Ever since the federal powers that be decided that it was a good idea to open combat jobs to women, female members of the armed forces have been trying to get into those jobs. So far, fourteen women have tried—and failed—to pass the Marine Infantry Officer’s Course. 2Lt Sage Santangelo thinks she knows why she and the other women failed, and naturally, it’s not their fault—it’s the Marine Corps’ fault.
I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are.
Let’s parse this out a moment. Women have different standards in the military than the men because most of them cannot physically perform at the same level as a man. This is not sexist idiocy, this is biological fact. So Lt. Santangelo wants the entire Marine Corps to make those standards the same for men and women from Day 1, so she would have been better prepared for the Infantry Officer’s Course that she could not pass.
While this all sounds nice and “fair” on its face (if you’re not paying attention, that is), there are several parts to this that aren’t apparent to the average reader. If you notice, Lt. Santangelo was in The Basic School—Marine officer candidate training—for six months before she was in The Infantry Officer Course. She was being tested mentally a physically every single day. She complains that she ‘only had a month’ to prepare for Infantry training after getting out of The Basic School, and that she didn’t know it would be so hard. Here’s what one Marine had to say about all that:
She had every opportunity to prepare. Before IOC she was in TBS for six months. That women and men have different physical standards was known – we all take the physical fitness test (PFT) together. When I was in TBS, that IOC was physically demanding was also no secret. When I was in TBS, I knew that in order to succeed (and pass) IOC, I had to be at the top of my TBS class when it came to physical performance, and I, any many other Infantry Officer aspirants, pushed and competed to be the best. We all knew who wanted to be Infantry, and so we knew the competition. TBS platoons are mixed-sex, so she had to see it too, and should have prepared accordingly.
In other words, there’s no reason why Santangelo could not have trained on her own for the officer course. She knew what was coming, and didn’t prepare. It’s as simple as that. In typical Marine fashion, the comments on that article lay open the entire sad state of Santangelo’s argument.
If Ms. Santangelo really thinks the only reason women can’t compete equally is because they’re not trained equally from the start, then she doesn’t have either the intelligence or the integrity to serve in the armed forces as an officer…
Santangelo also invokes the name of Leigh Ann Hester, who is the current go-to for female combat apologists because if Leigh Ann can do it, we all can, right? Here’s the thing: Leigh Ann Hester was incredibly brave, showed tremendous calm under pressure, and was pretty amazing—but she still needed a male soldier to throw the grenades because she didn’t have the upper body strength to get them where they needed to go. That doesn’t take away from what she did do, because she absolutely outperformed any female (and some males) on that day, but let’s be realistic. If her own strength was all that was available, would the ending of that story have been any different?
What if the Marine Corps did as Santangelo asked, and forced all females in The Basic School to adhere to the same standards as their male counterparts? I’ll give you a hint. They wouldn’t pass TBS either, just like they don’t pass IOC.
I have been thru the course, was the Director for the course for 3 years, and commanded a school in the Marine Corps where gender integrated training occurs first for enlisted Marines (MCT). First off, this article is written from the individual’s perspective and desire, not military women in general. The Marine Corps would “break” a lot more women, officer and enlisted, if the physical standards for entry level training were geared towards infantry training prior to Infantry training courses. Why should the Marine Corps add/change its physical training focus? The result would almost certainly lead to the loss from injury additional qualified and exceptional Marines with tremendous service potential.
As one other Marine put it, it’s got nothing to do with hating women or discriminating. The Marine Corps is about killing people and breaking things, and women who cannot do it to the Marine Corps standard should not be doing it. Does Santangelo want to be an infantry officer? She’s currently slated for flight training; there are few more different career tracks. Was she simply padding her resume? Doing it to say she did it? The Marine Corps does not exist to serve as someone’s personal career journey, and training courses do not exist to make someone’s resume look more filled out.
The Marine Corps didn’t fail Lt. Sage Santangelo, she failed herself. She failed to prepare for a demanding course; she failed to rise to the level that the occasion demanded. On top of it, she failed to take responsibility for her failure. I hope she enjoys that coveted active duty flight spot, while she contemplates the supposed inequity of it all. She’s not a leader, and she’s not an exemplary Marine—and in her career field, that matters just as much as her gender.