Five reasons to consider the argument this female Marine officer makes about infantry training


The Marine Corps has been sending female volunteers to its Infantry Officer Training at Quantico, Va. since late 2012. But while female Marines hump gear, navigate land, and climb ropes alongside their male counterparts, one officer says Marine women still aren’t getting a fair shot.

Second lieutenant Sage Santangelo writes in a Washington Post op-ed that part of the reason that all 14 women who have attempted the course have washed out is that male lieutenants can opt to retake the course if they fail to succeed the first time, while females must move on to training in their non-infantry military occupational specialties after one attempt.

A female lieutenant in the Infantry Officer Course hangs from a rope during the obstacle course portion of the initial Combat Endurance Test at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., on July 2, 2013. Fourteen women have volunteered to try IOC, but none have made it through. (Staff)

Here are the most thought-provoking points she makes:

5. The idea is to provide an equal opportunity.

Santangelo quotes former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying that  “If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job . . . then they should have the right to serve.”

She points out that women should have the same opportunity to succeed that men have in order to accurately judge their ability to meet the qualifications.

4. Women have already succeeded alongside men on the front lines.

Santangelo describes National Guard soldier Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, who earned a historic Silver Star in 2005 by organizing a counterattack against insurgents using grenades and grenade launcher rounds. Her unit killed 27 enemy, and Hester personally took out three insurgents.

The point being, evidence suggests that women can succeed in infantry alongside men, and we should question why success in IOC has eluded them so far.

3. Female officers currently lack the strength training that male officers receive.

She writes:

Physical double standards persist. In the Physical Fitness Test, for example, a male perfect score is achieved by an 18-minute three-mile run, 20 pull-ups and 100 sit-ups in two minutes. A female perfect score is a 21-minute three-mile run, a 70-second flexed-arm hang and 100 sit-ups in two minutes. There was a move to shift from arm hangs to pull-ups for women last year. Yet 55 percent of female recruits were unable to meet the minimum of three, and the plan was put on hold.

2. But female Marines will be stronger on their second try.

Writes Santangelo:

[Marines are] more likely to pass the second time around… The uncertainty makes the test overall much more difficult than any of its individual parts. Some of the details change for each new class. But the male lieutenants who have taken it before have an advantage in that they know generally what to expect.

1. The reason for keeping women from taking the course again often doesn’t apply.

Santangelo writes that she was scheduled next to attend Marine flight school in Pensacola, having washed out of IOC in January, but she’s preparing to fill a position that will not be open for 12 months. The argument that the Marine Corps needs to move women along to their ultimate occupational specialty, then, can fall apart.

Just days after her op-ed was published, the commandant of the Marine Corps took notice. Gen. Jim Amos told reporters that he was changing policy in response to Santangelo’s concerns, and had offered her orders to Afghanistan with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Forward), Seapower Magazine reported.We will have more about Santangelo and the policy change in our next edition; stay tuned.

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  1. BS. That is what happens when you place a air dale in charge. and stop putting Infantry or Armor Generals in charge.

  2. Why waste money sending a woman through a second time when she will not be assigned the MOS of 0302? This little experiment to see how women perform there is fine, but that’s all it is. And typical of someone that has a weak argument to begin with, you use one anecdotal event to justify your entire argument, that one woman with a silver star proves all women are fit for the combat arms. hogwash. military standards, especially in the army, are being watered down to satisfy the feminist social agenda, to the detriment of combat readiness. In the current drawdown environment, do we really need someone in the combat arms whose best effort is only marginal compared to her male counterparts? Not trying to insult the Lt here, but last time I checked combat is a pretty unforgiving environment. We don’t need an infantry Lt. that can just keep up with the Marines she proposes to lead, we need one that can truly lead from the front. Just my 2 cents. Let the hate mail begin.

  3. Call me biased but women in the infantry is a mistake. it always has been and always will be. A “one off” time in combat for a female who performed well in that single instance is NOT an accurate measure of her performance in an infantry unit when in peacetime or war. Very few women can take 23hour patrols for 2 weeks at a time. The “Equal Opportunity Board” has no place on my combat patrol. At all.

