Current Weather
The Spy FM

Marines: Most Female Recruits Don’t Meet New Pullup Standard

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
December 27, 2013

Starting Jan. 1, every woman in the Marines Corps was supposed to meet a new physical standard by performing three pullups. But that’s been put off.

The Marine Corps announced it quietly. There was no press conference; just a notice on its social media sites and an item on its own TV show, The Corps Report.

Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger explained the pullup test had been put off until sometime next year, to gather more data and “ensure all female Marines are given the best opportunity to succeed.”

So far women Marines are not succeeding. Fifty-five percent of female recruits tested at the end of boot camp were doing fewer than three pullups; only 1 percent of male recruits failed the test.

The three pullups is already the minimum required for all male Marines. Now the Marine Corps has postponed the plan, and that’s raising questions about whether women have the physical strength to handle ground combat, which they’ll be allowed to do beginning in 2016.

Marine officers would not talk to NPR on tape. They said they delayed the pullup requirement to avoid losing not only recruits but also current female Marines who can’t pass the test.

The Marine Corps has been using it to test upper body strength for men for more than 40 years. And that upper body strength, they say, is necessary to serve in ground combat: To pull yourself out of a canal in Afghanistan. To climb over a mud wall. To carry an ammunition box.

Setting A Tougher Standard

For years, women Marines have had to meet a different standard: an exercise called the “flexed arm hang:” Holding one’s chin above the pullup bar for at least 15 seconds.

But beginning in 2016, women in the Marine Corps and Army will be allowed to serve in infantry, armor and artillery units. And they’ll need to be strong enough to climb those mud walls and carry ammunition.

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, says the delay shows women just can’t meet the same standards.

“Young women, in spite of all the training and all the best intentions, are not going to be the equal of young men in terms of upper body strength,” Maginnis says. “You’ve got to have a lot of upper body strength to lift the stuff. Been there, done that.”

Maginnis just wrote a book called Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat. He says the issue has more to do with politics than protecting the nation.

A Former Marine Says It’s Possible

However, Greg Jacob, a former Marine, says women can build the strength they need for pullups, and he’s seen it done.

He served as a Marine infantry officer in the Balkans and Africa, now he works for the Service Women’s Action Network, a group that advocates for military women. When he was a Marine trainer in North Carolina, he required his female instructors to knock out pullups, just like the guys.

“At first, a lot of women weren’t able to do it,” Jacob says. “They were able to do one, some were able to do two, but what happened was by having that standard and enforcing that standard it made my Marines, it made the troops go to the gym and train to that standard.”

Within six months, all the women in his company were doing eight to 12 pullups, he said.

Jacob says the Marine Corps must do a better job training women to reach the same standard as men. A small number of female Marines already have made it: so far 13 women have passed advanced combat training. One of the requirements is three pullups.

“It’s a squad-sized unit that’s ready to go and they’re not sending them to their infantry unit simply because they’re women,” Jacob says.

Some Marine officers privately say only a handful of Marine women will either show interest in combat or be able to pass the course.

Meantime, Corps Report TV anchor Lance Cpl. Ally Beiswanger, wants to see if she can get over the first physical hurdle and do those pullups.

She admitted to her audience that she could only do one pullup last year.

“And now I’m up to eight, so I’m taking advantage of the extra time to complete my goal of 12 pullups,” she said on the show.

And what about the larger goal of women in ground combat? That’s still two years away. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center