As a former Marine infantry officer, I found it illustrating to pick up this month’s issue of the Marine Corps Gazette and discover that our infantry is a “cult-like brotherhood ... the one place where young men are able to focus solely on being a warrior without the distraction of women or political correctness.” I will admit that I found this to be a rather sweeping assessment, but it’s how at least one Marine officer who has never served in the infantry imagines it to be. In truth, Capt. Lauren Serrano is not entirely wrong. Marines do “fart, burp, tell raunchy jokes, walk around naked, swap sex stories, wrestle,” etc. Although to be fair, the Marine Corps infantry --- or male Marines alone for that matter --- does not have a monopoly on juvenile humor (see here or here for NSFW examples). And while Serrano failed to mention Marines lighting fires (my experience shows that grunts will usually build a fire before they get naked), I doubt many officers would disagree with her general observations about infantry behavior.
Last week, the Marine Corps announced that starting this October, it will allow company-grade female Marine officers to attend the infantry officer course or IOC. It’s about time. The women, if they pass, will still not be allowed to serve in the infantry, but the hope is to get more experienced officers to take the course, because to date only 20 entry-level officers have tried the course and all have failed, while 86 enlisted female Marines have passed their version of the infantry course. The major hurdle for the recruits seems to be the Combat Endurance Test given at the beginning of the course, which wipes out a significant amount of officers on the first day, including men. Only one woman has passed this test, only to fail out later on, due to injury. Therefore a debate has reignited surrounding the test and what its purpose is for the course, whether or not Marines should be able to retake it later on in IOC, and how it should be looked upon within the Corps: a required occupational skill or a traditional initiation rite? Is this a sign that women have no place as elite Marine infantry officers?