  4. Has anyone ever stopped to think about the operational effectiveness of the combat unit that has to deploy into less than accommodating conditions sometimes for days or weeks on end where there will have to be altogether separate waste and hygiene facilities? Will this one thing not increase force protection concerns? It just seems like a whole lot to go through just so as to say there is equality. At the end of the day, the mission and the safety of our Marines is what is paramount, not bowing down to some passive, weak spirited politician who has no concept of what our military actually does on any given day but yet somehow believe they know better than military leadership.

  5. Sounds like a person with to many excuses and not enough action. It’s not the Marine Corps job to bring female pull ups higher, it’s the individuals.

    Going into a course with the mentality that it’s okay to fail because I can do it again is junk. You go into any course or formal school with the mentality failure is NOT an option. Failing a course should be a negative fitrep!

    Standards should never be different! Equal rights = equal expectations. Same test and same scores for PFT and CFT! Let the crying begin!

    What females need to remember is this is a career that lives are on the line and lowering standards to allow someone to pass will jeopardize lives!

  6. There is no equality on the battle field. You either win or lose or live or die. if you can hack it with the current standards set in place than good on you. If you cant hack it too damn bad. What sense would it make to lower the standards just so you can say “see women can do it too”? No matter how much you change the standards to be accepted the dangers of combat will never change and only increase your chance of meeting death. If thats your wish to be a non effective combat Marine because you could only meet lower standards than I hope some one puts you out of your misery and passes your gear to the ones that can use it.

  7. I am not sure what her 3rd point means exactly. If standards should be equal, why are the pft requirements different? and what does she mean that women don’t get the same strength “training”? When I was in, whatever shortfall I lacked, I worked on in my own time. I did not know though, that men get a second chance in OIC upon washing out the first time. That’s a good point… but regardless I am still baffled as to why any woman would want to hang with nasty grunts, lol (just kidding…. sort of.)

  8. As a proud woman Marine for six years and a member of the first female platoon to throw a grenade and shoot the M16 in boot camp, I can tell you that women DO NOT belong in the front lines! PERIOD. You Jane Fonda wannabes need to get over it. I was very athletic, was a first class PFTer and more capable than most other women of pulling my weight and then some. You will be a lability to our male Marines! Society is not ready to have you comeback In body bags. Are they going to drop tampons or midol from helicopters when you’re out! There is no need to lower the standards for anything the Marines do. If you can’t qualify then do something else! Find another MOS! You will kill our males Marines!

  9. I didn’t read that she was asking for the standards to be lowered. She asked that females have the opportunity to take the test a second time just as the males already can take it twice.

  10. William Fuzi on

    What prevents a female Marine from training just as hard as men? there is nothing in the world that says a female can’t do the male PFT, except the female. If you want it bad enough, go get it. The only thing stopping you is your self limitations. If you want something bad enough, no one can stop you but yourself. So stop whining, and start winning. Suck it up, and do the work.

  11. Israel requires all adults serve in their military and women have served in combat units there for decades. And, they’re pretty bad ass infantry warriors. I think not allowing women in combat situations is macho/mysoginist BS. Hey, if they can shoot, run, and defend themselves, they have my vote.

  12. Yellow Foot Prints on

    No doubt women have proved themselves in combat. Women are capable of competing and accelling at certain MOS’S in the Marine Corps but not the 03XX field. My guess the distinguishing women have proved themselves while on base gaurd duty or a convoy patrol. For those not in the know there is a HUGE differnce between doing gaurd/security compared to doing a movement to contact with a full combat load in unforgiving weather after traveling long distances.

