As published at Stream.org October 20, 2016.
It’s always funny to Marines when people from other military branches say our standards are too stringent. Funny in a “how embarrassing that you opened your mouth” sort of way. Too late for Army Col. Ellen Haring who wrote an opinion piece for the Marine Corps Times to admonish our Infantry Officer Course (IOC) standards, again. This is not new for Haring, who in 2014 opined for War on the Rocks that IOC’s Combat Endurance Test (CET) was merely “an initiation rite and not a test of occupational qualification.”
In question this time is whether the IOC requirement to carry “up to 152 pounds for 9.3 miles at a 3-mile-per-hour pace in order to graduate” is realistic testing and training for officers, when enlisted Marines test on 60 pounds to complete Infantry Training Battalion and work up to 152 later. She quizzed a handful of Marines who bolstered her doubts (no details on whether they had infantry combat deployment experience, and had she named them they’d bear the same humiliation as she). She found the answer she was looking for and missed the truth she’s studiously ignoring.
So my question to the Marine Corps is — where did they get these standards, who validated them and who can actually meet them? They don’t appear to be operationally based and it sounds like no Marine infantry unit can meet them. They certainly aren’t regular or recurring requirements to be a Marine infantryman — which means they don’t meet legal standards.
This is a standard tactic of those pushing women into combat units: Denounce the standards that have worked to forge the toughest military in the world as unfairly discriminatory to women so that those standards can be summarily disregarded. That way, more women will pass and feminist policy makers will get their desired quota of female representation in the ranks.
Haring and her ilk expect us to believe that they don’t want the standards lowered for women and then they pull garbage like this. They want us to believe in conflicting realities: on one hand that women can do anything infantrymen can do, and on the other hand that we’re so technologically advanced women won’t have to. They can’t have it both ways, and neither one is true.
Since she couldn’t manage to find anyone to explain why such standards would be useful to infantry leaders in the military’s toughest branch fighting the most ruthless savages we’ve ever seen, allow me to assist.
Heavy Lifting in Ground Combat
In the battle of Najaf, Iraq, in 2004 the Marines had to clear the largest cemetery in the Middle East, the Wadi-us-Salaam, of 14-15,000 of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Jaish Al Mahdi militia. With above-ground mausoleums, some over eight feet tall, it was a three-dimensional labyrinth and they had to clear every inch between and on top while fighting enemy insurgents. Because of the space constraints around the graves and monuments, casualties couldn’t be carried out on stretchers with a two- or four-man carry. A Marine had to carry his fallen brother on his back along with his gear and weapon so as not to let them fall into enemy hands. Thirteen were killed and over one hundred were wounded. That’s a lot of lifting well over 150 lbs and moving over distance with it — that graveyard was 7 miles square. How much weight they could carry quickly over difficult terrain damn well mattered.
During the second battle of Fallujah Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were convoying into the city when the tire of a Humvee popped:
As the driver, Lance Cpl. Ian Smith set the jack and began changing the tire, the soft dirt and the blast from a rocket propelled grenade that landed nearby caused the vehicle to fall atop him. Seeing that Smith was being crushed under the incredible weight of the up-armored Humvee, 1st Sgt. Wayne Hertz and Sgt. Johnnie Lassiter, the turret gunner, rushed to help him. Acting on instinct, the two immediately started trying to lift the vehicle off Smith. Incredibly, they were able to take enough of the weight off of Smith that other Marines, who ran over when they heard screaming, were able to pull the pinned man to safety.
How much weight the guys could lift certainly mattered for LCpl Smith. These are just two examples from our most recent wars. There are thousands more from every war we’ve fought, of men slogging through grueling terrain carrying heavy weapons, gear, and each other. They ran up the beaches of Normandy, they trudged in the jungles of the South Pacific and Vietnam, and they have been scaling the walls of compounds in Iraq and the strongholds and caves of Afghanistan with their gear in tow as they close in to destroy the enemy by fire and close combat. That’s what validates IOC standards.
An Mk 19 grenade launcher weighs over 77 lbs, more with ammo. A .50 cal machine gun is 127 lbs. A piece of track on a tank is 60 lbs. An artillery shell for an armored tank is 95 lbs. Men in the combat arms are routinely carrying 60-100 lb of gear and more. If you have to carry the grenade launcher or the .50 cal or change a piece of broken track on a tank or the tire of a 5-ton truck, or evacuate a casualty, being able to move quickly with a heavy load is essential. But pencil-pushers like Haring play stupid, as if one thing has nothing to do with the other.
