Marine Corps Establish Gender-Neutral Standards for Combat Roles

By: Daniel Steingold | June 22, 2016

The U.S. Marine Corps has implemented new training for combat roles, intended to establish gender-neutral standards.

The new standards have eliminated from consideration 40 male recruits and all but one of seven female recruits who had tried to join the Marines in a combat capacity since the beginning of the year, when the standards were implemented. These 41 individuals were reassigned to non-combat roles.

The change in standards was largely prompted by an order from Ashton B. Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defense, who declared that previously closed positions, such as being an infantryman, artilleryman, or tank crewman be opened up to the entire military.

Carter’s order prompted the Marines to test all recruits by either gender-normed or gender-neutral standards.

Gender-normed standards, which are used for all those who apply for a role that doesn’t involve combat, have long been the modus operandi for the Marines. Men and women are tested based on their gender, and must pass certain physical tests.

Gender-neutral standards, on the other hand, are newly-implemented general standards that must be met for combat roles, regardless of gender. Failing a gender-neutral test simply means that one is “reclassed” into a non-combat role.

The Marines are now evaluating all combat recruits through two initial tests, the PFT (physical fitness test) and the CFT (combat fitness test). From here, recruits must pass the Military Occupational Specialty Classification Standard (MCS), and complete role-specific physical tests.

The Marines hope that the new standards illustrate that “gender is irrelevant; performance is key.”

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