  13. This is crazy. All she is saying is that standards for physical training AND tests should be the same for both. If more women get the same physical training as men then they are more likely to do well in the tests. And once they fail the test, they should be allowed an other chance to take it like men already do. She’s not asking to lower anything. All she’s saying is apply the standards to everyone the same the whole way through. Even if 10 women can do the job in our whole armed forces, at least they will all be given the same chance. I’m sure some women will die, as will other men. But if someone wants to serve in the infantry, let them fail at it before you discard them all together. As for all this tampon talk. Treating women differently starts with you. Don’t hold women to lower standards ever, and you won’t ever have to worry about them falling shorter than any man would

  14. I think woman in the military can have an equally valued contribution to force readiness. That doesn’t mean they have to be able to do all the same jobs that males do. Two people can be equally valued parents, but one can breast feed, one can actually produce a baby from their body. This is a quest for some party to achieve political ‘capitol’ for the next election. We’re lulling ourselves into an aristocratic state, leaning on our past victories for our continued safty. If you find yourself asking why ‘women aren’t given the same opportunities’ you should really be asking ‘why are women more valuable than males.’ A woman can reproduce about once a year. A male can reproduce many many many times that. We are instinctively and biologically different for a good damn reason. I don’t see why we can’t embrace our differences instead of constantly trying to blur everything into a dull grey world with no diversity. Fight for equal rights, not sameness.

  15. 2nd Lt = big picture? No. She was selected to be an aviator. She contributed to the experiment and failed. Now her time needs to be spent serving in billets and the community that will prepare her for her primary job as an aviator. If she thinks her next year in Pensacola will be a waste of her time perhaps she needs to reevaluate her priorities. She also mentions a double standard in OCS training. It sounds like she is recommending that females should immediately adopt male physical standards?

  16. “A hell of a price to pay for being Stylish”

    Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan, THE ENFORCER, 1976

  17. Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her actions when her convoy was attacked. Being able to take it to the enemy after dismounting from a vehicle is a far cry from doing so after humping 100lbs of gear over hill and dale for days on end.

    For a more truthful look, read Captain Katie Petronio’s take on things, and the effect actual Infantry-esque operations have on a female’s body.

  18. @FRS4, Leign Ann Hester performed honorably under fire. However, because of her lack of strength, it took a male to throw the grenades. Her strength alone would have been a different outcome

  19. Retired Grunt Msgt on

    Our society has produced women that excel physically in all the strength skills required by the male PFT. While in the Corps I knew female Marines that could run 18 minute 3 mile runs, do 10 tp 15 pull-ups, and max out their sit ups. We see female body builders accomplishing tasks similar to this all the time. I am not against female in the infantry (believe it or not), but lets even the field standardized PFT requirements across the board! If a female Marines can pass it and learn the tools of the trade, let them in.
    As an infantry Marine I remember many filed ops where we trained for days with no showers, no time to change socks or underwear, no sleep, and no change of uniforms. I remember laying in an ambush for over 6 hours in the pouring rain with just a poncho. Hiking 10, 15, 20, and 25 mile at a time prior to MEU deployments. I also remember male Marines that couldn’t hack it! I say if a female can meet the standards required of the male infantry Marines let them in! Now, if they can’t meet the minimum requirements, move on.
    In my personal and professional opinion there are some females out there that can cut it. To chose Marines I say welcome aboard! If this is eventually implemented properly (maintaining the standards for infantry Marines), there will be a small number of female Marines the will be infantry Marines, and regardless of what anyone says when I am in a fight I don’t care what gender the Marine to my left and right is, I just want to be certian thay have my back!

  20. @Retired Grunt Msgt, you must be kidding Sarge. Their boobies along will disqualify them. Can you imagine the distraction, fraternization, and favoritism in a unit. We are talking about young male soldiers with a high abundance of testosterone. Yet along, wives suspicion of their husbands with a female battle buddy. Won’t work sir!

  21. My “go” at the list:


    Equal opportunity? How about completely equal standards. Combat doesn’t give you extra time to accomplish the same task due to being a female. Combat unfortunately does not care if you are a child, woman, atheist, religious, gay, straight, etc. Would we consider letting men qualify for a job, with officially lower standards, to be “equal opportunity”?

    I understand women do not get the same opportunity to serve in combat arms jobs like men. That is certainly not an example of equal opportunity. However, allowing women the chance to command troops in combat, which will be mostly men even if women are allowed, is a horrible idea if the leader is held to a lower standard than the people they are leading… which would be true with a female Marine leading male Marines.


    Women have succeeded beside men in combat. This is absolutely true. However, what is being overlooked is the the problems most females appear to run into in sustained combat conditions. This quickly became evident when Sage Santangelo was placed in IOC and her body refused to move forward. Sustained combat quickly wears down the body. Males are genetically better suited for that situation. Katie Petronio wrote an article detailing what happened to her body while trying to keep pace.


