From The Washington Post:
Three women pass Marine ‘grunt’ test, but Corps holds off on letting them in infantry
By Craig Whitlock, Published: November 20 | Updated: Thursday, November 21, 9:05 AM
For the first time, three enlisted women have passed the Marine Corps’ grueling infantry course, carrying the same rifles and lugging the same 85-pound packs on the same 12-mile hikes through the piney woods of North Carolina as the men.
The female Marines are scheduled to graduate Thursday at Camp Geiger, N.C. — a historic development as the U.S. military prepares to open ground combat forces to women. But in a twist, the three women — identified Thursday as Pfc. Julia Carroll, Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro and Pfc. Katie Gorz — still won’t be allowed to serve in an infantry unit, at least not for a long while.
Marine Corps leaders say they need two more years to study whether it makes sense to allow women to serve as grunts. They note that no woman has passed the even more challenging infantry training course for officers (10 have tried). Before making a final decision, they said, they want to see many more female Marines try to pass the courses so the results can be evaluated.
“Any force-wide changes to be made will occur only after we have conducted our research, determined the way ahead and set the conditions to implement our recommendations,” Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
More at the link. There is a viral “selfie” which is noted here, which I was going to post, but of the four Marines pictured, the one in the center — who was also noted here — suffered a stress fracture in her leg which prevented her from taking her final physical fitness and combat fitness tests; she will be allowed to complete those tests when she fully recovers.
Currently, the Marine Corps will not be assigning these women to infantry units; this was a test to see if any women could pass the course. But with Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee already complaining that it is unfair to exclude these Marines from a field for which they have proven themselves qualified, your Editor expects that to change faster than the Marine Corps has planned. However, there are currently no female commissioned or non-commissioned officers who have passed the course, which means that there would be no female mentors for these women in an infantry setting.
The obvious question to that objection is: does it matter? If these three Marines — and, one expects, more in the future — were treated no differently from male Marines going through the same course, why must they be somehow treated differently, by requiring female mentors, once they are in infantry units?
The Marine Corps did not lower the standards for the female candidates, and this is reflected in their success rate. In September, 266 men and 15 women started the course; of those, 221 men and 3 women made it through and passed the course. The male success rate was 83.1%, while the female success rate was 20%. That the female success rate was not zero proves that some women, a few women, can meet the standards set for a Marine infantry unit. The obvious question becomes: is the success rate for women so low that the problems which will be encountered in integrating those few women into infantry units simply make continuing such efforts just plain inefficient?
But, while that is the obvious question, the obvious answer is that the policy will not be driven by that answer, but by politics. Come Hell or high water, those successful female candidates will be assigned to regular infantry units, because people like Representative Sanchez will force the issue.
In the meantime, Col. Lynette Arnhart, wrote a memo to TRADOC stating that the Army should not be using women who are too pretty in their recruiting efforts:
Army PR push: ‘Average-looking women’
By Kate Brannen | 11/19/13 1:34 PM EST Updated: 11/20/13 8:52 AM EST
The Army should use photos of “average-looking women” when it needs to illustrate stories about female soldiers, a specialist recommends — images of women who are too pretty undermine the communications strategy about introducing them into combat roles.That’s the gist of an internal Army e-mail an Army source shared with POLITICO.
“In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead,” wrote Col. Lynette Arnhart, who is leading a team of analysts studying how best to integrate women into combat roles that have previously been closed off to them. She sent her message to give guidance to Army spokesmen and spokeswomen about how they should tell the press and public about the Army’s integration of women.
“There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty),” Arnhart said.
She wrote that a photo of a female soldier with mud on her face that news agencies used last spring “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”
More at the link. Your Editor wondered whether Colonel Arnhart is one of the pretty ones who is perceived as having used her looks to get ahead, or one of the ugly women who are thought to be competent, because they couldn’t get ahead based on their looks.1 Either way, it seems to me that the Colonel is perpetuating the very stereotypes that one would think she was tying to undo.
Of course, The First Street Journal’s version of Rule 5 Blogging demonstrates what your Editor thinks: any woman wearing her county’s uniform is attractive!
Military recruitment is no different from any other sales position: the Army is attempting to attract good recruits, and it’s simply normal advertising practice to use good looking people. It is not the advertising, but the recruiters themselves who will be “selling” young civilians on joining the military, and those recruiters aren’t going to care about a potential recruit’s looks; they will care about the potential recruit’s ASVAB scores, to determine in which career fields a potential recruit might fit, whether the candidate is physically fit enough to meet enlistment standards, and whether the potential recruit has any disqualifying background characteristics. Looks just aren’t important.
- A fairly thorough Google search did not bring up her photograph. ↩