Reality and social engineering recently collided, and reality lost. Beginning in 2014, female U.S. Marines were supposed to meet a minimum standard of three pull-ups for their annual physical fitness test. Unfortunately, when that standard was tested at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina last year, only 45 percent of the women could meet it. As a result, that part of their fitness requirement has been delayed until 2015. The change, quietly announced during a November report on its TV show, “The Corps Report,” raises serious questions about the push to put women soldiers in front-line combat roles beginning in 2016.
The need for upper body strength in military situations is non-negotiable. Scaling walls, climbing ropes, carrying heavy weapons, as well as being able to rescue one’s fellow soldiers, are all realistic scenarios with regard to combat operations. But apparently such realities were not the the primary consideration for delaying the requirement. Marine spokeswoman Capt. Maureen Krebs noted that while officials felt there was no medical risk involved with making the new standard a requirement, the risk of losing recruits, and hurting efforts to retain women already serving the Marines was “unacceptably high.” Thus it would appear that quotas are more important than competence.
Postponing the standard also appears to contradict a 1993 federal law by which the Secretary of Defense “shall ensure that qualification of members of the Armed Forces for, and continuance of members of the Armed Forces in, that occupational career field is evaluated on the basis of common, relevant performance standards, without differential standards of evaluation on the basis of gender; may not use any gender quota, goal, or ceiling except as specifically authorized by law; and may not change an occupational performance standard for the purpose of increasing or decreasing the number of women in that occupational career field.”
In the world where words matter, the law seems clear. Yet, using breathtakingly strained reasoning, a May 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service titled “Women in Combat: Issues for Congress” apparently provides wiggle room for the diversity-mongers:
“A plain reading of the term suggests that men and women would be required to meet the same physical standards in order to be similarly assigned. However, in the past, the Services have used this and similar terms to suggest that men and women must exert the same amount of energy in a particular task, regardless of the work that is actually accomplished by either.”
Thus the report notes, Air Force Fitness Test scoring currently awards a higher score to a females under 30 years of age running 1.5 miles in a maximum time of 16:22 (minutes:seconds), than it does to male under 30 years of age running the same distance in a maximum time of 13:36. The same two individuals would also receive an identical test score for doing 18 and 33 push-ups, respectively.
The report further notes that lifting the ban on women serving in combat has engendered an argument. Women’s rights groups contend that uniform standards are exclusionary, in that they prevent women from reaching positions of leadership, and that expanding women’s role in the military is a civil rights issue. Critics see it as damaging to military preparedness.
One suspects the civil rights argument wouldn’t hold up particularly well among the members of a unit coming under heavy fire in a combat zone, where each solder expects a certain level of preparedness from their fellow soldiers in order to survive. One further suspects those soldiers would draw little comfort from the knowledge that the “same amount of energy” is being exerted in a particular, possibly life saving task, if that exertion failed to accomplish it.
Unfortunately for our men and women in harm’s way, leftist ideology demonstrates a pernicious lack of concern for the preservation of a soldier’s well-being. Thus, the reality that women have 40 percent less upper body mass than men, and an upper body only 50-60 percent as strong as a man’s–which translated into 55 percent failure rate for women, versus a one percent failure rate for men during pull-ups tests at the Marines’ boot camp–is no great cause for concern.
Nor is the concept of “gender norming,” which embraces the aforementioned different standards for different sexes. This Orwellian construct is employed to achieve a predetermined outcome, as in a requisite number of “combat ready” women, completely irrespective of their combat readiness, physically speaking. As in so many other facets of life where diversity trumps standards, equality of opportunity must give way to equality of results–even if it endangers lives.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness (CMR) and a former member of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces cuts, through the progressive fog regarding these issues. First the pull-ups. “A program with a failure rate that high, compared to a 99 percent success rate for men, clearly indicates that incremental plans to order women into the combat arms are not viable,” she said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon. Next, the so-designated civil rights issue. “There is no reason to force women into the combat arms,” she explains, noting that “for decades, female personnel have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men.”
And finally, gender norming. “The presidential commission on which I served in 1992 thought about this long and hard,” she revealed. “We approved of gender-normed scores in basic, pre-commissioning, and entry-level training, but the recommendation was contingent on women’s exemption from direct ground combat….There is no gender-norming on the infantry battlefield.”
It’s not as if women are completely incapable of meeting the same standards as men. Though the only two women who volunteered for the 13-week infantry officers training course at Quantico, VA in 2012 washed out, three female Marines graduated from the enlisted infantry training school in North Carolina the following year, while enduring the same standards as their male counterparts. Those standards included marching 19 kilometers while carrying a 36 kilogram pack. Moreover, an additional 13 women have passed advanced combat training, meeting the three pull-up requirement in the process.
Pull-ups have been used to test the upper body strength of Marines for more than four decades. That’s because in addition to what a Marine may be called on to do, combat Marines carry a 90 pound pack, with gunners carrying an additional 50 to 60 pounds. One is left to wonder what “accommodation” should be made for women to lighten the load. Carrying less ammo? Less food? Less medical supplies? Perhaps the gender-norming specialists and/or the diversity engineers could enlighten us.
For now female Marines will only be required to perform the “flexed arm hang,” as in holding one’s chin above a bar for 15 seconds, in accordance with a November 2013 Facebook announcement by the Corps. It explained that they are extending the transition to pull-ups “to allow for the further gathering of data to ensure all female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to succeed. All Marines are strongly encouraged to continue training under the assumption that pull-ups will remain a standard of measure for physical fitness.”
They were already under that assumption heading into this year. They might be better served assuming that when reality doesn’t align itself with leftist social engineering schemes, reality gets postponed. Or perhaps even eliminated, if the engineers can muster the political firepower to do so in the interim.
Retired Army officer and military historian Ralph Peters isn’t buying it. “If you can’t pull yourself up, have the decency to pull yourself out,” he declared. “The military, despite all the post-modern technology, is still essentially physical.”
And dangerous. It is that danger that should be mitigated as much as possible for those willing to serve their nation. Anything less is political chicanery–and despicable.
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