A high standard of physical endurance has been eased by the U.S. Marine Corps, who will no longer make a difficult combat endurance test a requirement to graduate from their Infantry Officer Course.
The change, made without much fanfare months ago, leaves some wondering if lowering the standard lowers overall Marine standards, while others doubt it will offer any benefit to women at all.
The Free Beacon reports: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller quietly made the shift to standards in November, altering the test from a pass/fail requirement to just one of many exercises measured as part of overall IOC evaluation, the Marine Corps Times first reported on Thursday.
The course is considered among the military’s toughest training programs, with about a quarter of all students failing to complete it, according to the Washington Post. Most of the 30-plus women who have attempted IOC dropped on the first day during the combat endurance test.
Marine Training Command officials say the change does not ease service standards, but rather returns the exercise back to an assessment of the “retention of knowledge, skills, and fitness achieved” at IOC, as it was intended, Military.com reports.
In a statement, Training Command said: “Over the past 40 years, the Marine Corps has made multiple modifications to Infantry Officer Course (IOC) program of instruction (POI) to reflect the requirements of the operating environment. The quality of the course remains the same.”
In 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all military combat roles to women. Since then, only one female Marine has graduated from the course, the Beacon notes. They further report:
Marine 2nd Lt. Emma Stokien argued in a 2014 op-ed that removing the required passage of the test would negatively impact female integration into the service.
“Changing this rite of passage will be doing female Marines no favors in trying to be infantry officers,” Stokien wrote in War on the Rocks. “Female Marines often have to work much harder than their peers to earn the same respect, and entering the infantry under the dark cloud of even perceived lowered standards will make this a practically impossible challenge and potentially cause real harm to unit cohesion and the faith between leader and led.”