    Female Marine officers currently lack the strength training offered to men? She has experienced IOC and is still only doing 16 pull-ups. There is a wide variety of sources to obtain information on how to build strength, if you can’t do that, copy what the men are doing. 16 pull-ups is an impressive number for a female, but not even a max score for a male. So much for equal. She even cites the failure of 55% of female Marines, on the enlisted side, to meet the minimum of 3 pull-ups by the end of bootcamp. That means if they had flipped the switch to a still unequal standard, but at least requiring women to do pull-ups, over half those female Marines would be unable to be even graduate bootcamp.


    Female Marines will be stronger on their second try? Possibly, but that assumes many things. Did this Lt. not take her prep for IOC the first time seriously? If anything the Corps should look at deny Males a second chance if they wash out. This Lt’s washing out of the school was due to her body not being able to handle the length of which it was pushed. She wasn’t, as I understand, actually injured. Her body just gave out. Should we be expected to give women a special prep course to succeed in IOC?


    The reason for not allowing this Lt. to take the course still applies. She may have a apparent 12 months to go to flight school, but she puts herself at serious risk in going to IOC.

    Other tidbits, apparently not brought up, are that women are claimed to be TWICE as likely to develop PTSD versus men according to Dr. Sonja Batten, VA’s Deputy Chief Consultant for Specialty Mental Health (this is from 2013) .

    Other studies have reported women suffer higher rates of injury (according to both sports studies and studies by the VA) compared to men.

    Essentially we are being told that under the flag of political correctness that we need females in combat arms. This is ignoring science, reporting higher rates of injures/PTSD among females, this is also ignoring unequal fitness standards, in the favor of women of course, that remain intact. In fact, I’d have a lot more respect for this Lt. if she had called to be put on the exact same standard as men. She did not. She wanted the second chance (that men, not women, do receive), and wanted to apparently get the strength training men get, but just don’t hold her to the same standard. This is insane given this isn’t a sport, this isn’t an office job, combat is a place where you are actively killing other human beings. She doesn’t want equal opportunity, she wants special treatment in her favor.

  22. And after aaaaaaaaaaaaall of your comments that makes it OBVIOUS what the troops want… what do you think Amos is going to do? Huh??? Turn is BACK, and be a yes man to the hippies and Obama.

  23. This article only points to one thing: changing the standards so a female can pass. If the course is unchanged and females are being allowed to attend and are not passing, then anyone who does not pass cannot be an infantry officer. It is literally that simple. Points 3 and 4 are very disturbing in particular.

    Point 3: Yes, there are physical double standards in place with the fitness testing, however, you are admitting that you do not know how to train outside that standard to make it through this course and therefore not fit to be an infantry officer. Even the standard in place for males is not a catch all that guarantees graduation from the training.

    Point 4: There are women in uniform that have performed admirably and very well down range. However, the establish training pipeline for the job is not being accomplished and the Corps doesn’t give out “honorary degrees” as some colleges and university’s do. Point 4 is therefore invalid.

  24. She is only telling half the story. While it’s true some male officers are allowed to attend a future course, many are completely dropped and assigned new MOS’s. Officers are dropped for a variety of reasons to include lack of physical ability, poor leadership or attitude, lack of future potential as a combat leader, and academics. Of course it would be easier the second time around, you know what’s coming and that defeats the purpose of the initial test. The initial test is meant to put you in an unfamiliar setting with little instruction under arduous conditions to see if you have the potential to lead Marines in combat. This test is just the beginning, for the next 12 weeks the officers endure what I believe to be some of the hardest and best training in the military. From my experience going through the course I would bet that if women did pass, many if not all would fail a future event as many of the male officers do. The bottom line is if the Marine Corps starts giving second chances to everyone then the Marines they’re supposed to lead in combat will be the ones to suffer. To me she sounds like an entitled college kid who thinks she deserves another chance. She doesn’t deserve anything; she joined the Marine Corps, it didn’t join her. Marine officers aren’t assigned infantry MOS’s, they earn it through 12 weeks of grueling training. The minute they lower the standards or allow repeated attempts there will be a breakdown in their ability to be an efficient fighting force because of unprepared and weak “leaders”.

