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Researchers: Marine Corps' Women in Combat Study 'Inherently Flawed'

Image: Researchers: Marine Corps' Women in Combat Study 'Inherently Flawed'
Sgt. Danielle Pothoof watches Cpl. Kristina Beko do her pull ups during morning PT at Camp Lejeune Marine Base in Jacksonville, N.C. on Dec. 6, 2012. (AP photo, The Daily News, Chuck Beckley).  

By    |   Monday, 26 Oct 2015 11:34 AM

A controversial Marine Corps study that found women in combat jobs performed less well than men was "inherently flawed," Stars and Stripes reports.

Researchers who looked at the report, which still hasn't been released to the public, tell the newspaper the study didn't set up basic standards by which to judge the female combatants' performance.

"From a research perspective, there's almost nothing you could reliably draw from this research," Megan MacKenzie, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney in Australia who's published two books about women in combat, tells Stars and Stripes.

"The volunteer selection was poor. The physical screening was poor. The consistency and number of people they put in each of the groups was very varied."

But the central flaw, she and researcher Ellen Haring, a retired Army colonel and senior fellow at Women in International Security in Washington tell Stars and Stripes, is that the study didn't establish "occupation-relevant standards" for Marine combat positions.

"The fact that the Marines chose to do a $36 million study that didn't establish any standards is, I think, interesting in itself," MacKenzie tells the newspaper. "We still don't have combat-specific standards in the Marines. Once you're in the Marines, the only qualification you need to be in an infantry [military occupational specialty] is to be a man."

The study pitted all-male groups against integrated groups in physically challenging tasks — some combat-related, some not. That design created a "race with no finish line," MacKenzie argues.

"We know that some teams performed faster than others, but we don't know if any of them performed adequately or all of them performed adequately," she tells the newspaper. "We just know some were faster, and so the Marines concluded that the teams that were faster were better. But it doesn’t tell us if they were adequate at performing combat-related activities."

MacKenzie said the study also ignored the accomplishments of certain women "who were just amazing physically," including one who "outperformed men consistently…"

An executive summary released last month reported had higher injury rates, were less accurate with weapons and had more troubling moving wounded soldiers off the battlefield – and ran into a storm of criticism, including from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Stars and Stripes reports.

In an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, Mabus criticized the analysis for relying on "1992 language" even as "the way we fight and the landscape of our battles has significantly evolved from a quarter-century ago," Stars and Stripes reports.

The study also didn't evaluate the performance of individual female Marines and used only averages that "have no relevance to the abilities and performance of individual Marines," he added.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to make a decision early next year on which positions will be off-limits to women, Stars and Stripes reports.

A spokesman for the Marines Corp at the Pentagon tells Stars and Stripes the study would be released "as soon as practical."

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A controversial Marine Corps study that found women in combat jobs performed less well than men was "inherently flawed," Stars and Stripes reports.
marine corps, women, combat, research, flawed
Monday, 26 Oct 2015 11:34 AM
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