Three women have passed the recently revised Marine Corps fitness tests and will graduate from Camp Geiger on Thursday amongst their 221 male peers. A fourth will likely pass in December, but a stress fracture has prevented her from taking her last physical test. As exciting as that news is, they won't join infantry units; they'll be be placed in other positions in the Corps, as they're merely the beginning of a pilot program the Corps has implemented to see whether women can serve in all levels of combat.
According to the Marine Corps Times, the original class of trainees had 15 women who began at the end of September. By mid-October, only 7 remained – unsurprising, considering the Marine Corps' notoriously grueling training process that women have, until recently, been prevented from participating in. Since the possibility of women going through the training was first opened last year, ten women have attempted to pass and none have completed it.
The Marine Corps is the branch of the military that, as a Washington Post article explains, has always been "the most tradition-bound and male-dominated of the armed services." The Post notes that the Corps is only 7% female; as we noted yesterday, the entire Army is 15% women. A survey of over 50,000 Marines released in February revealed that 17% of male Marines and 4% of female Marines said they would leave the service if women began to take on combat roles, a number that grew if the positions were assigned to the women without them having say in what that job would be.
This hesitancy towards including women explains why the names of the women expected to graduate have been excluded from stories on this historic moment. They were even pulled from a Business Insider post earlier this week anticipating their graduation, though a selfie the four women took together is still up (the Instagram page it originated on is gone). In explaining the change, BI wrote "We think this is an awesome historic accomplishment, which is why we originally included the names. But our determination was that unless they wanted to introduce themselves, we'd let them publicize their success on their own terms." Officials told the Post that they wouldn't be allowed to cover the graduation Thursday, explaining "that news coverage would be restricted to a few handpicked media outlets." (No word yet on what news outlets those will be.)
As for the rest of the marines, the deadline requiring female marines meet the same physical fitness standards of men has been pushed back. Originally, female marines were to be required to complete pull-ups instead of flex arm hangs by January 2014 for their physical fitness test. "Data collected does indicate some potential risks with executing a complete transition at this time to a [pullup]-only PFT for female Marines," a Marine spokesman told the Marine Corps Times. "... Further assessment is expected to last into [calendar year 2014]. However, a final timetable has not been established."
"The deadline has been extended to allow for further gathering of data to ensure that all female marines are given the best opportunity to succeed," explained Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger on The Corps Report (get it?), a kind of local access video report for the marines. "Women will have the option of completing either the flex arm hang or pull-ups for the next annual fitness test," which is what they've been doing since the training switch began.
"Last year I could barely do one pull-up, and now I'm up to eight," Beiswanger added positively, "So I'm taking advantage of the extra time to complete my goal of 12 pull-ups."
Image via Sgt. Scott McAdam/Marine Corps