  25. This is bullshit! a 4 star changes military policy because some butt hurt bitch that couldn’t hack it writes a piece to a public venue?! This is exactly what we are talking about as infantry men. one woman cries and thousands and thousands of people have to change their shit for her! if a Man that washed out out wrote a piece like this he’d be told to eat shit, go fuck himself, get his swoll on, practice and fix his deficiencies, try again, and when he’s finished with all that and has dried his tears… HE WILL THEN (per order of every other marine) GO FUCK HIMSELF AGAIN!!!


    if a man tried to write a piece like this that shed a less than favorable or shining light on the corps it would be a chargeable offense for “defaming and inflamatory remarks in an effort to commit seditious acts!”

  26. female Marines do get the EXACT same training as male Marines. Only difference is that come test day, they can do flex arm hang and can max out with a slower run time. Females did the exact same PT/exercises/trainging all the way through the training pipeline with me. It is just untrue to say that they do not get trained the same as men.

  27. James Johnson on

    If this was a discussion about fairness the first step would be one PT grading system. In every MOS that females can hold they have an advantage over their male counterparts because they receive more promotion points for a lower level of performance. In fact, if women were truly treated equally very few would make the minimum standards to graduate initial military training in the first place. They certainly wouldn’t be competitive for promotion.

  28. I have no doubt that a SMALL percentage MAY eventually make it through IOC, but that doesn’t mean they would serve WELL in the field during SUSTAINED operations. Today’s motorized war will not be guranteed in the future. I OEF we have FET with us, they had to ride in the vehicles because they COULDN”T patrol with us. They COULDN’T keep up.

    At some of the COPs, where females were attached we needed separate heads, shower hours, berthing etc…the logistics were doubled even with just one MT female there for the night. Never mind the 18 year bored in combat zone issues…This is a BAD idea, people will die WHEN this gets implemented (it will be, just a matter of time–one Person makes it will be allowed to opt in). Speaking of equallity: I know A LOT of open contract Marines who ended up in the infantry (against their wishes). Going forward will females (open contract) be forced to go infantry because of the “needs of the Corps…”? In the interest of ‘equality’ will the .05% who can make it (after 2 tries) force the 99.95% who can’t into ANY MOS?

  29. Mike Lunebach on

    Perhaps instead of requiring sit ups, push-ups, timed runs etc. the test routines should be more subjective, actually imitating things that would be expected from Marines in the field. If the Marine is expected to pick up another over his shoulder and run a hundred and 50 yards under fire, then simulate this in the test routine. If you can’t do it pack up your stuff and go home. Since you can never predict what type of a situation you’ll find yourself in as a Marine, I believe the test requirements should be exactly the same for men and women. No exceptions. That includes 2nd chances.

  30. My father, Dr. Daniel B. Jones, PhD, worked for Army which ran a series of tests on the Big Island test in the 1970’s to test the presence of women in combat units. The tests were conducted during a series of exercises with a number of various configurations. The tests started with one woman in a platoon, changed to one female squad in a platoon, to two female squads in a platoon and finally an all female platoon. The testes were repeated for company and then battalion sized units.

    The results showed that women COULD perform in combat as well as men as has been shown in Iraq. The best results were achieved in all male or all female units. One squad, platoon or company of one gender with the rest of the unit being the other gender operated at a 80 to 90 percent effectiveness.

    He told me that the worst case was one woman in an otherwise all male unit. The men tended to “protect” the woman. The one male in an otherwise all female unit was the second worst because the male tended to want to show their machismo.

    By the way, there was no significant difference in the unit performance if the leader was male or female.

  31. William Black on

    …On the move to Baghdad, my colleague remembers sitting in his track for days at a time, dismounting to fight and then moving on. They held onto to the overhead as they squatted and deficated into plastic MRE bags in very tight quarters as they jostled up the road. Made a bowel movement a real chore that in the end had to be handed to the gunner to throw out. That’s of course not the worst of it… but you get he idea. Not sure a woman would consider that an option.

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