By Debbie Gregory.
Beginning January 1, 2014, the US Marine Corps was supposed to implement a universal change to its physical fitness standards. In December, the Marine Corps cancelled the change. According to the proposed change, all Marines, male and female were supposed to be able to do a minimum of three pull-ups on their annual physical fitness test. The minimum pull-up requirement was delayed for females, indefinitely.
The requirement change was cancelled because of undesirable results derived from trial tests conducted in 2013. In those tests, 55% of the female Marines tested could not perform the minimum required three pull-ups. With more than half of their members failing, the Marine Corps decided that it would have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of females if the change was implemented at this time.
The pull-up requirement is intended to prepare Marines for combat. Pull-ups require the physical strength needed to perform many common tasks used in combat, including scaling walls, climbing ropes, and carrying heavy gear and munitions. In 2016, the Corps is supposed to open thousands of combat positions to female Marines. It is unknown how this requirement change will affect the future role of female Marines in Combat.
With the change being pushed back, female Marines will, for now, be able to choose which test of upper-body strength they will be graded on in their annual physical fitness test. Females will be given two options. They can choose to perform a minimum of three pull-ups, the same requirement for male Marines. However, females are only required to perform eight pull-ups to receive a perfect score, while males must do 20.
Females may also choose to hold a flexed arm hang for a minimum of 15 seconds. Females must perform the hold for 70 seconds in order to receive a perfect score. Male Marines are not allowed to substitute the flexed arm hang for pull-ups.
Marine Corps leadership has held firm that they will not lower their physical standards for combat readiness in order to accommodate female applicants. Those opposed to females serving in combat will see this change in the Marine Corps’ plans as justification of their beliefs.
But really, this setback should just raise the stakes for all females serving, especially those who are serving in the Marine Corps. This is the call to dig deep and prove your doubters wrong. If females want to be taken seriously in any career, they need to prove that they have what it takes to do the job. Semper Fi, female Marines. You’ve been called out. Now let’s see how you answer the call.