Marines delay female fitness plan after half fail

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Women Attend Marine Boot Camp At Parris Island, South Carolina

By Pauline Jelinek

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than half of female Marines in boot camp can't do three pullups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year, prompting the Marine Corps to delay the requirement, part of the process of equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs.

The delay rekindled sharp debate in the military on the question of whether women have the physical strength for some military jobs, as service branches move toward opening thousands of combat roles to them in 2016.

Although no new timetable has been set on the delayed physical requirement, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos wants training officials to "continue to gather data and ensure that female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to succeed," Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Starting with the new year, all female Marines were supposed to be able to do at least three pullups on their annual physical fitness test and eight for a perfect score. The requirement was tested in 2013 on female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., but only 45 percent of women met the minimum, Krebs said.

The Marines had hoped to institute the pullups on the belief that pullups require the muscular strength necessary to perform common military tasks such as scaling a wall, climbing up a rope or lifting and carrying heavy munitions.

Officials felt there wasn't a medical risk to putting the new standard into effect as planned across the service, but that the risk of losing recruits and hurting retention of women already in the service was unacceptably high, she said.

Because the change is being put off, women will be able to choose which test of upper-body strength they will be graded on in their annual physical fitness test. Their choices:

-Pullups, with three the minimum. Three is also the minimum for male Marines, but they need 20 for a perfect rating.

-A flexed-arm hang. The minimum is for 15 seconds; women get a perfect score if they last for 70 seconds. Men don't do the hang in their test.

Officials said training for pullups can change a person's strength, while training for the flex-arm hang does little to adapt muscular strength needed for military tasks

The delay on the standard could be another wrinkle in the plan to begin allowing women to serve in jobs previously closed to them such as infantry, armor and artillery units.

The decision to suspend the scheduled pull-up requirement "is a clear indication" that plans to move women into direct ground combat fighting teams will not work, said Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness and a critic of allowing women into infantry jobs.

"When officials claim that men and women are being trained the same, they are referring to bare minimums, not maximum qualifications that most men can meet but women cannot," Donnelly wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Awarding gender-normed scores so that women can succeed lowers standards for all. Women will suffer more injuries and resentment they do not deserve, and men will be less prepared for the demands of direct ground combat."

The military services are working to figure out how to move women into newly opened jobs and have been devising updated physical standards, training, education and other programs for thousands of jobs they must open Jan. 1, 2016, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. They must open as many jobs to women as possible; if they decide to keep some closed, they must explain why.

Military brass has said repeatedly that physical standards won't be lowered to accommodate female applicants. Success for women in training for the upcoming openings has come in fits and starts.

In fall 2012, only two female Marines volunteered for the 13-week infantry officers training course at Quantico, Va., and both failed to complete it.

But the following fall, three Marines became the first women to graduate from the Corps' enlisted infantry training school in North Carolina. They completed the same test standards as the men in the course, which included a 12-mile march with an 80-pound pack and various combat fitness trials such as timed ammunition container lifts and tests that simulate running under combat fire.

Officials had added specific training for female recruits when the pullup requirement was announced in December 2012, and they came up with a workout program for women already serving.

Military testing for physical skill and stamina has changed over the decades with needs of the armed forces. Officials say the first recorded history of Marine Corps physical fitness tests, for example, was 1908 when President Theodore Roosevelt ordered that staff officers must ride horseback 90 miles and line officers walk 50 miles over a three-day period to pass. A test started in 1956 included chinups, pushups, broad jump, 50-yard duck waddle and running.

The first test for women was started in 1969: A 120-yard shuttle run, vertical jump, knee pushups, 600-yard run/walk and situps.

