Photo: via Dvidshub
The Marine Corps sent two female Lieutenants to Marine Corps Infantry Officers Course in Quantico on Sept. 24 for the first time ever.By last week both women had washed out.
Tom Bowmen at NPR reports the first woman was out the first day into the 68 day course, and the second failed last week after she could not complete two events due to medical reasons.
None of the training had been changed, or altered — In enlisted boot camp, as well as in the fleet Marine Corps, women have different physical fitness standards than men.
So we talked to a few Marine Corps Infantry Officers to get a feel for what these Marines were in for. The consensus was that the course was “one of the most rigorous the Marine Corps has to offer.”
The two women were the first in a batch of 100 or so the Marines will run through the course as part of their evaluation.
Women have never served in an infantry training unit.
The Marines world is totally dominated by men. Yes, women have a foot in the door, but the first obstacle they have is to break through socially with the men.
'Shoot, move, communicate,' as Marines say. Communication is key.
In enlisted boot camp, most of the obstacles are different for women -- bars are a little lower, walls a little shorter.
The female IOC Marines will have to surmount the exact same obstacles as the men.
'They drop you off in the woods, zero five in the morning, hand you a envelope, and say 'Go!' One officer tells me.
This is the indoctrination test.
Day 2, initial test, just to see if you have what it takes to do the training. The test consists of about 15 to 20 miles of land navigation, carrying a rifle and military 'deuce gear,' which is what carries ammunition and water.
Navigation is key for any leader of Marines -- where do we go next, Ma'am?
These leaders have to plot points on a map to find out where their next event is. The events are called 'grunt stakes.' Each stake is miles from the next, and each one tests a particular part of infantry training.
- Calling for fire
- Calling a casevac
- breaking down and rebuilding weapons
Most of this course is done at a moderate run, it's a time course, and most finish by noon the same day.
Officers we talked to describe the test as a 'gut check' and 'a real kick in the pills.'
That's because officers are required to carry everything they need for the day, food, ammunition, water, weapons, on them through the course.
The group does help each other out, if someone is struggling. But as one officer told me, 'these guys are all at the end of their rope, so there's only so much they can help each other.'
Everything is rationed, especially during field training.
Why? Because Marines are limited by what they can carry, and the most important, heaviest pieces of gear involve killing the enemy.
Often infantry officer candidates will leave for a day of training with only one or two food rations for the day.
'Rest is synonymous with test.'
Right at their most exhausted, Marines will take a written exam. This type of teaching tactic, especially for future Marine leaders, is not so much a test of intelligence, as it is a test of intestinal fortitude.
When exhaustion sets in, the Corps needs to know the officers can still make smart decisions, correct decisions.
And often it's not just carrying, it's all out running.
'Every event is gradually getting more and more brutal,' says another Marine officer, the crew served weapons course is a '15 miles hike, doing it with all crew served. 50 cal, 81 mm mortars, 240 medium machine gun, then setting up the weapons and conducting a live fire.'
Just carrying the ammunition alone on this hike is enough to grind most Marines into the dirt.
They're required to carry everything they'll need for a complete heavy assault, plus some in reserve. Yes, the weapons are heavy, but so is ammo.
Again, a combination of brains and brawn. It's not enough to just carry the weapons, Marines have to employ them once they reach the destination.
Marines must learn where and how to place troops in order to maximise the 'volume of fire,' without putting anyone in danger (other than the enemy). Believe it or not, deploying these weapons as part of what Marine call the 'Fist' -- the Fire Support Team -- is the bread and butter of the Marine Corps, and every infantry officer must be able to direct this hot metal orchestra at the very highest levels of exhaustion.
Women Marines have already been exposed to injuries, and combat, because the current conflict is considered 'asymmetrical' -- there are no fronts, and so even supporting units face the enemy.
One of the biggest challenges is learning how to deal with injuries under duress. Not only does someone's life depend on a quick reaction, but as an officer, you have the lives of the other Marines to watch over as well.
The IOC Marines will learn all the Marine Corps weapons systems, as well as all the Russian weapons systems -- not that the Russians are a U.S. enemy, but that the enemy uses Russian-made weapons.
Along with learning these systems -- to break down, clean, load, and shoot -- a comprehensive managerial understanding of their deployment is essential.
Women officers in all services have run into this since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- tribal leaders of conservative countries that don't want to talk to women.
Part of the Marine Corps basic mission though, according to the small wars doctrine, is to train 'organic' forces to police their own countries. This will often mean maintaining communications and relationships with foreign officers in countries that are not as progressive as the west.
Carrying casualties is a huge concern for the Corps and why the women were evaluated the same as the men
The Marine Corps recently began cracking down on the weight standards, to include guys with too much muscle. If an injured Marine is 280 pounds of pure muscle, the average 160 pound Marine won't be able to carry him out of enemy fire.
Casualties in a kill zone have to be recovered, and the female Marines in this course will be expected to bear that burden as well, literally.
The culmination of IOC is something called the 10-day war -- it's an all out battle for, you guessed it, 10 days.
Candidates are given one ration per day, but they often subtract the rations in favour of other supplies, especially in the winter months when warm-weather gear is a must.
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