The truth is, on combat deployments and in the heat of battle, you don’t know if you’ll have to do everything you trained for. Some of our war fighters kill the enemy face to face with their knives or bare hands as we’re still waiting for the “push-button” war leftists have been selling since Vietnam. Some never end up facing that situation. But they have to train to be ready for that reality, the most demanding challenge, the worst-case scenario.
Demanding Training Makes Success in Combat More Likely
Basing IOC standards on what is operationally standard is irrelevant. A crucial variable of Marine Corps training is to create physically demanding training. In part this is to prepare those who go into combat for the physical realities they will face and to make sure they can reasonably achieve the missions they will be given. More importantly, because training cannot mimic the physical and mental stresses of actual combat, part of the psychology of training evolutions is to create a great deal of stress in other ways in order to determine who may not be able to handle it, and thus who is and isn’t capable of leading Marines into combat.
The men who pass IOC are not all the most physically fit, they are a combination of the most physically fit and the most mentally tough. Combat can be incredibly stressful, with very little sleep, very little to eat or drink, no showers for months at a time, carrying incredibly heavy packs around for months. In those times it is a combination of discipline, the band of brothers mentality to take care of the man on your right and left, and mental toughness that allows our Marines to outfight those who stand opposed to us.
Basing IOC standards on what is operationally standard is also extremely stupid. The Chosin Reservoir wasn’t operationally standard. The Battle of the Bastogne wasn’t operationally standard, nor the Bataan Death March nor the Battle of Valley Forge. Marines setting up one of the first operating bases in Afghanistan, being dropped off miles from the airfield, in sand, with 175 lbs in gear, ammo, food, and water each, wasn’t operationally standard.
Those we allow to lead our Marines into actual combat must be physical beasts so that when we face more capable militaries, what is operationally standard now won’t be the standard by which the Marines Corps loses in the future. We prepare for the most difficult fights we could face, not what is operationally standard today.
What if our troops find themselves without supply lines, no air support, and no light armor vehicles and the fate of the United States is at stake? We train for that mission, not this theoretical world that doesn’t actually exist that ensures only missions that include 60 lbs packs or less. If that is the standard that Col. Haring seeks, then would her logic dictate that wars that might exceed that standard are also unfair and “illegal”?
The duty of the military is to secure our rights and protect the government of the United States and the Constitution it is based on. Whatever it takes to reach that standard is legitimate, and legal, even if that means preventing females from participating. Policies that jeopardize that objective or make achieving that objective more difficult are inherently illogical. “Fairness” takes a back seat to accomplishing the mission and preserving as many lives as possible, especially amongst those in our forces who put their lives on the line for all of us. What isn’t fair is Col. Haring putting politics before logic and seeking to endanger the lives of Marines in combat as a result, and denying scientific reality in the process.
Marine Officer Vs. Enlisted Training
Haring wonders why Marine infantry officers’ training is so much harder than that of the infantry enlisted Marines. It’s because our officers lead from the front. Hence their motto, Ductus Exemplo, leadership by example. They must be faster, smarter and stronger than the men in their charge because they will not simply direct their men to the front and “lead from behind” like Obama does. They will go first leading their men to engage and destroy the enemy. That’s so that they can lead their combat units to victory with the fewest possible casualties. The biological reality, whether or not it is convenient for the leftist/feminist narrative, is that these platoons are alpha male-centric. If a 2nd LT is physically inferior to his men, or cannot lead from the front physically, he will not earn their respect, which in and of itself is a crucial cog in the leadership structure of combat units.
The Army colonel and her wishful thinking would have our infantry officers train to the lowest common denominator, and hope for best case scenarios where female infantry officers press buttons on their iPads to execute missions, detached and unsullied by the realities of offensive ground combat. Among feminist acolytes she’s probably lauded as a heroine, but her objection to the Marines’ high standards illustrates exactly why people like her shouldn’t be allowed to make or influence military policy.
By Jude Eden with Joseph Wade Miller. Miller is a Marine infantry veteran with three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. @J_Wade_Miller