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Marines delay female fitness plan after half fail
In this image ptovided Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 by the U.S. Marine Corps, Pfc. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro, 25, left, of Coral Springs, Fla. one of the first three female Marine graduates from the School of Infantry-East's Infantry Training Battalion, and Pfc. Julia Carroll, 18, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, one of the first three female Marine graduates from the School of Infantry-East's Infantry Training Battalion course stand during the graduation of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East at Camp Geiger, N.C. Three female Marines, Fuentes, Montenegro and Pvt. 1st Class Katie Gorz, 19, of St. Paul, Minn., not pictured, have become the first women to graduate from the Corps' tough-as-nails enlisted infantry training school in North Carolina, officials said Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. Earlier this year, the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat jobs. (AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corp., Lance Cpl. Justin A. Rodriguez)
FILE - This Feb. 21, 2013 file photo shows female recruits at the Marine Corps Training Depot on Parris Island, S.C. More than half of female Marines in boot camp can't do three pull-ups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year. So the Corps is delaying the requirement. All the service branches are working on devising standards, training and other policies needed to open thousands of combat roles to women in 2016. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, File)
TARLAC, LUZON, PHILIPPINES - SEPTEMBER 21: A female U.S. Marine soldier walks through grass stalks during a military training exercise at Crow Valley on September 21, 2013 in Tarlac province, Philippines. Around three thousand U.S. Marines are in the country for the Phiblex amphibious marine exercise with their Philippine counterparts. The war games maneuvers run for three weeks in various locations in the Philippines. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine Recruit Recruit Brenda Hernandez participates in hand-to-hand combat training in boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine Recruit Haley Evans from St Louis, Missouri stands in formation during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Drill Instructor Sgt. Adrienne Cambridge speaks to her female Marine recruits during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine recruit Erin Snider of Elizabeth, Kentucky navigates an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine recruit Trenia Tully of Charlotte, Michigan navigates an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: A Marine recruit lands in a safety net after falling while trying to navigate an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine recruit Trenia Tully of Charlotte, Michigan navigates an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: A Marine recruit loses her grip and falls while trying to navigate an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine recruit Samantha Wolosin of West Long Branch, New Jersey practices martial arts during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Female Marine recruits stand in formation during pugil stick training in boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Marine recruit Jasmine Sturdifen of Chase City, Virginia prepares to face an opponent in a fight with pugil sticks during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Female Marine recruits are disciplined with some unscheduled physical training in the sand pit outside their barracks during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Female Marine recruits navigate an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Female Marine recruits are disciplined with some unscheduled physical training in the sand pit outside their barracks during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Female Marine recruit Brie Watson responds to a command during hand-to-hand combat training in boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 27: Female Marine recruits Princesse Aldrete (L) and Genisis Ordonez (R) stand in formation following hand-to-hand combat training during boot camp February 27, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 26: Female Marine recruits stand inspection in the final days of their boot camp training February 26, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 26: Marine recruit Alexus Bravo stands for an inspection in the final days of her boot camp training February 26, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 26: Drill Instructor SSgt. Angela Lopez teaches Marine Recruit Ashley Florence how to properly salute while waiting in line at the chow hall during boot camp February 26, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 25: Marine recruit Vanessa Camacho Monjaraz from Gardena, California fires on the rifle range during boot camp February 25, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 25: Marine recruit Elizabeth McClean of Oakland, Maryland hauls a backpack while swimming in her uniform as she is tested to determine her swimming skills during boot camp February 25, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Male and female recruits are expected to meet the same standards during their swim qualification test. All female enlisted Marines and male Marines who were living east of the Mississippi River when they were recruited attend boot camp at Parris Island. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 25: Marine Recruit Stacey Graham of Richmond, Virginia and other Marine recruits respond to a drill instructor?s orders to call home shortly after arriving at boot camp on February 25, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. One of the first things Marine recruits do after arriving at Parris Island is make a call home where they read a script to let their families know that they have arrived safely at the base. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 26: LtCol. Gabrielle Hermes (3rd from right) inspects Female Marine recruits under her command and nearing their graduation from boot camp on February 26, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PARRIS ISLAND, SC - FEBRUARY 25: Marine recruit Angela Nowak of Midland, Michigan fires on the rifle range during boot camp February 25, 2013 at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. Female enlisted Marines have gone through recruit training at the base since 1949. About 11 percent of female recruits who arrive at the boot camp fail to complete the training, which can be physically and mentally demanding. On January 24, 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded an order, which had been in place since 1994, that restricted women from being attached to ground combat units. About six percent of enlisted Marines are female. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Associated Press writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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