HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

'The fitness test? You can't HANDLE the fitness test!'

‘The fitness test? You can’t HANDLE the fitness test!’

I don’t intend to get into the underlying issue of women in the infantry — I’ve intended to ever since that mandate came down from civilian leadership, but I just haven’t felt up to the huge and predictable argument that would lead to — but in reading this I felt motivated to make some remarks on general fitness in the Marines:

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.USMC-logo2

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to compete for frontline jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines – both men and women.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”…

I have a series of reactions to this:

  • These new standards are only eliminating 40 out of 1,500 male recruits? That doesn’t sound like the Marines to me. They’re supposed to be the few, not the 1,460 out of 1,500. Were the ratios always like this? If so, that sort of tarnishes the image I have in my head of the Marines as an elite force. Even the Army, at the very height of WWII, was rejecting a third of draftees. I really that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still — wouldn’t you think more Marine recruits than that would wash out, if standards were what they should be?
  • Assuming for a moment that we’re all in agreement that women should be in foxholes, I don’t think we have any reason to look at 6 out of 7 women washing out of an elite light infantry unit as bad news. Seems to me that the best argument always advanced for letting women in is that we should treat people like individuals — that we shouldn’t say, just because most women lack, say, the upper body strength to keep up with male Marines, that all women should categorically be barred. Shouldn’t we make exceptions for, say, the Lady Briennes of Tarth among us? That always seemed a good argument to me. (I,for one, would not want to be the officer deputed to tell Lady Brienne she was out, especially since Ser Jaime let her keep that Valyrian steel sword). Besides, if six women don’t make it, the more honor to the seventh.
  • What happened to the notion of “every Marine a rifleman?” Should Marines keep the feathermerchants who can’t pass a test that 97 percent of male recruits can pass? What’s this about “other, less physically demanding Marine jobs?” When did the Marines start offering such jobs? I’ve always known the Army had places for the less fit — or at least they did in the days of the draft, when things like food service weren’t outsourced to civilian contractors and you could always put a sad sack to work peeling spuds or policing the area for butts — but since when is that an aspect of the Marines? They’re the point of the spear, are they not? Let the swabbies do the paperwork, right? Every marine is a rifleman.

I should probably stop there before I offend the Air Force, too.

But when I hear that almost all male recruits can pass the new physical requirements, it makes me think that even I, at my age, might have a shot. And I really like to think of the Marines as having higher standards than that…

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

12 thoughts on “HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen…”

    Assuming those numbers are correct, as I don’t have any contradicting stats, that still leaves room for recruits to wash out for any other number of reasons. I’d like to see the stats on the number of people that start out in a unit on Parris Island compared to the number that make it through.

    You can wash out for lots of reasons, not just the physical fitness part.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Remember, when you hear me making reference to “feathermerchants” and “sad sacks,” that had I showed up at the recruiting depot when I was fresh out of high school — all 5’11”, 132 pounds of me — I would have been categorized as 4F. Assuming, of course, that I was honest about the chronic asthma. And even if I had lied my way in successfully, I’d have soon been found out….

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Is it just me? Didn’t everyone think that being a Marine was more physically demanding?

    Bill Murray did, in “Stripes.” That’s why, after betting he could do five push-ups, he pauses to set a condition: “Not Marine push-ups…”

  4. Mark Stewart

    Also, this test is administered 45 days into basic training. One would think most washouts would be gone by then. Also, there is a physical fitness test just to get into basic; so this isn’t a reflection on the fitness level of prospective recruits, just of likely to be successful basic training completers.

    Every Marine still needs to be a rifleman; but all no longer need to be packhorses as well.

  5. Doug Ross

    So here’s the link to the fitness test.

    Women age 17-26 don’t have to do pullups, just hang from a bar for 15 seconds, do 50 crunches in two minutes, and run 3 miles in 31 minutes. Hmmm… I know at least 5 women over age 50 who could do that now, nevermind after 45 days of training. I think even at age 55 I could pass the age 17-26 test with 45 days of training. And all I do for exercise is walk 5 miles a day.

    Wait, that link was for CURRENT Marines. Here’s the link for the recruits.

    Are you kidding me? 2 pullups for a guy? 44 situps? and 1.5 miles in 13:30? I can do a mile now in under 13 minutes without even trying that hard. My dog and I do five miles in 75 minutes most Saturdays.

    If those are the standards for Marines, I’m not impressed.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It worries me. And disappoints me. I first wanted to be a Marine when I was about 3 years old (and my Dad worked in the recruiting office here in Columbia, which was probably where I got the idea). The Marine Hymn was one of the first songs I learned, along with Anchors Aweigh and Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

      Don’t let me down, here, gyrenes. Y’all are my heroes…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        It would be helpful to know what the minimum levels were throughout the history of the Marines. That way, we could have something to compare the current standards to.

        Also, I’ll note: These are the absolute minimums, certainly not the goals, and very likely not the average. It’s like barely scraping by in a class with a D minus. Sure, you “passed”, but you didn’t really cover yourself in glory. I would like to see what the actual average scores are. Hard to view this number without more context.

        (But yeah, I expected more of the Marines.)

        1. Doug Ross

          There is a point scoring system link on the page I posted. With 45 days training, I think I could do 5 pullups, 60 situps in 2 minutes, and run 3 miles in 30 minutes. That would get me 113 points. The passing score for 3rd class is 65. So for the age 46 level, I’d be 2nd class. I’d even qualify 3rd class for the age 27-39 group (men half my age). And I GUARANTEE you don’t want me running around carrying a pack and a rifle.

          My best friend is 52. I’m 99% sure he’d score 1st class in the age 17-26 group. Same for my brother who is also 52. These standards are WAY too low. To me, the minimum for a recruit should be 10 pullups, 60 situps, and a 27 minute 3 mile run.

          Our kids are not spending enough time moving around. It’s too bad we’ve sacrificed P.E. and recess for prepping for standardized tests.

    2. JesseS

      “Are you kidding me? 2 pullups for a guy? 44 situps? and 1.5 miles in 13:30?”

      Huh? Last time I checked Air Force recruits had to do 45 pushups in 1 minute (with top marks beginning at 75) and run 1.5 miles in 10.

      Then again, this is the Marines we are talking about. Physical fitness is probably much less important than being indoctorinated to the point that you WANT to run into machine gun fire. All about the programming, not the hardware.

  6. Bob Amundson

    Bryan is correct on several points. First off, most of the DORs (DOR=Drop On Request) have occurred before 45 days. Secondly, it would not be much fun to be just passing the minimums; your squad and the Drill Instructor would be pushing, even harassing, for more effort. Lastly, all Marines must pass The Crucible, a test every recruit must go through to earn the Globe and Anchor. It tests every recruit physically, mentally and morally and is the defining experience of recruit training.

    The data I’d like to see is the number of recruits who just pass the minimums that do not complete The Crucible. Training has changed over the years, but Marines are still Warriors.

    1. Bob Amundson

      If there are any Marines out there, please forgive me for forgetting the Eagle. Eagle, Globe and Anchor.


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