry courses could test standards
‘Dempsey rule’ prompts review of relevance
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.
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.