Women Marines May Find Some Combat Positions Closed to Them

Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 09:25 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Despite the Pentagon's decision to lift the ban on women in combat, certain infantry positions in the Marine Corps could still remain closed to females if there are only a few who meet the standards, according to Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos.

Amos told USA Today the Marines will not lower their physical standards for certain specialties.

"We can't afford to lower standards," the general said. "We can't make adjustments on what's required on the battlefield. That's not why America has a Marine Corps."

A specific example, Amos said, is women as members of tank crews, which mandates that each candidate can lift 40-pound tank rounds and rapidly load them into the main gun.

"If the numbers are so small with regards to qualification, then there very may well be (job fields) that remain closed," Amos said, adding that there shouldn't be deployments with only one or two female service members in a unit, which he says would impair a woman's ability to succeed.

"You want to have assimilation so our females can mentor one another," concluded Amos.

The mentally and physically grueling 13-week Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, which trains officers to lead rifle platoons in combat, may also offer challenges for female Marines aspiring to enter combat roles, Amos said.

In April 2012, the commandant ordered the integration of women into OIC, and two female applicants attempted the course last summer. Both women were unable to complete it.

One of the unsuccessful candidates, Capt. Katie Petronio, wrote an editorial about her failed attempt in The Marine Corps Times called "Get over it. We are not all created equal."

Petronio opened up to CNN about the editorial.

"Women have been in combat for decades and we've proven successful in combat," she said. "I'm not saying that women don't have a role in combat . . . What I'm opposing is women in the infantry."

At a time when front lines rarely exist, many military personnel who support infantry units often find themselves engaging the enemy as well. Women already perform such roles.

Petronio went on to say that the cost of including women in an infantry unit would far outweigh the benefit when it comes to performing their task of engaging and defeating the enemy, adding "combat readiness is going to be affected by this."

Two new female Marine volunteers are expected to start the officers' course next month.

Overall, the entire integration process of allowing women to join at least some combat units will take years to implement as the military develops "gender neutral" standards. If any fields remained closed to women after the Pentagon's edict, the secretary of Defense would have to approve such exclusions.

Of the five U.S. military branches, the Marine Corps has the smallest number of women in its ranks.

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